Closing Time

August 31, 2009

Through Ed Stockard’s Viewfinder

Ed sent pictures of the seasonal close-out in Kangerlussuaq.

Silver Williams (left) catches up with Torre Stockard. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway at the remote site.

A smiling Silver Williams catches up with Torre Stockard at the Kanger airport. Silver has just returned from a season at Camp Raven, the Air National Guard's training facility in Greenland. She and partner Drew Abbott maintained the skiway and kept the remote site operational for the ANG.

This is why we call them the workhorse of the NSF's polar programs. A C-130 disgorges a Spryte used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

A C-130 disgorges a Spryte driven by Drew Abbott. The vehicle is used for skiway grooming at Camp Raven.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US.  "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

The Air National Guard 109th Aerial Port buttons up a frozen sample shipment bound for the US. "Thanks Aerial Port and CPS staff for the smooth and successful exit of this shipment. Thanks to Paula Adkins, Torre Stockard, Andrew Young, Chris Getz, Graham Love and Mark Albershardt for getting out the door at 5am to make this happen," Ed writes.

To celebrate the end of the season, CPS hosts a barbeque on the banks of Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (Dartmouth) andJack Dibb and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

Here, Jack Dibb (UNH) and Brandon Burmiester (CPS) take their turns at the grill at Firehouse 4 on Lake Fergusson.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

"The party is a chance for CPS staff to enjoy a final evening with the New York Air National Guard, locals and scientists in a casual and beautiful setting. This year brought clear, breezy weather and a fine time was had by all," writes Ed.

The last flight of the 2009 science season departed Greenland in the early morning of August 30.  But we’re not quite done:  Mark Begnaud and Ed Stockard remain behind, as they do each year, for the final buttoning up. They have about  two weeks to go of checking and inventorying field and communications equipment, closing buildings, winterizing vehicles, cleaning out our offices in the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support building–“sorting, organizing, fixing…always fixing the old trucks, drying, stacking, throwing away, sighing, sending, receiving, sleeping in on a Sunday (finally), cleaning, counting, stuffing, and so on,” Ed explains.

Ed will depart on September 11 when the Air National Guard returns to Greenland to position the Greenland Inland Traverse project team at Thule Air Base. Mark will remain for a few more days before returning to the US via Denmark on a commercial flight.

“I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home.

“Closing time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  (Semisonic, Closing Time)

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Polaris: Rising stars of the Arctic

July 24, 2009
Seeing stars. Polaris Project students from the inaugural 2008 class. All photos from The Polaris Project Web site unless otherwise noted.

Polaris Project students from the inaugural 2008 class. All photos from The Polaris Project Web site unless otherwise noted.

The Polaris Project Web site is a lively spot this time of year, as a group of American and Russian undergraduate students, escorted by faculty from their universities, conduct field work in the Kolyma River Basin in Russia’s remote and lovely far northeast–and then share their adventures via a project blog. The Polaris Project aims to draw budding scientists (the rising stars) to arctic research. Its centerpiece is the Russian High Arctic field course now engaging 10 undergraduates in an odyssey focused on studying the area while living (and sometimes traveling) aboard a barge afloat in the Kolyma River.

The live-aboard barge.

The live-aboard barge.

The students have devised eight different research projects this year, each studying some aspect of carbon cycling in the ecosystem of the Kolyma River Basin. The mosaic of subjects includes the area’s lakes, rivers, permafrost, microbes, and more. The team works in new labs at the Northeast Science Station, a small and important Siberian research facility directed by the legendary Russian scientist, Sergey Zimov.

Three students collect lake water samples to study macroinvertibrate diversity.

Three students collect lake water samples to study macroinvertibrate diversity.

In addition to research conducted around the station, the group has taken side trips down the river, including a multi-day trip to Duvannyi Yar, where mammoth bones and other Pleistocene-area remnants adorn the landscape, which is underlain by thawing permafrost. Thanks to the mammoth and other large animals that roamed the ancient lanscape, the permafrost harbors massive stores of organic matter. Nearby, a group of scientists led by Zimov have created Pleistocene Park, an experiment attempting to recreate and study the grassland ecosystem that disappeared 10,000 years ago, Zimov suspects, due less to climate warming than to human overhunting.
On the return to Cherskiy and the Northeast Science Station, faculty member Sudeep Chandra analyzes water samples while photographer Chris Linder sorts myriad photographs (enjoy them on the Polaris site!).

On the return to Cherskiy and the Northeast Science Station, principal investigator Sudeep Chandra (standing) analyzes water samples while photographer Chris Linder sorts myriad photographs (enjoy them on the Polaris site!).

The National Science Foundation-funded Polaris Project is the brain child of Max Holmes of Woods Hole, whose work on river water transport and chemistry in the High Arctic a few years ago forged a very fruitful collaboration with Russian students and colleagues (called PARTNERS and then Student Partners), and showed Holmes has a knack for engaging young people in research.

While his Polaris rising stars work in Russia, Holmes remains at Woods Hole, monitoring his team’s progress remotely. The reason: protostar Sophie Jane Holmes, one month old today. Congratulations, Max!

PolarisSophieJane


Postcards from Toolik

June 25, 2009
Emily Stone is a Chicago-based freelance writer. She’s on a 16-day science journalism fellowship at Toolik Lake through the Marine Biological Lab (MBL).
This is the small stream that leads into the Toolik River that formed a thermokarst several years ago. The green on the left side is actually the stream, which looks more like a marsh. Just below that, the stream opens up into a muddy canyon where the ground falls away in the thermokarst.

This is the small stream leading into the Toolik River that formed a thermokarst several years ago. The green on the left side is actually the stream, which looks more like a marsh. Just below that, the stream opens up into a muddy canyon where the ground falls away in the thermokarst.

The trick with having a surface that sits on ice – which is what permafrost tundra is – is that if that ice melts, the ground falls away.

That’s what’s happening across the arctic in a phenomenon known as thermokarst. The underground ice melts, the water rushes away and the ground collapses into a sinkhole. That’s bad news for any buildings or roads that straddle a thermokarst. Now scientists are starting to study what it means for the ecosystems around the holes.

With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Breck Bowden of UVM is leading a team of 25 researchers studying the impact of thermokarsts around Toolik on everything from nearby rivers and streams, the microbes in the soil, the vegetation and the atmosphere. The group arrived on station and started their work in late June.

In a previous study, Bowden looked at old aerial photos of the area around Toolik from the mid-80s and compared them to satellite photos from 2006. He found twice as many thermokarst depressions in 2006 than 20 years earlier.

The journalist fellows visited a thermokarst this week on a stream that feeds into the Toolik River. Above the thermokarst, the stream looked like a marsh as the water ran through tall, bright green grass. At the thermokarst, the stream suddenly opened up into a large, muddy chasm clear of plants. It was obvious that an enormous amount of soil had fallen into the stream. Researchers are interested in what that soil is doing to the water in the stream and in the Toolik River just below it.

We took water samples and started running tests on them to see what the difference in nutrient levels was above and below the thermokarst. We’ve just started analyzing the data, but it looks like a significant amount of the nitrate in the Toolik River is coming from the thermokarst. More nutrients like nitrates likely mean increased algae and moss, which can quickly change the composition of the insects and fish in the river.


The Good, the Bad, and the Muddy

June 18, 2009
Through Ed Stockard’s viewfinder
The good:
The rhododendron's in bloom!

The rhododendron's in bloom!

The bad:

"The mosquitoes are bad this year," Ed writes. "When you lie on your belly to take photos, you essentially are giving to the Greenland blood drive - mosquitos are thick low and out of the wind." The flower is a Lapland Lousewort

"The mosquitoes are bad this year," Ed writes. "When you lie on your belly to take photos, you essentially are giving to the Greenland blood drive - mosquitos are thick low and out of the wind." The flower is a Lapland Lousewort.

The muddy:

Warming brings silty meltwater to the rivers. Here, the nearby Russell Glacier contributes to the water levels in Kangerlussuaq waterways.

Warming brings silty meltwater to the rivers. Here, the nearby Russell Glacier contributes to the water levels in Kangerlussuaq waterways.

We enjoy getting emails from Ed Stockard. The long-time CPS staffer in Kanger has a way with a camera, and his messages usually contain some kind of visual adventure. Ed recently sent us a few shots of life around the logistics hub for the National Science Foundation’s arctic research program in Greenland. Double up on the mosquito repellent and keep shooting, Ed!