Alaska – Take 2!


We are planning a second rendezvous in Alaska at the end of April! Let me briefly write about what has happened since our July 2017 sampling…

Aside from taking classes, Elisa and I, along with a great group of undergrads (Callie, Mia, Gillette and Hannah – see image below) have been preparing all of the moss samples collected in Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR). This involves drying, cleaning, and homogenizing (blending to make a uniform, homogenous sample). All of these steps are unexpectedly time consuming, but we are getting close to finishing. Once those steps are complete, Elisa and I will start analyzing the samples this summer. Elisa has also been cracking away on her lichen species population work. She’s become quite the statistician over the last couple of terms—more to come from her soon.

Meanwhile, I have been trying different techniques on the 32 peat and soil samples that I collected. I am interested in evaluating the environmental fate of metals that are deposited onto the tundra generated by the transportation of raw ore. This pilot study has some pretty interesting results. Interesting enough that we decided it is worth going back and refining that sampling. We had some concerns regarding that initial sampling. For example, I was basically digging small pits and grabbing “clean” samples from that pit. However, conditions were quite wet, and the pits would quickly fill with water. This lead us to believe that we are missing some of the metals that we suspect are in the pore water space. Ultimately, we decided to sample when the ground is frozen so that we can capture the true soil profile. We are going to sample with a SIPRE auger. (Picture to come soon, believe me when I say this thing is awesome.) We are working out the logistics now, but currently, Dave Swanson (Arctic soil extraordinaire) and I will be sampling for 4 days in CAKR all by helicopter. Our goal is to collect 45 cores in those 4 days. That math is sort of scary—but we are going to pump out a few hard days of work to get some pretty unique samples! Weather conditions in Kotzebue are not too daunting as of now. Good thing Dave and I are from Minnesota—we welcome the cold. Freezing conditions>mosquitoes.

I am really looking forward to this experience. I am so lucky that I get to participate in this research in such an incredible place. There is even the possibility that I would get to see polar bears and Aurora Borealis! More to come.