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Battling the Elements in Barrow

08/18/2011, 8:00 PM by Lollie Garay
Victoria and the ArcticNitro Team return to Barrow<br/><br/>Credit: Victoria Baylor Zac Tait
Victoria and the ArcticNitro Team return to Barrow
Photo Credit: Victoria Baylor Zac Tait

 

The ArcticNitro Team is back in Barrow for the August sampling! Victoria and Zac have sent us some updates on their adventures.

“Hello from Barrow, Alaska! This is Victoria Baylor and Zac Tait, members of the Frischer lab at SkIO.  We are here to collect our final summer season samples and perform some experiments.   We arrived safely in Barrow on August 11th after spending most of the 10th traveling. The trip is so long, that we had to spend the night in Anchorage AK.  We stayed at our usual place, the Holiday Inn Express in Anchorage and enjoyed fine dining at Simon & Seaforts . We have to admit the food was exactly spectacular and with a good nights rest we were ready to head off to Barrow on the 11th. “

“We made it safely to Barrow and were met by Dylan and Glenn Roy,  two of the UMIAQ  Logistics personnel, and Rachel Sipler from the Bronk lab at VIMS.   The first thing we noticed as we walked off the plane in Barrow, Alaska was all of the snow and ice was gone. The ice was just beginning to melt on the roads at the end of the last trip in May but now the landscape was transformed into a gravelly, boggy mud-puddle.   We left with Rachel, then checked into our hut and were surprised that our entire group plus Karl Newyear , Chief Scientist of UMIAQ, would be occupying the same space. That’s 8 people in one hut…..and only one bathroom.  It was our first group housing experience. “

“After getting settled in, we decided to se- up our labs. We pulled all of our supplies down from storage and distributed them to the BARC lab and the Beach freezer cold room. After setting-up, with no more work to do, we did our grocery shopping and returned home to await the arrival of our other team members. That’s when we received the news that Barrow was out of fuel and we were being asked to reserve our fuel as best as possible. We also received the news that due to high winds we would possibly delay our first sampling trip which was scheduled for Thursday morning.  There were two barges on the way to deliver gas but it was uncertain when the gas would be available.  Not having gas was certainly going to put a damper on our sampling plans by boat so we began to think about other options. “

“Winds were blowing as high as 25-30kts. Winds like those made usually simple tasks like opening and shutting car doors quite the task. So in light of the weather, all we could do at that point was wait and hope for the best.  Part of our summer sample collection involves going 30-40 miles from Barrow to collect water from tundral melt pools that haven’t been influenced by civilization.  These melt pools contain organic carbon compounds which we hypothesize will stimulate bacterial activity when released into the coastal ocean.  We usually collect this water by travelling away from town by boat but because of the fuel and weather issues, that wasn’t possible. “

“On Friday & Saturday, we concentrated our efforts on setting up both our BARC lab for RNA extraction and gear cleaning and the Beach freezer cold room where we’d be filtering water for DNA & RNA collection and Zac’s tundra melt-water incubation studies.  As part of his Thesis project, Zac is trying to find out if bacteria will be able to “eat” this material and if they do if it would increase their usage of nitrate. Because nitrate is what limits the productivity of the Arctic Ocean (i.e. how much green things at the base of the food web can grow) if bacteria start using more of it this could profoundly affect the food web in the Arctic. If the permafrost (frozen tundra) melts with a warming climate it could mean less fish, seals, bears, birds, and whales.”

“Things went pretty smoothly with setup. We washed all of our supplies and organized our work spaces.  Then, our group met to discuss sampling options in light of the rough weather.  We worked closely to try to create some feasible scenarios that would allow for Zac & Rachel to collect tundra melt-water.   After a meeting with the logistics personnel, the option of using ATV’s to collect the tundra water was presented, but we had to wait to see how things would work out with the weather.  So to lift our spirits the group went out to eat delicious Chinese food at Sam and Lee’s and caught a few minutes of the first football game of the season.  This also happens to be the highest latitude football game played in the world.  The score at half time was Barrow 35 – Away team 0.”

Check back for more news!
Lollie

 

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