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From Ice to Mud

08/18/2011, 8:33 PM by Lollie Garay
The Arctic Nitro Team ready for the first sampling.<br/><br/>Credit: Victoria _ Zac
The Arctic Nitro Team ready for the first sampling.
Photo Credit: Victoria _ Zac


Victoria and Zac continue their reports on the Aug Sampling:

“By Sunday we got a break in the weather and we were given the green light to go ahead and use the ATV’s to gather tundra water. Rachel, Zac, Lynne, & Marta (Lynn and Marta are also from the Bronk lab at VIMS) all suited up and headed off with Brower (UMIAQ) to go find some tundra melt-pools.”

“The  ATV trip was an incredibly bumpy, yet fun ride.  The guide’s idea of a ‘trail’ was simply a general direction across the tundra.   It was hard to compare the terrain on this trip to anything we have encountered.  The closest comparison we could think of is: the tundra is like a very rough, frozen ocean, turned to mud.  We then rode across this rough landscape at high speeds on ATVs; it was both scary and exhilarating.  Needless to say, some ibuprofen and bed-rest were welcomed at the end of that trip. Fortunately, the trip was successful and we were able to get plenty of tundra water containing the high concentration of humic acids that we needed to get our experiments started.”

“The winds decreased further by Monday so it was decided that we could go on our first sampling trip on the ocean.  At 10am in the morning, we loaded our gear and everyone, with the exception of Victoria  and Marta, headed out. Within 2 hours, the group returned and unfortunately couldn’t go out due to the low tide.  A second attempt was made at 1pm and the boat was launched. While the group was out, the winds picked up again.  The decision was made that is was too treacherous to return to the same boat ramp that we left from, so we had to continue around Point Barrow, directly into very high winds and seas to a more sheltered ramp.  Several times the boat was airborne after being launched over a 5 or 6 foot swell.  We did eventually make it back, but it was a punishing ride. We came back at around 5pm with water samples and told Victoria and Marta about a huge polar bear we’d seen just up on the way back from the boat ramp.”

“While the group unloaded the boat, Marta and Victoria went to get some pictures of the Polar Bear.  We were later told that there was a serious storm and somehow the polar bear ended up stranded in the ocean and swimming 100nmi to shore. It was huge and completely out of energy after the long swim. We watched the bear, feeling at ease since a bear guide who was armed with a rifle was nearby. “

“Back in the Beach freezer cold room, we worked for several hours filtering our waters samples to collect DNA & RNA samples.  Zac finally had both humic and seawater to set up his incubations. We worked pretty late but we were quite excited that we were finally able to get samples.”

“Tuesday was primarily a lab day and we extracted RNA and prepared for the Wednesday’s boat trip.  The other groups worked to process their water samples. We were able to get out again on Wednesday for sampling. So far weather predictions are in our favor and we look forward to having a couple of more sampling trips before the weeks end.”

I'd like to note that this will be the last trip for ArcticNitro team member Karie Sines. She is off to new adventures in her life. I've learned so much from her as we worked together both in the Arctic and in the Amazon Plume, and I know she will be sorely missed by all! Thanks for everything Karie!!




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