Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ms. Lerenman in the Arctic Day 5

Scortched earth -- a burnt forest site.

Today was a cold, rainy, and windy day in Churchill. I went with the morning group to a bun site, where the earth was scorched twice since 1987 (once naturally and once from foul play, supposedly). I got to be the brain the first time around and fiber optic chord manager the second transect. It sounds fancy, but it basically means making sure the fiber optics don't snag on shrubs and trees, thus breaking the expensive equipment. We had some technical difficulties that kept us from starting on time. The palm kept showing the wrong step options and the data was all scrunched up on the palm monitor. As you can see with the high-tech use of a rubber band attachment, that these mini-computers from 2000 are quite finicky.

The terrain was pretty awesome looking -- almost like the edge of the earth in an apocalyptic way. Denise created a fool proof method for cutting 20 minutes off our second 75 meter transect commute by only reading the decimals at the end of each step--genius! This streamlining of activity helped because most of us had freezing extremities, mostly fingers and toes. Who knew that rubber boots provide very little heat circulation? Lesson learned!

We got back into the van eagerly wanting to defrost our toes and got a mini tour from Carley about the landscape and wildlife of the area along the road. We saw one of the sea ducks that Matthew Perry (not the actor) follows from the Chesapeake Bay to the Hudson Bay here. He surgically inserts satellite antennae into the behinds of the ducks so that you can see them sticking out. Then, he follows their migration and captures more of them to study their migratory and mating patterns. The climate change in the subarctic has drastically altered some of the previous mating and nesting ecosystems, and Dr. Perry is studying to see how the sea ducks will adapt.

After lunch, we continued to measure various spruce needles for Steve's treeline study and also helped him "desiccate" the needles to be weighed later in order to show how moisture loss effects the standardized trees. Desiccation basically involves putting the needles into an oven for 3 days after sorting out the packets.

Following dinner, we had a lecture on landforms from the great Dr. Peter Kershaw, our PI, and it was both fascinating and hilarious. Will laughed so hard at one point that he had to take pace around the room to calm himself down...oh, Pete! How he makes Polygonal Peat Plateaus and Palsas the height of comedy. My hat goes off to him.

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