March 20, 2012 Our First Day in the Field
Today Elizabeth and I had our first full day in the field. After having some breakfast and discussing what we were going to try and accomplish at the study site, we checked the window and the thermometer and decided we would dress warmly. The sky looked very gray this morning and the temperature was hovering around -6 F. Once we did the dishes and got ourselves dressed we gathered our equipment and began our travels on the snowmobile. There is a bunch of snow out here right now! We were going to take a dog sled team out, but they are all working today.
Once we arrived at the study site we carried out the equipment and started to dig. The first site we worked at is an area that is not part of the experiment. It is set up so that CO2 measurements can be taken throughout the year. These measurements give us a baseline of what the tundra would be doing under normal conditions. We first measured the depth of the snow at the sample site and then dug to uncover the sample ring that is set in the tundra. Once we uncovered the ring we placed a sample chamber over the top and took a two minute sample using the infrared gas analyzer. These are called the Smiley Plots due to the smiley face on the sample chamber. We then replaced the snow and moved to the next site.
After finishing the ten baseline measurements at the Smiley Plots, we then moved to the experiment sites to take similar measurements. Elizabeth installed a system of covers and tubes for each of the three experimental sites. These were put in at the end of last summer so that CO2 measurements could be taken throughout the winter. It works very well. There are wooden stakes placed at each experimental site that hold the end of the tubes for sampling. We connected the tubes from the gas analyzer and took a CO2 reading directly from the warming and the control sites.
The measurements from both the Smiley Plots and the experimental sites can be compared. If the winter warming treatments are having an affect on the CO2 in the tundra, then we would be able to see the difference and determine how much change is taking place. The winter warming treatment is created by the six snow fences at each of the three sites A, B, and C. For a better explanation of the snow fences, you can check out the journal entries from our expedition from last year.
So here is a question for the students our there. What do we expect the CO2 measurements to be doing at this time of year? Would we see them going up as gas is released from the tundra source, or would we watch the measurements drop as CO2 is taken into the tundra sink? Does the time of day really play a big role during this time of the year? I will be interested to see what everyone has to say about this. Even if you’re not sure, take a guess and explain why you think that way. Have fun!