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July 11, 2008 High Tech, Low Tech

Polar Date:  July 11, 2008

More rain and chilly temperatures grounded a lot of activities, including the helicopter.  Because the helicopter did not wake us up at 8:00 a.m. half the camp overslept causing many people to appear in the dining hall in pj’s.  That’s unusual because the routine is to get up, get dressed, and go eat.  Breakfast is served from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.  At 8:30 the hot breakfast goodies are stashed away, with toast and cold cereal the only remaining options.  Of course juice and coffee are always available, along with cold beverages such as Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew, etc.

Cold Drink Cooler.
The cooler sits right inside the dining hall door. It contains a variety of cold beverages including V8, V8 Splash, apple juice, Coke, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew, Sprite, Mug Root Beer and Gatorade.

I made the decision to skip boardwalk slipping and sliding and work on the upcoming IPY Live event. ** Reminder – if you haven’t signed up yet, you need to.  You’ll get the chance to hear the researchers talk about what they are finding out up here and see never before seen pictures of  Toolik Lake and my school,  Scarlett Middle School**.  You can sign up on the main PolarTrec page.   Along with working on the IPY slides, I took some pictures of equipment used in the lab.  Some equipment are very high tech, some are very low tech.  One is found in most offices, and a few are found in many well equipped science classrooms - all are necessary tools for researching tundra.

Here’s a low-tech one.  Students, please pay particular attention to the fact that Matt is eye level with the meniscus.

Checking the Meniscus.
Matt and Elise are finding the density of rocks using the displacement method. Matt is eye-level with the graduated cylinder, illustrating the correct technique for obtaining an accurate measurement. Elise is leaning over and looking at the meniscus for a birds-eye view, in order to illustrate the improper way to read a graduated cylinder.

Elise and Matt were using the lab technique known as finding volume by displacement.  You can find out more about the technique through this interactive Shockwave lab.

Next, another fairly low-tech device, as electronic devices go, this digital device has replaced the manual device in much the same way as the calculator or computer has replaced the slide rule. 

Digital Scale.
There are several digital scales in Lab 2, they are used to find out the mass of material placed on the scale. In most commercial, large high school and college labs, digital scales have replaced triple beam balances.

And of course, the electronic pH meter, shown here in use by Matt. This piece of equipment is the modern version of litmus paper and is used to test the acidity or alkalinity of a substance.  pH meters are used in the field also to test water and soil without removing samples.  The specially designed probes are placed directly into the water or soil and instant pH levels are visible.  If you would like to make some juice for Aliens and learn more about pH, click here

Matt Using pH Meter.
Matt is testing the soil samples he removed from a fertilized plot . The soil was placed in deionized water first. The probe is also rinsed with deionized water between samples.

 And now for a piece of equipment that is very specialized and probably found at very few labs, the Li Cor6400. 

The Li-Cor6400 is taken out into the field and used to measure photosynthesis, fluorescence and soil CO2 flux. Yu Wei is using the data to write a computer program that will model the effects of snow on plant photosynthesis and carbon flux.

To see more lab equipment and learn about their uses, please visit my photo gallery.


Signing off from Toolik Lake, and remember, "There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew”. ~Marshall McLuhan, 1964


Catherine Campbell's picture
Expedition: Changing Tundra Landscapes
Location: Toolik Lake
Latitude: 68.36
Longitude: -149.38
Weather Summary: Overcast and rainy, no end in sight.
Temperature: 57.2° F
Wind Speed: 4mph