Today was our last day working at the Atigun field site. It is Sunday, and we leave Toolik on Wednesday to go back to Fairbanks. Cory flies out the same night, and I fly out the next night. It is finally hitting me that my adventure in science is coming to an end.
A day with clouds is still beautiful.
We have spent most days working at Atigun, and I really like it there. It's beautiful. The snow is starting to melt after the trio of warm days we've had, so more tundra is peeking out now. The warm days have all been just around 32˚F/0˚C, but in the sun they truly do feel warm, with only a fleece jacket and occasional gloves needed.
I'm carrying traps out to set where we find squirrels.
Cutting carrot for the traps.
Why do these smell so good?
Recording trap location on the map.
All of the squirrels we trapped today we had trapped before, so we didn't need to bring any back to the lab for processing. I was able to get a fun video of a squirrel release on the GoPro, with Cory and I standing about a foot away from the squirrel the whole time, as well as another video with two squirrels for a bit. They are adorable and it never gets old. I also got some other footage on my camera of a squirrel digging up and eating plants in the tundra. Very cool.
Arctic ground squirrel eating.
This squirrel had a good view on top of a stack of traps.
Arctic ground squirrel in a burrow.
Arctic ground squirrel strikes a pose.
Can you see the squirrel in her burrow?
Before leaving the site for the last time on this trip, we organized the traps into stacks so that the number and location would be known for the summer data collection period in July.
Cory recording trap locations.
At Toolik before we left, I also saw a ground squirrel outside of Winter Lab where we work, and it was gnawing on a caribou skull that is out there, tearing bits of fur off to get to the meaty bits. So they really do eat meat!
Arctic ground squirrel eating caribou carcass.
Yesterday Cory set some traps around Toolik, but only caught a couple of squirrels. It is still fairly snowy here, but the snow in camp has turned to slush, so it is also starting to melt on the tundra as well, and there are more squirrels around each day. I've started wearing my rubber boots in camp, rather than just for field work, as there are large puddles in places now.
Last night we had a bonfire, and it was pretty warm out and a nice night for it. I stayed out until after 2am, which never happens!
Sunset light on the weatherport housing at 10:15pm.
Sunset over frozen Lake Toolik.
A beautiful sunset.
Jump shot at the bonfire
By that time, the sky, which never gets fully dark anymore, has already started to get lighter again. We started after lunch today and were back in time for me to have a quick run on the treadmill and call my grandma before dinner. Dinner on Sunday is the only cooked meal served, and it was pot roast. And it was tasty. After dinner I played a round of Quirkle, a new game for me, and then went to the sauna.
The outhouses have many cartoons, and this one sums up Toolik the best for me.
I know I need to pack, but I'm not quite ready yet. I will miss it here, so I will pretend I am staying just a little longer.
A nice view of the Brooks Range