It has been fairly warm here for the last four days, actually getting to 41F/5˚C today. It means people walking around without hats and gloves, and riding snowmachines in their t-shirts. It also means the snow is starting to melt, and melt quickly. At Atigun on Sunday, the tundra was noticeably less snow-covered. At Toolik, the snow is still around but becoming more slushy, making it harder to use the snowmachine to access trap sites.
You can see here how the view changed from where we would leave our things at Atigun over the course of about two weeks.
What I've found interesting is the way the snow melts. It's from the bottom-up, not top-down, as I would have imagined. I thought the sun would heat the snow and it would melt. But it's more of an earth warming and melting the snow scenario.
It's leaving large puddles in places around camp, and these puddles freeze over at night, leaving more slick ice. It's not as easy to walk around now, and I've started wearing my rubber boots around camp all the time now. Goofy, but effective.
Yesterday was our last day trapping squirrels, and all four were returned to their homes by evening – three males and a female. Today we spent the day cleaning the lab – organizing, sweeping, mopping, wiping down, taking inventory, entering data, etc. I also packed most of my things and will finish tomorrow morning.
This morning I also said goodbye to three of the people I've been spending my meals and free time with – Emma, an assistant manager, and Tom and Matt, Team Wolverine. I was sad to see them leave, but really happy to have met them. I didn't come to Toolik with any idea of how the social situation would be, I just knew that there would not be many people in camp compared to the summer season. I thought it might actually be a little lonely. Instead, I met a great group of new friends and shared meals and stories and board games with them. It's been a real treat, and I'm happy to take home those memories, as well as the science, to share with my students.
It's my last night here, and I've eaten another healthy portion of dinner, this time Cuban pork and blueberry pie. Yum.
I also had some time to make a few short video clips relating to the snow, so please enjoy.