3 Years in the Making

    When I accepted the post as PolarTREC teacher to scientist extraordinaire Amanda Koltz, I didn’t realize that this would be her last field season before publishing her dissertation. Amanda began her field research on the Arctic Wolf Spider about 3 years ago, and has returned to Toolik every summer since collecting data. Not only is Amanda ending her research on wolf spiders, arctic food webs and their connection to climate change, but she is also ending her time on the Alaskan tundra. I can only imagine how difficult this must be for her – I was only there for 1 month and I already miss the landscape and the phenomenal people I met there. Somehow, I have a feeling she’s going to figure out a way to get back there – if only briefly. Just last week she was trying to convince some of the staff members to conduct winter research on the wolf spider.

    Run Grizzly, Run!
    When your field research involves helicopter rides and views of grizzlies, why wouldn’t you want to come back? Photo courtesy of Amanda Koltz.

    Breaking it down

    There are many steps involved in the conclusion of an experiment, but the one that really brings it home is the removal of the actual testing materials. In our case, the most significant of those materials were the 30 spider plots on the hillside just south of camp. Each plot was constructed 3 years ago with simple aluminum flashing held in place with about 6 (heavy) rocks. The plots were covered with either plastic or light fabric and held in place by about 20 binder clips. Since all of that material had been brought up to the research site, it had to be brought down as well. Thankfully we had a lot of help and sturdy packs. I didn’t get any pictures of the tear down, but look at this picture and use your imagination!

    Kiki and Amanda take measurements in a typical plot. Notice the cover in the background and the other plot. There were 30 plots in total.

    Far, far, away.
    This is the boardwalk from camp out to the plots, just to give you an idea of the distance materials were carried.

    Tundra nap.
    Kiki Contreras takes a much needed “tundra nap”

    Everybody hates moving

    The end of an experiment is just like moving to a new town, apartment or house. You’re incredibly excited and energized about the next step but also overly nostalgic about the smallest things. In the midst of all of that, you also have to deal with the nightmare of packing. And sorting. And labeling. And not going insane with all of the details. We’ve all been there, so there is no need to prattle on about it…just look at the pictures.

    All of the specimens collected in the pitfall traps had to be transferred to smaller scintillation vials for shipping, as they don’t leak (the cups do). Over the course of 1 week we collect about 200 samples. There are about 10 weeks in a season.

    Scint vials
    Just a few of the scint vials from the soil samples (not pitfall traps). There were about 120 soil samples, and one sample I decanted filled 9 scint vials.

    All those specimen cups had to be washed and dried. You go a little stir crazy with all of this repetitive work, so sometimes friends stop by to keep you from going insane (just like real moving). Jesse Krause from Team Bird demonstrated his mad stacking skills.

    All of the binder clips from the plot covers, destined for the free table. I hope they found a good home.

    That's All, Folks...
    Amanda gets ready to pitch her soil cutting board into the bonfire. Not the names of all who helped her along the way!

    Toolik Field Station
    Weather Summary
    Cloudy and gray