Predatory Spiders in the Arctic Food Web Journals

Harding Icefield
I have not been trampled by a moose or eaten by a bear, I've been traveling throughout the state with limited access to the internet. I left Toolik on July 20, and got wrapped up in the events that surround saying goodbye to an incredible place and my friends. Since then I've traveled to Denali and throughout the Kenai Peninsula. I have had some amazing experiences and met some of the most interesting people! I will be posting journals about my final days at Toolik and my adventures since very shortly. I appreciate the feedback I have been receiving, and am humbled by the number of people who have been following our expedition. I will get back to answering the Ask the Team questions soon. We have had many great ones posted! I'm posting this on a rainy day from an Anchorage coffee...
Caribou Antlers
Return to Civilization Today's walk from my tent to the dining hall was different than it had been the previous 45 mornings. I took one last look at my surroundings and marveled at how after such a long period I still had the same level of appreciation and wonder that I did when we arrived back in early June. I loaded my bags on the truck and ran in to grab a quick cup of coffee and say some final goodbyes. It was sad to see our friends gathered on the steps of the dining hall as we pulled away and began our long drive back to civilization. The wide-open landscape of Toolik Field Station. I'm going to miss this place! Photo courtesy of Amanda Koltz. We drove through Atigun pass and over the Brooks Range. Trees quickly began to reappear on the south side of the mountains, and...
Team Spider in Bug Shirts
Today is my last full day in the Arctic. Tomorrow will mark the 46th day I've been north of the Arctic Circle. It's really hard to believe that we've been here for more than 6 weeks already! The constant daylight, combined with an endless amount of things to do (work and play) makes the days run together. I've looked at my watch to determine the day of the week more than I've used it to determine the time of day. I've seen the lake thaw and the last remnants of snow leave the field station. I've seen the plants go from a dormant brown to a bright green, and a very few are showing the first signs of fall. Spring, summer, and fall seem to be squished into a little more than a 3 month span of time! That's part of what makes this such a unique place to conduct research. Amanda Koltz...
Argentinian Road Trip
"Two anesthesiologists, a surgeon, and a veterinarian from Argentina pull up to a remote field station in Alaska with two flat tires and no windshield. True life, no joke." - Susanna Michael, Smith College On one of my last days in the field, I want to go back to an earlier event (July 10) that captures some of the essence of Toolik's character. This is a strange, but incredible place. You never know what you are going to see or hear, and nothing seems outrageous or surprising. During my first week here I heard researcher Mike Weintraub commenting on all of the interesting characters you find around camp. He explained that boring people just don't want to come to the Arctic. He's right! It takes a different mindset to work here, and as a result you are surrounded by a variety of...
Squirlz
The cold rain has us in the lab today. It feels like the Carolinas in winter. Kiki and Amanda are busy at the microscopes while I get caught up on some writing and video production work. Here is the newest Polar People video featuring Michael Sheriff. Michael is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. He's also a skilled badminton player, and a Gold Medalist in the Toolik Olympics T-Ball Home Run Derby. You can learn more about his work with Arctic Ground Squirrels in my July 17 journal entry. http://youtu.be/8lhzO48WRy4 Michael Sheriff removing an Arctic Ground Squirrel from a trap.
Bird in Hand
I originally spoke to PhD student Shannan Sweet over a month ago about heading into the field with Team Bird, but we've had trouble working out compatible schedules. So I was excited to learn that we would be able to fit in an outing during my last week at Toolik! We drove out to the Imnavait Creek Research Site and followed a boardwalk that extended 100 meters into the tundra. The group is wrapping up its field season, so Shannan wanted start packing up and take the bear fence protecting their recording equipment down. The bear fence is an electric fence that protects equipment that records audio and weather observations. The whole system is powered by solar-charged batteries. It is intended to collect audio of birds in the area at set intervals, but it is sensitive enough to...
Arctic Ocean
Four of us loaded into a truck and drove roughly 100 miles north on the remaining portion of the Haul Road to the town of Dead Horse and the Arctic Ocean. We were prepared for a day of wildlife viewing with binoculars, a spotting scope on a tripod, and field guides in hand. We stopped roughly 45 minutes outside of camp to look for a Gyrfalcon that we were told was in that area. After a few minutes of scanning an outcropping off the highway, Amanda located the gyrfalcon with the spotting scope. The field guide described this massive bird as "our largest and most powerful falcon." It stands almost 2 feet tall with a nearly 4 foot wingspan! Kiki Contreras, Amanda Koltz, and Carolyn Livensperger engaging in some serious birding. Continuing north we spotted a few short eared owls,...
Traveling Squirrels
I love walking around this place! On my way to the restroom this morning I stopped by the loading dock of the winter lab to lend a hand loading a pallet onto a truck. But nothing is ordinary at Toolik, and this particular pallet housed 16 arctic ground squirrels on their way to Fairbanks. Another group from the University of Alaska Fairbanks was collecting squirrels for studies on circadian rhythms and bone density. Traveling arctic ground squirrels. Your Body Clock Circadian rhythms are your "body clocks" that run on 24 hour cycles. Environmental factors can have a significant influence on these rhythms. It's partly why sleeping and eating patterns are thrown off due to jet lag. Sun rise also plays a role in these rhythms. While the sun has not set the entire time I've been...
Atigun Grid
The weather finally cleared up and gave us two beautiful days! We had a lot of lost field time to make up for, so we headed out an hour early to all three of our field sites. It felt like we got a lot accomplished! We set up a series of four 25 cup grids for sampling spider density at Atigun yesterday, and were picking them up today. This would be our last trip to Atigun while I'm here, and I admit that I felt a little sad to leave such a beautiful place. Kiki Contreras and Amanda Koltz setting up a sampling grid at Atigun. Kiki removing some animal excrement from a pitfall trap. A Sik Sik looks on as we pick up pitfall traps at Atigun. Out in the Field You can never be sure what you will see walking around Toolik. Today we saw a family of ptarmagins. Mother, father, and...
Little Squirrel
It dropped to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit last night, and the sound of a steady rain on my tent made it especially difficult for me to get out of my sleeping bag this morning. After a cup of Toolik Turbo (we don't have decaf., just "regular" and "high-test" coffee) Kiki and I put our rain gear back on for a trip up the hill. The weather isn't particularly ideal for spider activity, but we still have work to do. A little tundra yoga in my rain gear. Amanda met us on our way back in to ask if I would be interested in going to help trap squirrels and pick up our sample cups at the Atigun field site. I met Michael Sheriff at the International Polar Year Conference in Montreal. I asked if I could join him in the field within minutes of learning what he does. Michael is a Post-...