Dr. Bret-Harte has two sites at Toolik that were part of her initial 2006 experiment. Yesterday she and I visited the Riparian Snowfence Site. The second site is down the road, about a mile or so, from the other snowfence site we visited earlier in the week. As with the tussock site, the riparian site was also injected with 15N, a very low concentration tracer that allows scientists to follow the cycle of nitrogen, at specific quadrat sites. This riparian site has a lovely series of streams meandering through the hillside. The babble of the streams almost, almost, drowned out the hum of the million of mosquitoes that surrounded us during our work. The day was foggy and cool and perfect weather for being out in the field.

    Svea Anderson at riparian site
    Svea Anderson at the Riparian Snowfence Site.

    Riparian Snowfence Site
    The Riparian Snowfence Site with its meandering streams.

    Our purpose for the field visit was to collect plant samples (foliage or leaves) from established plots. There were seven plant species evident in 2007 and those were the plants that we collected. There were eight plots on the drift side of the snowfence, and eight more on the control side of the fence. Dr. Bret-Harte chose this site in 2006 because of the abundance of deciduous shrubs found there. With it being a riparian site, the shrubs on this site are much larger than the shrubs on the hillside tussock site.

    As the day went on, I became familiar with the seven plant species that were being collected. One of the plants, the Vaccinium uliginosum quickly became my favorite. It is much smaller than the other leaves we were collecting and has a beautiful dark green color. When I shared news of my new favorite, Dr. Bret-Harte let me know that the common name is the 'bog blueberry'. The plants I had seen hadn't developed their berries yet, so I didn't know this when I decided it was my favorite, but knowing it produced blueberries solidified my new found affection.

    Vaccinium uliginosum
    My new favorite tundra plant – the Vaccinium uliginosum or the 'bog blueberry'.

    It is funny – when in the field and focused on collecting foliage samples, you rarely look up. Dr. Bret-Harte and I were asked the other night coming out of the field if we had seen the caribou on the hillside. Neither of us had! Knowing that there are occasional bears, wolves, musk ox, and caribou present, I did look up and scan the horizon from time to time. Unfortunately, my only wildlife sightings were the mosquitoes.

    The only wildlife viewed on our field visit to the Riparian Snowfence Site.

    Back in the lab, the foliage samples were put into the industrial ovens to bake. Once the samples have been in the oven for a few days, they will then be taken out and taken back to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. There they will be ground up and put in the spectrometer to detect if there is evidence of the extra N atom. This will be an indicator if the nitrogen normally partitioned throughout the plants and soil is being consumed more by the deciduous shrubs.

    Toolik Field Station


    Svea Anderson

    My family had the opportunity to take a sled dog ride when we were visiting the Kenai Peninsula. It was really fun. Dog sleds are a way to get around here in Alaska.

    Svea Anderson

    HI Evan. I have seen a LOT of mosquitoes, fox, caribou, and ground squirrels here at Toolik. I have seen many other critters since I have been in Alaska- including grizzly bears, moose, a wolf, whales, seals, sea otters... I have been incredibly lucky!


    hi ms.Anderson i was told you have a bad storm coming and i am have you in my prayers and hope you make it out safe!~Journi :)


    we are sooo happy we get to see youtoday

    Gage D.

    Did you see anything else except mosquito's? Hope you are having a great time!


    I did not know that there was such thing as a Snowfence that's very cool! I hope you are having a great time!

    Ryan Nations

    I wonder what the storm would be like there, it would be really cool to see that!


    hi ryan how is ur day did u eat any shcoooooshcubobs


    how cold is it there have you seen any bears yet


    Are you going to be able to follow the path these plant gatherings will take from your picking them, to baking and finally to the grinding and analysis?

    Svea Anderson

    I am not during this summer time. We will start the pluck (gathering) today and then the plants will be baked to eliminate any moisture. The grinding and the analysis (spectrometer) will happen throughout the year down at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Bret-Harte has promised to share her findings with me.

    Mike Penn

    Was it coincidental that you are working near a snowfence in two different places or is the snowfence necessary for part of your research?

    Svea Anderson

    Hey Mike- Great question! It was not coincidental. The snowfences are part of the experiment. There are two factors for the fences.
    One factor is that with the warming the Earth is experiencing, there is predicted to be more snow in the Arctic. Right now the air temperature is so cold that there is little moisture and little snow. And the snow that falls is really dry, not good snowman making material! The snowfence creates an environment where on one side there is ambient, or normal levels of snow, and on the other side the fence creates an environment with about three times the normal amount of snow, or about half a meter.

    The other factor behind the fence is that there is a hypothesis that larger deciduous shrubs trap more snow and use it to their advantage- that snow benefits the shrubs. We will be looking at shrubs on both sides to determine if this is accurate!

    I am learning an incredible amount about the ecology of the tundra. It is truly fascinating!

    Andie Brown

    Hi Mrs. Anderson !! How are you? We are having a great year so far. What kind of animals have you seen so far? Hope to see you soon!! Love, Andie

    Alyse Pratt

    hey do you like to pluck and if so how hard his it


    do you wish you could live there

    Avanni Bhalla

    Would you ever consider doing something like this again? Also, if you did would you bring something you didn't this time?

    Alyse Pratt

    hey Mrs.Anderson do you like it there? what part of alaska are you in? cant wait tell you come back!!!!! have you seen any interesting animals any were and if so what kind of animals

    Alyse Pratt

    Ms.thomas told us that you and lyla did a mini ididerod race how was it?

    Evan Ricks

    What kinds of critters did you see

    Svea Anderson

    HI Andie! Glad that you are having a great year so far!! That makes me happy!! I have seen a lot of animals in Alaska, but not many here at Toolik. We have two camp foxes that are cute, and had some caribou visit the camp a week ago. (That was actually scary because they would come out from behind buildings when you weren't expecting them and they are big!) We have Arctic ground squirrels, and some birds that are headed South for the winter passing through. There are fresh piles of bear scat and people have seen wolves down the road, but I haven't seen them here. (I did see a wolf on my way up here to Toolik though!) I am hoping to see a musk ox before I leave!!
    See you soon!!

    Svea Anderson

    HI Alyse!
    I did enjoy learning the plants of the tundra. They are amazing and such survivors! It was challenging to get them all correct, but I learned! :)

    See you soon!

    Svea Anderson

    HI Wyatt,
    No one lives at Toolik during the winter months because it is too cold up here. I love the field station, but wouldn't want to live here. I am staying in a tent and it is pretty cold at night. I like warmth and walls. :)

    See you soon!

    Svea Anderson

    Avanni- that is a great question! I would absolutely consider doing something like this again. I loved every minute of the experience. I did miss my family and starting school with my great class this year, but this was a great learning opportunity for me as a teacher. I can't wait to share what I learned with you! As for bringing something I didn't... I should have brought more long johns (it is snowing right now) and more band-aids. :) Other than that, I think I packed well for the trek!