Hike to I-Minus

One benefit of staying at Toolik Field Station is the opportunity to interact with other scientists, which occasionally leads not only to long lasting friendships, but to future scientific collaboration, as well. This year we happen to be sharing lab space with Sally MacIntyre and crew from UC Santa Barbara. Although Sally’s team focuses on physical aspects of the aquatic ecosystem, gas fluxes in and our of lakes, and we focus on biological aspects, Arctic grayling movement patterns, the two are intricately interconnected, such that the physical environment dictates the biological community, while the biological community alters the physical environment. This “co-dependency” creates not only the foundation for deeply interesting conversations, but this year facilitated sharing of knowledge, expertise, equipment and data, as well. Due to our interest in her temperature data, which helps us estimate timing of Arctic grayling movement from overwintering locations to spawning grounds, Sally offered us use of three thermistor chains to directly monitor temperature and oxygen in our headwater lakes. Although we won’t have the lake data this spring, by overwintering the thermistor chains, we might be able to link future Arctic grayling movement with lake parameters, such as temperature and oxygen concentration, while Sally acquires access to three more lakes to help answer her physical limnology questions, as well. Win, win for all!

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Sally MacIntyre and her assistant Katie accompany us to Lake I-Minus.

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Cam pounds in an i-Button temperature logger, while Katie checks the current pH, temperature and conductivity of the outlet

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Encompassed by features we term “thermokarsts,” Lake I-Minus contains turbid, tannic water. We don’t yet know what this means for the fish community here.

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As time passes and the day warms, snow-melt accumulates and increases water flow in the small streams and water tracts that we traversed easily this morning, making them difficult to cross on our way back to the truck.

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