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An Introduction to Field Data Collection - Part 1
Part 1: Counting the Uncountable

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My research team was part of an international study of the arctic tundra biome. Our group was composed of physical geographers who were looking at permafrost annual surface thaw depth across a 28000 sq. km study area ( The Kuparuk River basin).

Obviously, in a region that big, it is rather difficult to make a direct observation on every individual square meter or even on every square km. In fact, the entire area of interest to the study is all of the permafrost found in the Northern Hemisphere.

The basic hypothesis of the ARCSS/LAII(Arctic System Science / Land - Atmosphere - Ice Interactions ) Flux study is concerned with the effect of greenhouse gasses produced by human activities. The investigators feel that a sensitive environment, like a tundra biome, will be the first place to show signs of climate change.

One of the changes in the biome that is of most concern is the possible increase of thaw depth. The reason for concern may not seem obvious at first glance but they are potentially significant to the overall carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere. As the active layer gets thicker, the amount of soil that can support bacterial growth increases and therefore the amount of carbon dioxide produced by natural activity increases. While a 1 cm increase in the northern portion of the study area may not seem like much, it is a 10% increase in the active layer and bacterial growth also increases with a temperature increase.

Our group was developing a mapping technique that incorporated data on soils, vegetation, altitude, latitude, direction of slope, and temperature (in the form of degree days) to produce a map that would accurately predict the thaw depth over a large area. Our field measurements were used to refine and validate the sensing techniques used to make the map.

For more information on the map see the web site.

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