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27 April, 2003

Back at the Lab

Today in Kotzebue
The weather is still about 30 – 40 degrees and mostly cloudy. The snow is starting to melt and making big lakes in the roads. The water is pumped into the ocean, making for a bit of a puddle on the ice that the snow machines are trying to avoid.

What science is happening?
Today we began the job of processing the samples we collected on the ice. Of all the tests we conducted, we brought two things back with us: Water, from the Neskin Bottle and Mud, from the mud grabs we did both of those need to be processed


1.) Take samples at the site with the Neskin Bottle and label bottles with location collected. (did this yesterday)
2.) Put water into suction bottle and pump thought a filter. (filter turns green)

3.) Filters are taken to North Carolina for testing.
What happens in North Carolina? The chlorophyll* is extracted from the filters with acetone (similar to nail polish remover) and put into a flurometer. A flurometer shines a light through the sample and measures how much light comes is visible on the other side.
Question: What does this tell us?
Answer: This tells us how much plant material present at this time of the year.
Why do we need to know?
When we understand what and how much plants are in the water, we can determine how much life can be supported.

1.) Take mud grabs with the bucket at the site and label bags with location. (did this yesterday)

2.) Put mud in a sieve * and cover with seawater from the same site. (Why do you think it is important to wash in water from the same place?)

3.) When you have all the mud washed off, take out any visible animals (small clams and worms) and put in labeled collection bottle.

4.) Put the remainder of debris in collection bottle.
5.) Melinda fixes (colors and preserves) specimens so they can be viewed later using formalyn and red coloring.

6.) The sea life is identified and counted under the microscope.

Question: What does this tell us?
Answer: How much life is active in the mud at this time of year
Question: Why do we need to know this?
Answer: When we know “who’s home” at the bottom levels of the food chain then we can predict what other life can flourish and what effects things like an earlier spring that global warming is causing will effect.

Classroom Connections:
It is the year 2050. Spring comes 4 weeks sooner every year. Predict the changes in your community and in the global community.
Think about: What will happen to the polar ice caps
Where will all the melt water go?
What will happen to birds migration patterns?
What about animals that hibernate?
What about insects that come out in the spring? If there is 4 more weeks of hot weather how many more will there be? Further, what about the animals that eat them?
What about energy costs? Will we need more or less?

I find it extremely interesting to be on the cusp of new knowledge. When I found coronomids (small red worms) in mud samples, it surprised some of the people in the lab. I know something that none else did, something I couldn’t have read in any book, no matter how long I looked. It made me understand why scientists want to learn more and more.

Words to know
Chlorophyll -
The green substance in plants that gathers light from the sun.
Seive-A pan with the screen at the bottom, to wash mud out of and collect small samples.

Learn more about our project here
View curriculum for this project, “Ask a Scientist” and learn about other Arctic Real Time research at Arctic Alive
City of Kotzebue Webpage
Listen to the local radio station KOTZ live

1.) When we grabbed the mud from the bottom of the lagoon, that was only the beginning of the process. Here I am seiving this mud to find out what is inside. It is a cold, messy, often smelly process. We found some clams and cornomids (small red worms) today. The contents is then put into little bottles number with the sight location.

2.) Once I get the mud seived and into bottles, Melinda fixes it (preserves and colors it, so she can see it). After a few weeks she will look at the sample under a microscope to count and catalog the different species.

3.) The water samples, taken yesterday with the Neskin Bottle, are put through a filter to collect the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the substance produced by plants (in this case algae). The filters are then taken to the lab in North Carolina, disolved with acetone and looked at through a flurometer. During our next visit in July, we will bring the flurometer with us and finish the samples at the lab in Kotzebue.

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