31 July, 1997
Thursday, July 31, 1997.
I awoke fairly early and went to the lobby for some coffee and a muffin. The desk clerk said there were other Arctic-bound people at the hotel and they had inquired if I had arrived. Shortly, I received a call from Michelle (Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory) and I was invited to join Michelle Bahr, Marty Downs and Amos Wright for breakfast at Blondies (starting point for the Iditarod Dog Sled race). We ate a hearty breakfast and I tasted reindeer sausage for the first time. It was good -- tasted like kielbasa to me!
Since we had a little time before our flight, we all decided that we might like to do some last minute shopping. I purchased a two-week fishing license, Alaska Bear Bells, Robert H. Armstrong's Guide to the Birds of Alaska book, postcards, and some candy for Thuy Lam, the REH student from Norfolk, Va. We then went back to the hotel and were shuttled to the airport for our Alaska Airlines flight to Prudhoe Bay (Deadhorse Airport).
This was the first time I had flown on a combination cargo and passenger plane and I was a little apprehensive but we had a great flight and good service. Marty's seat assignment placed her beside two others who were going to Toolik, the Maine fishermen, Mark Goodwin and Danny Boldoc.
At Deadhorse Airport, there were quick hellos and good-byes to those who were leaving Toolik Field Station that Thursday including Alisha Moreland, the REH from Portland, Oregon, who had decided to leave Toolik after four weeks. The departing Toolik group commented on the great weather they had experienced. I hoped we were as lucky. We were met at the airport by Lisa Prestridge and Karie Slavik. After a quick stop at the Prudhoe Bay General Store and Post Office -- where I bought some bottled water and a Deadhorse coffee cup (for my husband) we headed for Toolik Field Station over a gravel road called the Dalton Highway. For a gravel road, there was an incredible amount of traffic. On our way to Toolik, we saw caribou, two eagles, two muskox and a grizzly bear. The bear was busy eating something in the shade of the Trans-Alaska pipeline and was not interested in us or our van. We honked the horn, but the grizzly bear was preoccupied with its food and looked up only one time.
Toolik Field Station was first established in 1974-75 to support an aquatic program designed to obtain base-line data on the North Slope and inland coastal ponds, an extension of the International Biological Program (IBP). At that time there were a number of projects under a general umbrella name of Research on Arctic Tundra Environments (RATE) funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Man and Biosphere Program (MAB), Project 6, Impact of Human Activities on Mountain and Tundra Ecosystems. The three-year program was under the coordination of Dr. Jerry Brown and Dr. John Hobbie. Terrestrial studies were sited at Atkasook on the Meade River. Dr. George Batzli was responsible for integrating the terrestrial studies and Dr. Phil Miller for modeling. In June 1975 Toolik Lake was selected as the site for the aquatic research. New scientific research projects and support facilities offered a north/south transect between the Yukon River and the Beaufort Sea. A survey of ecological and limnological sites from the Brooks Range to Prudhoe Bay was made in 1975. In June 1975 a 16-foot travel trailer belonging to the Institute of Marine Science (IMS), University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), was placed at the north end of the lake. Scientists flew to Prudhoe Bay and drove south to Toolik. During that first summer there were research staff from the U. S. Army, University of Kansas, Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory, University of Cincinnati, University of Alaska, University of Michigan, University of New Hampshire and University of Colorado. Since the first year, Toolik has grown with the addition of more trailers, laboratory units and some wooden structures including a kitchen and dining facility.
Toolik Field Station is the only active research facility for study of terrestrial biology, freshwater biology, hydrology, geology, etc., in the U.S. Arctic. It is a national facility which allows major research programs to proceed without construction and maintenance of support facilities. The processes that drive the landscape ecology of the tundra came under extensive study during the International Biological Program (IBP). Permafrost underlies all land in the Toolik area to a depth of up to approximately 600 meters. The general description of this area has been detailed by Brown et al. (1980). The increase of oil exploration of the Prudhoe Bay oil field to the Kuparuk River in the west and extension to the east have given urgency to understanding the processes by which arctic tundra is formed and the ecological interrelationships between the tundra and lakes and rivers. This uniqueness is highlighted in the emphasis this region receives in the Arctic Research and Policy Act (ARPA) report of the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee and is confirmed by NSF and the Department of Energy (DOE) support to numerous investigators.
The corridor from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez offers an opportunity to study and monitor environments and species on a north-south gradient through Alaska. The Station is within the pipeline corridor. Between the Yukon River and Prudhoe Bay, the supply system for the field Station can accommodate other sites. The logistics capability of the IAB and the Station gives projects the option of study sites throughout the Dalton Highway corridor north of Fairbanks.
Upon our arrival at Toolik Field Station we were provided a late dinner and then we checked in with Mike Abels. Mike gave us a quick tour of the camp, told us the dining room was open 24 hours a day, and then gave us our room assignments in the dormitory trailers. I roomed with Thuy Lam, the REH student from Virginia. I was very tired and went promptly to bed -- even with the extended daylight, I had no trouble in going to sleep.
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