Friday, August 26, 2011

More about work in beautious Kasitsna Bay!

So I'm in Kasitsna Bay, Alaska, and it's the end (twilight just extinguished and it's 10:50pm!) of my 21st day in this state where I'm helping to conduct research on sediment-sea-air flux of greenhouse gases and test new instrumentation and methods for these processes.  My advisor, John, and I worked with a team from USGS first and now I'm with a team from UC-Santa Cruz. 

This week I've done 2 days of surveying with our snazzy instrument that measures gases in seawater and airborne gases in realtime, about every 5 seconds.  We take the gases out of the water using a glorified showerhead in a closed cylinder and pump the headspace into the laser-based instrument (after it passes through several dryers) to be analyzed.  The ambient air goes through the instrument at the same time and our data will show what concentration of gases were in air and in the water every inch of our boat's survey path!  Pretty incredible. 

Natasha setting up on our boat docked in the bay on Tuesday a.m.

The instrument does all the work!  Once we get it on board and plumbed up and all.
 Side note:  The instrument is really complex and really expensive!!  While I thought I was doing something helpful (emptying the seawater condensor trap valve) the other night after we had docked, I almost destroyed the instrument!  3 tense hours later, the situation became less tense when John had gotten the water that got sucked into the instrument out and we flushed the instrument with purely dry gas.  Many tears were was scary for me!  But John was really nice to me after the initial shock of it all for both of us.
This is how I pictured Alaska in my wildest dreams.

We smile a lot.
Our routine is to have breakfast together at 7:30 in our own big kitchen/dining room and to hash out the day's plan.  Today for instance, I worked with Adina (our leader) and Alanna (whose dissertation project this is) on groundwater collection and filtering (for radium isotope measurements) out on the Jakolof Bay shoreline.  We drove a beat up 1970s era pickup truck over to our sites and dug holes and filled up 32-gallon cans with water from several shallow tidal bay areas.  I enjoyed sloshing through the mud in my Extratuf boots with the fresh Alaskan scenery all around.  It is a lot warmer here, but quite cloudy and drizzly sometimes--today I was only wearing a t-shirt and a rainjacket, so nice.

Have to include one of my fav things about the Pacific Northwest--Seaweed arrangements!!
Love the heart shaped ones.

Incredibly long brown seaweed!! It gets caught in our seawater pump a lot.
Silky sea lettuce

Thursday, August 25, 2011

And the fieldwork continues!

So we left Toolik Lake

John and the CRDS out on the Toolik Lake dock

Preparing to run a suite of standards next to the Hobie Cat I'd like to be sailing
 On Sunday morning we woke at 4 a.m. and 3 plane touchdowns (in Barrow, Anchorage, and Homer), 2 car taxi rides, and a water taxi later--we were at Kasitsna Bay, w/ personal baggage and groceries in hand!  The rest of our gear and 6 person team have made it over in subsequent water taxis.

Homer is sweet!  And insanely're surrounded by snowtopped mountains and a glassy sea in all directions..and tons and tons of evergreen trees.  There's an easygoing, kinda rustic,fishing town vibe to the place and I  just loved it..Our taxi driver was a really helpful guy and he drove us from the airport through town to the grocery store, picked us up again and drove us down the Spit to our water taxi.  We wanted to get a bite in town and our taxi guy pointed us towards an excellent establishment.  After dinner and a walk, we taxied over to our lab.  We saw a pair of porpoises!  And our first bald eagle--we've seen dozens now (by day 3).  Adina, Slawek, Natasha, Alanna, John, and I are all loving our new locaysh and the wildlife!

From the Naturalist journal:  John and I sighted a black bear on our walk Monday night, about 50 yds away..he was eating berries and bounded away!  We're being very careful since the black bears are really active/all around the area at the moment.  I looooove sea otters!!!  I've seen many of them--lolling and rolling around on their backs, with salmon in their mouth, breaking a shellfish open, sliding down rocks, sleeping.  Besides the bald eagles (dignified, glorious birds that they are!), I've seen a Stellars Jay, a Common Loon,  and on the boat I've seen many more birds I have yet to pin an ID on (I chose to blog tonight and am sacrifcing a bit of sleep for it!)..Anyhow I hafta share these great photos I have!
John and I headed over to Finn's Pizza for dinner

Wood-fired oven right next to the door by the cash register where you can see it!

Salud!  to Homer IPA on tap!  Deelish.

Best margherita pizza I ever ate.  Perfectly olive oily and flaky crust to boot.
YES those are mtns..this is the beach on the Homer Spit. So cool
New Field Home! Kasitsna Bay Lab. Our dorm is to the left, through the trees :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Night in the Lab

I spent 2 nights awake running samples while we were at the Toolik Lake Field Station. Both nights went pretty fast because their wasnt much darkness and the work was very methodical..first time I'd done anything like that..and I really enjoyed it!

The discrete Cavity ring down spectrometer genius.

All the vials of lakewater waiting their turn to be analyzed for natural gas.

Crimping a cap on a small vial of phosphoric acid that is needed for each sample.

Injecting samples into the instrumentand letting it do its thing!!

We just unpacked in our 3rd and final field site close to Homer, is a zillion miles away from Toolik (but sill in Alaska, obviously, this is Katy's Grand Tour of the49th State after all) and it is INCREDIBLY INSANELY gorgeous!! Huge mountains, Tons of Evergreens, On. a rocky rustic coastline..and our dorm is really really spacious and we have a huge kitchen and gorgeous view. Its actually really foggy (the locals call it being "socked in") and I'm stoked for it to clear up but already thrilled for the week ahead!!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

@ Toolik Lake

My cute little room in the Cottongrass building.  Its very cush.

Studying up on the CRDS.

Foggy day, looking out on the lake.

Our lab trailer outside

Our lab trailer inside--it was completely bare before we moved in.

  Natasha and I may or may not have posed for this pic.

Ready to board our souped-up john boat! 

I helped navigate our way around the perimeter of the lake w/ a  bathymetry map.

John and I, with the field station in the background.  Mtns are hidden in fog

Natasha at the bow of the boat.

There was a cute lil hydroplane preparing for takeoff

Lookinig at the field station across the water

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Unbelievably Gorgeous Drive on Dalton Hwy

     These next photos are of a landscape so incredibly awesome that you might not believe I took them all in a single afternoon.  But, I did.  You'll just have to believe me.  On Saturday, John and I drove 140 miles down the Dalton Hwy (aka the Haul Road) from Prudhoe Bay to Toolik Lake.  Its mostly unpaved and a safe speed is about 30 mph.   Most were just point-and-click photos taken out the window of the truck while we were driving along, but we also stopped to stretch our legs a few times.  We drank V8 juice, munched on sandwiches, celery, and raisins from the Aurora, and talked. Seeing this land changed me..I could scarcely believe my own eyes.
We followed this river for most of the way

Looking south and seeing for miles and miles

We were also following the Pipeline

Brooks Range in the distance

Looking down at the river..I think we saw a caribou in the distance here.

Incredible!  Clouds, foothills, giantness..took my breath away over and over

Rainstorm up ahead--and mountains are getting closer

Interesting.  None of the other hills had names.

Ooohh ahhhhh

The drive just kept getting more and more beautiful.  We stretched our legs here.

Huge feature in the distance

Same huge topographic feature upclose.. moss growing on its sides

That's our pickup truck--we'd pulled off to check out the river up close again.

So many different clouds and the road wet and glinting sun from the passing raincloud

My fav pic of all--crazy cool raincloud

The pipeline and a million clouds on the horizon


There it is!!  Toolik Lake!!! 

Slanted pic--but there's the Brooks Range as seen from Toolik Lake