Starting a new outreach project at the UAF botanical garden

April 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Outreach 

The Children’s Garden is part of the botanical garden at UAF.

We are helping them run some sap flux sensors they installed into a choke cherry tree. They put sensors on four branches of different sizes. The system was just turned on a couple of weeks ago, so we will be downloading the data soon to show you what this tree may or may not be doing right before bud burst. Here are some photos of the sap flux setup and the gazebo where the data are being collected.

Sap flux installation

April 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: CPCRW, Field Work 

Sap flux probes in a birch tree

Wiring the datalogger for the new sap flux sensors.

Photos of field prep

April 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: CPCRW, Field Work 

Loaded up the snowmachine and sled with gear

Had to tie everything down with old thermocouple wire. Forgot straps!

“Um, doc, my plant is turning yellow and has spots. Can you help it?”

April 23, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: CPCRW, Field Work 

The new field season brings some anxiety as we scramble to get materials together for the coming summer of field work. The anxiety takes hold because we are trying to “catch” the trees sucking up the spring snowmelt water before their leaves come out.  Anyone living in Fairbanks knows that the leaves appear around the first week of May. We’re all excited to see some green on the hillsides after a long grey winter and brown spring.  Who would have thought that racing trees would be stressful? They’re so secretive about their pre-summer activities that I need to stick probes in them to figure out what they’re doing and why.

The scramble to accumulate materials for field work and probe building can be hard in Fairbanks because there aren’t a lot of places we can get some of things we need.  I tend to go to the obvious places like Radio Shack or Brown’s Electric. But, I also hit up Michaels, JoAnne’s, or the dreaded Wal-Mart. I’m often asked what I’ll be using a particular thing for, and depending on the day, I either talk about it, or I smile and politely back out of the conversation. It really depends on the time crunch I’m under.  I start by saying that I’m building sensors.  When they ask for what, I say that I’m putting them in plants to measure their water use. That’s when I get the response “oh! I love plants. But, tell me, what does it mean when a plant gets little spots on it and turns brown? An aspen in my yard hasn’t put on leaves in years and it’s turning a weird color.” Well, the lack of leaves tipped me off that the plant is probably dead, but I have to smile because the exchange seems like something that would occur between a doctor and a non-patient at a golf course… “uh, doc, I have this rash…”. I smile and suggest that the tree has passed into the world of firewood.

Then it comes time to make the sensors.  Lab time is interesting because I end up in my own head for hours and hours. Doing repetitive activities lets the mind drift.  It’s almost meditative and my thoughts turn to funny things. Today, I’m soldering wires (a stupid word – it should be spelled phonetically, as sautering).  Soldering irons have to be cleaned off periodically because they accumulate solder on the tip and get gunky. Cleaning just entails smearing the hot tip on a wet sponge. The funny part is that the solder is hard to get off so I have to keep rolling the iron around in the sponge to get the stuff off. It makes me feel like I’m trying to wipe a booger off a robot finger.

Off to buy super glue, Styrofoam balls, duct tape, sheets of foil bubble wrap, deep cycle marine batteries, and solar panels.

Looking for Summer Undergraduate Research Assistants

April 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: CPCRW, Field Work, Jobs 

Please pass this along to anybody you feel might work out well for us. Thanks!

Position Descriptions:

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) International Arctic Research Center (IARC) invites applications for two (2) summer undergraduate research assistants beginning 20 May 2012 as part of the National Science Foundation funded project “Ecohydrology in Permafrost Systems: The Impact of Watershed Heterogeneity on Stream Flow Dynamics and Hydrologic Pathways.” Through a combination of field work, lab work, and modeling, this project aims to explore the role of vegetation and permafrost dynamics on water fluxes/pathways the sub-arctic (discontinuous permafrost), boreal forest ecosystem. One student will focus on hydrology-related processes and the other will focus on ecology-related processes. Students will learn about and participate in most aspects of the research project including collection of field data, downloading and trouble-shooting data loggers, preparation for field activities, examining and processing data, entering data into data base, testing model code, etc. The ecology student will gain skills in plant physiological measurements.

Applicants should have an outstanding undergraduate record. Candidates must be physically capable of field activities including walking long distances with potentially heavy backpacks (~20-30 pounds) and operation of four-wheelers. At a minimum, the students should be able to use ‘office’ software for data visualization and organization. Ideally, the hydrology student should be computationally strong and have some computer programming experience (such as Python, IDL, Matlab). Students must be enrolled as UAF student in minimum of 6 credits with minimum GPA of 2.0 or a newly enrolled student. Students must also possess a valid drivers license.

Work Environment:
This position will be based at the International Arctic Research Center. Field work will be occur at the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed, located near Chatanika – approximately 45 minutes north-east of Fairbanks. Students should expect to spend 1-3 days each week in the field.

For summer period, students will work 40 hours per week with a salary of $10.00 per hour.

To Apply:
Please submit a resume, cover letter, and contact information for 2 references. Review of applications will begin on 1 May 2012.

Additional Information:

For more information, please contact Bob Bolton ( or Jessie Cable (

A new field season begins

April 10, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: CPCRW, Field Work 

Last week the field season started up again the monitoring the snow ablation out in the Caribou-Poker Creeks Research Watershed and making sure the sites are up and running. It’s been a fairly cold winter and the month of March was actually colder than February. However, April has been nice and it won’t take much for the snow melt to really take off!

I will continue to post pictures of our field work and data as it gets worked up. It’s been fantastic and good for the soul to be outside and away from my computer for a few hours every couple days! Definitely good for my soul.