Sunday, August 7, 2011

Jade and YOY!

Allison and I tore through the filtering a lot faster than than we predicted.  We collected and filtered a total of 14 carboys of water (~280 L of water) and extracted organic matter from 5 of those carboys (100 L water).  The past couple of days we worked on packing up and shipping the remaining 9 carboys (55 to 60 lbs each) back to Ohio State University!

We had a few extractions remaining to do and we still needed to collect some soils from around Toolik for Allison, who is examining plant uptake and soil sorption of several hormones.  She will be using the organic-rich tundra soil as a comparison to some of the agricultural soils she has been using for her experiments.  We decided to tackle the soil collection first, combining the trip with a hike up Jade mountain, located on the opposite shore of Toolik Lake from the field station.  We took a canoe across the lake and collected soils just off shore, to prevent any contamination from the field station from influencing the samples.  After a bit of digging, we realized that it is surprisingly difficult to cut through the tough root system of the moss and grass that dominate the tundra!  However, after a bit of work (and a lot of jumping on the shovels) we successfully collected enough soil.  We tucked the shovels and soil samples underneath our overturned canoe on shore, and headed up Jade.  It was a gorgeous day, yet clouds loomed over the horizon threatening rain, so we didn't dawdle in the hike -- which means that I sadly didn't take too many pictures.

A friendly Sik Sik (arctic ground squirrel)!

Toolik and the Dalton Highway from the top of Jade Mountain!
We made it down Jade as the winds started to pick up.  The trip back across the lake was directly into the strong gusting winds and we made only slow, halting progress across the lake as we headed back toward Toolik.
There were quite strong winds, which resulted in some interesting clouds.  From what I have read, the choppy/grated - looking clouds are an indicator of turbulent winds.
During our venture back, we spotted a family of loons!  The two parents were diving into the water to collect food to bring back to the babies.  Loons primarily eat fish, but will eat other small fauna if necessary.
The whole Loon family!
One of the loon parents, just before it dove to catch its prey.
Loons are about the size of a duck or a small geese, yet their markings and call is extremely distinct.  They are difficult to take pictures of in the water since their bellies are submerged as they swim.  The wind and waves also didn't help in photo documenting the loons, yet I managed to get a couple of pics that you can really see their gorgeous markings!!

The loon showing off his gorgeous markings!
The loon parent and chick as they swam away
Since we only have a little work left, we seized the opportunity on Friday to go out with Elissa and her assistant Andrew to go catch young graylings known as YOY, which stands for Young of the Year.  Elissa works for the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and one of her many projects is to track the yearly growth and development of the graylings.  They have 5 sites on the Oksrukuyik Creek, where they have been collecting for multiple years.  We hunted the YOY with small fish nets (like those you use in an aquarium).  The YOY are quick and blend easily into rocks, which makes catching them actually quite a challenge! We learned how to corral the YOY into a corner to catch or move a mass of YOY toward other people standing waiting with the nets.  By the end of the day, we were a YOY catching machine!

Elissa putting our YOY in fresh water for their trip back to the lab

The YOY are still tiny, but I am told that they are significantly larger right now than at the beginning of the season.  Apparently when they were first collecting the YOY, they were just tiny little eyeballs with fins!
Some of our successfully caught YOY
YOY closeup.  They are quite pretty fish, with tiny little spots all over them.

While out YOY hunting, we actually spotted a Caribou prancing through the tundra!

 In the afternoon, we took the truck back out to Imnavait since we had caught wind of a fox family living out near the river.  We spotted them immediately upon driving up the access road to the creek.  There are supposedly 3 or 4 baby foxes, but some of them are a tad skittish.  However, 1 of the fox babies was quite brave and seemed unafraid as we watched him sleep.

"what are you looking at?"
Nap time!


  1. Thanks! I was impressed at how much wildlife we actually saw in our short time at Toolik!