Project Snowmelt

May 7, 2010 – 6:19 pm


On Monday of this week, I arrived at Toolik Field station in northern Alaska (68° N latitude) to begin the field work for my new postdoc. It’s been amazing to see the arctic, to live at Toolik (an amazing research station) and to participate in kicking off a huge collaborative project now dubbed the “Snowmelt” project by the station staff.


I arrived with Mike Wientraub, my postdoc advisor and the head PI of the project, as well as Heidi Steltzer (professor at Fort Lewis College), and Caroline Melle, (grad student at CSU Fort Collins). The first thing we did when we arrived was to set out black fabric on some plots marked for advanced snowmelt treatment. The black fabric absorbs solar energy and melts the snow, thus simulating earlier onset of the growing season. We will also have some open-topped passive warming chambers as a second crossed treatment in these plots. Once these treatments are in place, we will measure a suite of variables quantifying the response of plants and soils.


Even after the first day of deployment, the fabric began to do its job and there was a noticeable difference in snow depth between treatments, as can be seen by the lip of snow next to the fabric below.


It’s been great to start up this new project. Just before I got here, I gave my exit talk in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department at CU Boulder on April 23rd, and then defended on April 26th. The thesis was approved unconditionally, so I am officially Ph.inishD! This is good because I can now legitimately call myself a postdoc.

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