Eye of the science storm

June 24, 2011 – 10:31 am

Today is the rare day when I feel like I have a chance to catch my breath, the eye of the science storm. It’s been busy times finishing my dissertation, publishing its chapters, and working on my postdoc project over the last year and half. Now with a series of papers from my dissertation more or less done and a mid-summer break from field work in Alaska, it’s time to take stock of the journey thus far and boldly forge some epic paths to follow in the future. I kid of course…my journey is less Charles Darwin and more Stan’s dad from South Park.

I left Toolik Field Station two weeks ago after kicking off our second summer of field research during a six week stay. My first task was to implement our snowmelt acceleration treatment at our study site. I was excited that the treatment worked really well this year, accelerating snowmelt by two full weeks. I then worked on getting the rest of our measurements and experiments up and running, including putting out some ion exchange resin membranes to measure soil nutrients in our plots. I’m hoping these resins will provide a nice complement to our microlysimeter data.

After doing a lot of solo work during my dissertation (as is inevitable for such an undertaking), I have really enjoyed working on a team in my current postdoc project. Everyone kind of has their corner of the big project that they do a really good job on, and then hopefully it all comes together in the end. I am excited for that phase as I think everyone on our team will have something cool to bring to the table.

I’ve also enjoyed working at Toolik Field Station. It is a surprisingly engaging and fun environment in a “summer camp for scientists” sort of way. When journalists visit Toolik, some of them inevitably write the obvious story along the lines of “these people are having too much fun up here…food is delicious, there’s a sauna, your tax dollars at work blah blah.” Then they conveniently leave out the part about how everyone at Toolik (scientists and the awesome staff) busts their ass for minimum 60 hours a week (not an exaggeration) to get their projects done during their stay. Also, station residents more often than not forge meaningful–often lifelong–very productive scientific collaborations that have been a driving force in our understanding of arctic ecosystems for decades now. I’ve personally made some great friends. Because of the total scientific immersion at Toolik, I’d say it’s unquestionable that my skills as a scientist have been greatly sharpened in just the short time I’ve spent up there.

Next up I spend a month here in Toledo during which time I am hoping to whip out a little methods paper concerning the use of OPAME to measure amino acids using a microplate reader (a topic I wrote about on this blog last year; there are updates to that story). Then it’s back to Toolik to finish out the field season. When I return in September, more lab samples to process, data to analyze, papers and grants to write, and of course the foreboding prospect of applying for jobs! Jackie and I are both quite curious about where we will end up next.

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