Fieldwork in Barrow!

Our site on the sea ice is first year, meaning that it is newly formed this year, and will likely melt in summer. It is usually 0.5-1.5 m thick. Multi year ice persists for years and is usually thicker (3-5 m). It is also a landfast site, meaning that the sea ice is still attached to the coast (as opposed to free floating ice).

DSC01547Here is David, one of the researchers from CRREL (Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory) walking on the sea ice. They are laying out transects of flags on the ice so that twin otter planes with remote sensing equipment such as LIDAR can fly over. 

DSC01535Here are the sleds full of our gear. The plan is to measure the thickness of sea ice on the ground, and then to mark the site so that the planes can fly over and use remote sensing to gauge the thickness of sea ice. Scientists use this kind of ground truthing to help correct the remote sensing data from flyovers often used to assess the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic.

DSC01545As you can see, sea ice can deform and make piles. This means that measuring the thickness remotely is not necessarily straightforward.

DSC01540 And here are the researchers drilling a core from the sea ice. Holes are drilled into the ice at intervals to measure temperature and salinity, to create a profile of the ice characteristics with depth.

DSC01557We have laid the core onto this measuring board. You can see the snow on top, transitioning into ice at about 20 cm, and then towards the bottom of the core the ice looks dirtier. This is perhaps due to the presence of ice algae that live in the bottom of sea ice. We will melt and filter the sea ice in Barrow, and then return to Ann Arbor to conduct a full geochemical analysis of the ice. We hope to learn about the concentration and provenance of dust in the sea ice here.

Arctic Sea Ice, Barrow

Meghan Taylor here! I am in Barrow, AK this week to obtain cores of sea ice on the Chukchi Sea, offshore from town. We start at the UMIAQ hangar to pick up our snow machines. UMIAQ is the native corporation that manages permitting and logistics for scientists working on the sea ice. They also provide us with an armed guard who stands watch for polar bears. His name is Mike and he likes to play reggae music from a radio in his coat while we work.DSC01528 There is thick ice fog on the shore to day and everything is hazy. The ice fog was dense and close to the ground so that you could still see that it was a bright, sunny morning 40ft above you. DSC01530   Here we are filling a couple of sleds with gear needed for today’s field work. DSC01534   This is me, geared up for a ride on the snow machines. Our site is about 7 miles away, which is a 30 minute ride on the skidoos. We cover up because we are riding in temps around 1˚F, and you don’t want any skin exposed! DSC01541   Here you can see the edge of the sea ice. This lead was solid sea ice just a few days before, and has just opened up. There are faded prints, barely visible, of polar bear tracks here. Our bear guard thinks that they are a day or two old, where a polar bear pulled itself out of the ocean and walked towards shore. Now that the ice is breaking up, bears will become more common near town, but Mike says that their presence is more noticeable after the whale season starts and the the first whale of the season is taken. DSC01567   DSC01569   Me again, and another researcher, Andre. He will not let me drive! It is nearly 8:30 pm here and still fairly bright and sunny. It does not become truly dark until after 9:30 pm in early spring. Long daylight hours are conducive to a long day on the ice: I had no idea of the time until someone starting passing out cookies and I realized it was well after dinner. Next time I’ll post some pictures of the really nice ice core we got, and some of the other field work going on out here.

pH Culture Experiment is running now!

More work has been done in the past week, the seawater was heated and acidified for our experiments


We also staining our shells so that we can have a better time control for which part of the shell mass is growing under the assigned pH in this experiment. Those shells were separated into different flower pots.


In order to evaluate how the animal adjust the pH inside the shell, we also aim to measure the pH from the extrapallial fluid (EPF), in which the chemical compositions were considered directly related to the formation of the carbonate shell. To measure the pH in the shell, we need to drill a small hole on some of the shell. A segment of pipet tip will be glue on it so that we can keep the entrance for future pH measuring.



To ensure the EPF won’t exchange with the seawater outside the shell, we have to seal the opening. And then put them back to their home!


When you see the shells open their valves like the pictures below or they dig into the sands, they are telling you, “We are happy living here!!!”


After two weeks of efforts, our pH control flow through system is running, and we take the first measurement last Saturday.





Wish us the best of luck for the next eight months. We feel excited to learn how the boron isotopic compositions in the shells relate to the ambient seawater pH, as well as the pH in the shells, do you?

pH control experiment building up!

Our pH control culture experiment is building up in the Troms Marin Yngel (TMY) now! Most of the mechanical constructions will be done so in a couple of days soon. pH meters were calibrated and CO2 and water system will operated next Monday. Hopefully the A. islandica can live happily under out different pH treatments later in the growth season.


People worked hard together to make the experiment design come true.

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The progress we made from the past week: The set-up of master tank (top), mixing tanks (coolers in the third picture) and experimental trays.


New home we made for individual clam.

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Samples were labeled, measured and weighted


To have time control, we also stained the shells.


In this experiment, we also seek to have in-situ pH measurement from the extrapallial fluid (EPF). To avoid hurting the animals, practices with shells are necessary. (Also, we have to learn not to hurt ourself at the same time…I totally did not intend to drill a hole on my finger…). A pipet tip is mounted on the surface of the hole and will be sealed with parafilm. Later on the measurements will apply from the hole we drill.

Next week we will start regulate the pH levels and leave the clams into different treatments to acclimate the new environment. Then, the experiment will be ready to start!

GIGL with Clams in northern Norway

In addition to the glacier studies, one branch of GIGL uses a cold species of clam, Arctica islandica (A. islandica), as an archive to learn more about our climate system. We aim to confirm the relationship between boron isotopic compositions of the bivalve mollusk A. islandica and the ambient seawater pH. We hope to reconstruct the recent history of ocean acidification and understand how ocean chemistry reacts with respect to the increasing level of atmospheric CO2.

This year, we have an international collaboration culture experiment in Tromsø, Norway. Thanks to our collaborators from Norway and Iowa State University, we just got a bunch of living shells from the coastal region of Ingøy, Norway (71°05′03″N 24°03′29″E). We are going to rear them in four different pH levels from 7.5 to 8.1 to see the impacts of ocean acidification on the chemical compositions in the  shells and the growth of the animals.

The culture experiment will be set up in the upcoming few days. More exciting updates will coming soon!!!


Michael (Senior Researcher from Akvaplan-niva in Tromsø, Norway), Thorleif (fish man on Ingøy island), and Maddie (Graduate student form Iowa State University) successfully collected samples last Wednesday.


Living A. islandica that will be used later in this boron-pH (CO2 and ocean acidification) project.

GIGL field recipes

In order to stay warm and have enough energy to drill all those holes, we eat a lot. Sumo wrestler quantities and calories. Everyone is pretty happy with chile rellenos, breakfast burritos, or bagels fried in butter, chocolate chip pancakes and steak, steak, steak (or in Carli’s case: boca, boca, boca). We have a Coleman stove that runs off of propane and we use about 40 pounds of propane every 10 days to cook and make water (no liquid water here!). We had an exciting day here yesterday when this arrived:



We were so excited for these 5 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit we did a little jig.

Typically we eat sautéd food (fried) and we drink high calorie beverages (hot chocolate, hot tang, hot coffee with sweetened condensed milk)

Steak (or Boca burger) fried in butter and chiles

3 frozen small cans of mild roasted chiles

4 frozen sirloin steaks (plus 1 Boca)

½ stick of butter (also frozen)

Boil 2 cups water, let cool 5 minutes and add meat and cans to water (meat in Ziploc, labels removed from cans). Let sit 45 minutes to defrost. Heat cast iron pan, melt butter and sauté chiles for 2-3 minutes. Remove steaks from bags, discarding any gross liquids, and cook until medium-rare. Sauté Boca in separate pan with butter and ¼ of chiles.

We’ve experimented with pancakes almost every day: Chai and applesauce, apple pie filling and cinnamon, pumpkin, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, mixed buttermilk and whole wheat mixes. And despite the boss Sarah’s disdain for not real maple syrup, pancake syrup.

We pre-wipe all of the dishes with paper towels and clean dishes with a small amount of warm water. Everyone is looking forward to the return of warm running water for dishes (and, of course, showers).

This Is Drilling

Today we finished drilling our final samples at the lower Taylor Glacier site, in a couple of days we will pack up and move to the upper Taylor Glacier site to drill our last samples of the season. So far we have drilled 60 holes and collected 114 samples. It is hard work and everyone is exhausted, so we thought we would show you what we do to drill.

Once we choose our drilling spot, we move the rig by pulling it across the ice:


After moving the rig, we secure it with ice screws and drill 1 meter sections of core in the following manner. The secured drill is placed into the core hole:


Drilling down a meter takes about 5-7 minutes (assuming nothing goes wrong) and the drill is pulled up:

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The drill has a head with pretty fierce cutters to cut through the ice and also holds all of the chips from around the outside of the core as it cuts into the ice. These chips have to be removed:

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And the cutters cleaned with a brush, which looks suspiciously like a kitchen scrub brush:


Then we use a core recovery tool (CRT) to pull out the core:

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The CRT has spring loaded clips that bite the core and hold the core in the CRT while it is pulled out. These clips are known as “dogs” and we are constantly cleaning the dogs in order to have unproblematic pulls:

20131211-IMG_2390After the core is plunged out, it is cut, bagged and boxed:

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Because the core samples weigh about 50 pounds each we cart them to their field site storage area by snowmobile:

20131211-IMG_2405Helicopters come to pick up samples every 3-5 days, some get packed into a huge box and are transported by sling load and some ride internally within the helos:

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But all have arrived safely in McMurdo for storage in the -20 degree freezer until they make the long boat ride back to the USA.

Sometimes each step can take 20 minutes and there are days that a single step will take four hours and we spend 12 hours working in the cold, blowing snow until we make our daily science collection goals. The ice surface is rough with sun cups so we have bruised knees, elbows and shins, and those dogs “bite” so our gloves have worn through on the fingers and duct tape is used as additional protection from cuts. But, each day is beautiful out here on the Taylor Glacier and we have been fortunate in being able to accomplish as much as we have.


The weather out here

Just a short post, it has been busy out here on the Taylor Glacier. Over the last week we have experienced almost every weather combination possible: howling 50 mph winds and incredible cold followed by days of warm sun and t-shirt weather. When storm systems come in, it can be calm with incredible cloud formations and, strangely in the Dry Valleys, snow.

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And, if the conditions are perfect the ice crystals in the atmosphere will act as prisms and treat us to a rainbow otherwise known as a “Sun Dog”:


Drillin’ for Ice!

We have started the drilling process! The weather here at Taylor Glacier has been so warm, that we have to drill for ice at night instead of the day. We had a shift last night that lasted from 1:30-10:15 am, which was very productive (6 holes that are 7 meters deep each!). If it’s too hot during drilling hours, the inside of the drill gets warm and sticky, and we run the risk of getting the actual ice drill stuck in the borehole.

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The hours of 1:30-5:30 am, the sun (which is always up where we are) is behind a mountain, so we are temporarily shaded.

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We tried to nap before, but most of us couldn’t sleep much, so we basically pulled an all-nighter, but we are happy to have our samples packed and ready to send back to McMurdo on the helicopter tomorrow.

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It was nice and peaceful when we had time to stop and enjoy the views.

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Thanksgiving and other fun…

This past Thursday we spent the first hours of the day drilling ice cores, and the second half preparing for the grand Thanksgiving feast of Taylor Glacier.


A helicopter arrived in the early afternoon despite deteriorating weather, and brought a wondrous and delicious surprise!


After the dinner, the weather turned a littler worse and we had a white wall of clouds and blowing snow approaching from upglacier (second photo is what it normally looks like):

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The helicopter pilots here are amazing, they pick up and drop off sling loads, which are boxes packed with supplies, and are tricky to maneuver.


In the meantime, we’ve had some fun exploring the area on snowmachines and Nansen sleds with our awesome drillers, Jayred and Gotez.

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When we aren’t drilling, here are a few photos that show what we are up to.

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A few members from I-159 (another science group camping and conducting research here on Taylor Glacier, ) took their kite out for a ride!


Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!