29 June, 2001
Another "Nalukataq" was held this evening. This time there were 4 crews celebrating together so the number of people was much larger. A local woman took us under her wing and served us tea and directed us on how to get some better pieces of whale meat. We followed her advice and ended up with a 4-inch by 4-inch chunk of frozen meat, which we all sampled, twice is just not enough to develop a taste for the delicacy. The Inupiat culture revolves around hunting be it for whale, seal, walrus or caribou. The celebrations help bring the community together and provide a time to share with one another. Historically money did not have a role here. Barter was the economic backbone of the community. Everyone worked and had a role in providing for the community. If you didn't hunt you prepared food or you made clothes from the skins. Life was hard and everyone had to work together to survive.
This afternoon we went to the field and took freeze/thaw data along with soil moisture measurements. This year the tundra has been dryer than in past years. Glen is seeing differences in his plots as a result of the soil moisture too.
We measure soil moisture with the instrument pictured below. On the bottom there are 5 prongs that you insert into the ground being careful not to compact the soil. The instrument does all the calculations for you and the screen displays the percentage of water. We take 3 readings at each site then average them. Back at the lab the instrument is plugged into the computer and the data downloaded directly into a file on the hard drive.
Soil moisture is an important part of studying gas exchanges here. The soil moisture, soil temperature amount of respiration all have direct effects on the CO2 being given off or being taken in by the vegetation (flux).
The freeze /thaw measurements indicate the depth of soil (active layer) which is available for the vegetation to grow into where roots are undergoing gas exchanges. The greater the thaw depth the more potential area for a CO2 source to exist. As you would expect thaw dept increases over summer but if most of the climate change is to manifest itself in warmer wintertime temperatures it is unknown how the fluxes would be affected here.
Studying climate change and its effects involves taking and analyzing many measurements that one does not automatically think about. It is my hope you can see now how complicated and interconnected all the environmental factors are which play a role, directly and indirectly in the bigger picture. Warmer temperatures do not necessarily mean more plants (a CO2 sink) on a long-term scale.
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