12 September, 2002
We woke up this morning to heavy fog and snow flurries. There is not really much accumulation of snow, but the light dusting was just enough to remind me of where I am and just how unpredictable the weather here can be. With visibility so poor, we were forced to change our plans for the day. We had originally planned to search for beetles and other insects along the Atigun River. Hoping the fog would lift by afternoon, we switched over to some remaining lab work for the morning. We had some survival studies to finish with the beetles we already had and we still had several samples of hemolymph that we needed to check for freezing and melting points. Unfortunately, both lab tasks require a lot of sitting and waiting so the morning seemed to drag on a bit. When you get used to spending the better part of the day out and about collecting insects,
A morning being confined to lab work seems a little tedious. Our hope is that we can get the remaining tasks in the lab done and spend the next few days collecting.
The morning lab tasks included a procedure for determining the melting and freezing points of the insect's hemolymph (blood). The sample is collected in a small capillary tube, sealed and then spun in a centrifuge to pull any fat bodies or parcticulates to one end of the sample. The sample is then placed into a chamber containing very cold alcohol. The researcher's task is to continuously monitor the sample, watching for the formation of an ice crystal. The formation and growth of the ice crystal signifies the freezing point of the sample. Once the sample has completely frozen, the alcohol in the chamber is slowly warmed and the tube is watched to see when the sample begins to melt. In any normal sample of a material, the freezing point and melting point are at the same temperature. In insects with AFP's (antifreeze proteins) however, the sample will have a different freezing and melting point. The difference between the two points can often indicate the amount of AFP activity in the insect.
As we had hoped, the weather began to clear somewhat after lunch. It did not clear enough for us to explore the area around the Atigun River, but it did clear enough for us to make a hike around Toolik Lake itself to search for beetles. In fact, we located one area that had a very large population of Click Beetles. Since we already had more than 200 Click Beetles in the lab, we marked the site for later collection. We spent a good part of the afternoon making our site survey and we returned to camp early enough to nearly finish the lab work begun in the morning. The remaining few tasks are being completed after dinner this evening. Though it began questionably with poor weather, the day actually turned out to be very productive. Our success today should allow is to try the Atigun River trek again tomorrow. Weather permitting.
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