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9 September, 2002


Hello form Toolik Lake.

We woke up for our first day at Toolik Lake this morning, to find that it had not snowed here last night. There was some new snow in the mountains and we had a fairly heavy frost, but the expected snow for last night was a false alarm. I must say that I am grateful for the lack of snow. I wanted very much to explore the tundra without a snow cover. I also was not looking forward to the snow melting and making everything wet and muddy. The only part of the tundra soil that thaws for the summer is the top few feet. Below the top few feet, the ground is solid permafrost. Consequently, the surface water is unable to drain through the soil and remains on the surface to make the tundra very wet at this time of year.

With no snow and mostly clear skies, it turned out to be a beautiful day. We began our day with a teleconference between the team here at Toolik and the Assumption School in Cincinnati. Mr. Mike Quinones' 7th grade students had plenty of questions for us and hopefully learned a little about arctic insects. Once we ended our conference, Dr. Valerie Bennett, graduate student Todd Sformo and I headed out to the edges of the Sag River to look for beetles. The sight is one that we visited in the spring and has been a good source of Click Beetles for the study. Today was no exception. We were able to collect more than two hundred Click Beetles as well as about three dozen Carabid beetles. Carabids are interesting because they are actually freeze-tolerant. This means that they have the ability to actually freeze and then revive themselves once thawed out. Most of the beetles we see here are freeze-avoiding which means that they have proteins in their bodies that act like an antifreeze and allows them to survive very cold temperatures without freezing. We now have excellent examples of both survival strategies with the Carbids and the Click Beetles. As an additional bonus for our efforts today, we found a small brown beetle that we have not seen before. Our first task will be to identify this new beetle and then determine whether or not it is a candidate for study.

With plenty of Click Beetles secured, we headed back to the Toolik camp and to our lab. Because we were so successful in our morning collection efforts, we were able to spend the afternoon getting a head start on the lab work. We were able to measure the freezing points of to groups of Click Beetles and we were able to collect some hemolymph (insect blood) that we can check for protein activity. We were able to spend a beautiful day out working on the tundra, successfully collect a large number of beetles and get our lab work started. All in all, this was a very good first day.

Valerie and Todd use metal posts and GPS coordinates to mark collection sites.

Even the smallest clumps of tundra grasses show the colors of the fall at this time of year.

We look for beetles by turning over partially buried rocks similar to this one.

The Brooks Range Mountains (in the background) and the openness of the Tundra are the dominant landscape features here.

The Tundra seems to go on forever.

While we've only seen a few Caribou so far, we did see this heard of Dall Sheep at the base of the mountains.

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