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Student projects

We have been at the research station for over a week now, and we only have a couple more days left before it's time for us to leave. The students have been making good progress on their research projects, and here's a bit about what some of the teams are working on:

Deauna and Jeremy are studying the impacts of human foot traffic on soil water and therefore the organisms that live in the soil. There has been increasing tourism in this area, which means more hikers and more traffic on trails (and new trails being created by people going off-trail). All of those human feet can compress soil and squeeze out the air spaces, which can make it harder for the soil to let water in, provide habitat for organisms, and support plant life. Even after the foot traffic goes away, the soil will not immediately recover. Jeremy and Deauna are comparing high, medium, and low traffic areas to see how much damage is too much damage.
Jeremy puts our make-shift "infiltrometer" into a medium-traffic path to test how quickly water trickles into the soil. Deauna is ready to run the timer and record the data. Their art project to communicate the results is very neat. They have collected various plants and soil, and are using a hammer to pound them into cloth to create colors and textures on textile that represent human feet trampling the plants and soil.
Jeremy hammering his textiles on the left, and some in-the-works plant smashing on the right. Xavier and Jose are studying pollen, and whether it could be used to solve crimes. They have placed a bunch of their clothes around the station, both inside the buildings and outside scattered in the birch forest and fields. Their clothes are simulating a human who may have committed a crime, or been a victim of one. They are then identifying any pollen that may have collected on the clothes to determine whether they can match the "crime" to nearby plants. If they are able to collect pollen from the clothes that is tied to nearby plants, they can suggest that pollen evidence can be used to tie a person to a particular location in the Arctic. However, if pollen on the clothes is not able to be associated with nearby plants, that would suggest that it's not a good source of evidence.
Jose and Xavier use tape to collect pollen off of their test clothing. Once they collect the pollen, they look at it under a microscope to identify it. They have spent a lot of time collecting pollen from all of the flowering plants around the station to create a pollen bank of what each plant's pollen looks like. That way, as they look at their clothing samples, they can identify the plants on the clothes. The microscope has a camera attached, so one of them can operate the microscope while the other watches from the laptop. Here, Jose is on the laptop capturing still images and video to use in their artwork.
Jose and Xavier viewing their pollen from mock crime scene underwear. Ana and Kristian have been simulating a warmer Arctic climate to see how that impacts the activity of soil microbes. Soil microbes perform a LOT of important functions in ecosystems, so knowing how they respond to climate is important. Kristian and Ana collected soil and placed it into incubation vessels. Half of their vessels are outside in normal temperatures, and half are inside a little greenhouse that they made out of parts they could find at the station and market. In each of those temperatures, half of the vessels received extra water to simulate ice melting under a warmer climate. They've incubated their vessels for over a week with the extra water and/or warmer temperature, and every couple of days they collect gas samples to see how much the soil microbes are respiring.
More CO2 produced from respiration means more active microbes.
Ana collecting a gas sample from one of her sample vials, next to their home-made greenhouse. They have also been recording a lot of video and sound of water and wind to represent the melt and the respiration. It will become part of a musical composition with accompanying video. Anywhere we go for a hike, Kristian ends up dropping onto the ground and sticking his camera and sound recorder just above the water to collect the clips for their work.
You can juuust make out the tiny Kristian in the lower right, collecting sound clips from the base of the waterfall at Leenanlampi last week.
I'll tell you about the other projects another day, because the weather has been beautiful and now I'd like to go outside and enjoy some sunshine! | Impressum