June 29, 2006

Donie Bret-Harte and Brian Barnes represented the Toolik management team.  Thom Walker, TFS Assistant Camp Manager, and John Hobbie, Scientific Liaison, attended.  Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.

Brian Barnes reviewed the VPR/IAB upgrade meeting, which had occurred the previous day.  The meeting focused on preparations for winter operation in this coming year, and for completion of the Science Support Building and construction of a utilidor, including water distribution system.  A winter-capable kitchen/dining facility is proposed as the next large upgrade priority after the SSB is completed; we welcome community input on what other major improvements should be considered.  The kitchen should continue to be centrally located between the labs and the residence side of camp.  If not in its current location, it should be close by, either on the side of the current structure, or across the road where the tool shop is currently located (conveniently close to the wastewater tank). 

John Hobbie inquired about whether the well water had been tested, and whether the well could be used next winter.  Golder Associates will deliver their report on the well water test results in July.  Jay Burnside had reported at the upgrade meeting that the water is under the influence of the lake, but does not contain arsenic.  Dan White will run some additional tests on the well water when he is here in July.  The well may be used next winter, but a distribution system has not yet been completed or approved by ADEC, so full use of the well will not be possible immediately.

Cody Johnson inquired as to whether a general-use muffle furnace could be purchased, as it would be very useful both for data collection and for preparation for sample collection.  There was some discussion as to whether it would be better to collect samples at TFS and analyze them at home institutions.  However, Cody felt that it would assist his preparation, as well as in the subsequent analysis.  Acquisition of a muffle furnace was also recommended by Science Vision Workshop participants, in their December 2004 meeting.  Brian Barnes asked Cody to investigate and provide IAB with model numbers, sizes and descriptions for a range of muffle furnace sizes that would be suitable for general use.  Cody subsequently provided some information on muffle furnaces sold through Fisher Scientific, ranging from $2500 to $6500, depending on capacity.

Adrian Green requested a second vacuum filtration apparatus, similar to that used in the wet lab.  Currently, the one in the wet lab is used by multiple groups and is frequently a bottleneck in sample preparation.  Scott could easily make the filter holder apparatus, and IAB could purchase more vacuum pumps.  It was thought that it would be helpful to have three additional units, in lab 1, lab 4, and the dry lab.  Lab 2 currently has a vacuum filtration apparatus used for soil extractions, which could also be used by other groups if desired.  Scott agreed to work on this.

John Hobbie requested that TFS invest in a general-use fluorescent microscope.  One could be purchased for about $15,000, and would need to be located in a dark room.  There is a dark room currently used for microscopy in the dry lab.  Peter Ray commented that each laboratory should also have a general-use dissecting microscope.  Currently TFS has two dissecting scopes, one in lab 4, and one in the herbarium.  Peter will provide specifications for additional dissecting microscopes.

John Hobbie commented that it would be very useful to have an inventory of what general use equipment is available, where it is located, manuals for instruction, a record of calibration, and a checklist.  Availability of equipment should be posted on the web, with a reservation system.  Organizing these things will be part of Christie Haupert’s job, when she joins TFS later this year as the new data/science support technician.

John Hobbie requested another projection screen for Cottongrass (for use when the Community Center is busy), and a back-up LED projector, which would be very useful when the LTER site review occurs in June of next year.

Adrian requested additional dishpans for bathing at the sauna.  There are sufficient pitchers.  Thom will ask Brett to send some dishpans up from Fairbanks.  Brian inquired as to whether soap from the sauna posed a problem for the lake, and whether communal shampoo was going to be provided by camp staff.  John Hobbie replied that the LTER has never seen an effect of soap and shampoo on the lake water, because most soaps and shampoos do not contain any phosphorus now.  Thom Walker replied that the camp staff has been unable to find a supplier of Dr. Bronner’s soap in bulk quantities in Fairbanks, but they will continue to investigate.  Scott commented that he was thinking of expanding the sauna deck in front of the water barrels.  No one had any objections to that.  Scott also is planning to sand down the benches and possibly provide some cedar back boards, which would be more pleasant to lean on than plywood, and would improve the smell.

Thom Walker asked about getting rounds of wood for the sauna instead of split wood.  That would be much cheaper.  Scott commented that it is easy for people to hurt themselves splitting wood, especially if they aren’t wearing clothes.  The last load of wood contained quite a few small pieces, and was less convenient.

Christie Haupert asked whether TFS could consider the environmental impact of products that are purchased, and try to purchase environmentally friendly products when there is a choice.  For example, using recycled paper in the printers and copier would be great, and environmentally friendly cleaners.  Donie commented that it should be possible to order “re-leaf” recycled copier paper, though it will have to come from outside of Fairbanks.  Simple Green cleaner is already in use in camp.  The staff agreed to continue to look for environmentally-friendly options for products.  Christie commented that she would be happy to look over the records and suggest alternatives this winter.

Cody commented that the GTH group could use additional winter storage, although it will be ok for this year.  Scott commented that he would like additional storage for scientific equipment that could be accessed with a pallet jack, as was mentioned last year.

Brian commented that the heat in Cottongrass is very uneven, and is generally either too hot or too cold.  He would like to have local control over heat in future buildings.  The thermostats are in the hallway, so it is hard to regulate the room temperature very effectively. Scott replied that when the new generators are installed, there should be sufficient power to energize the individual room heaters in Cottongrass.

Multiple people complained about the phones.  The quality is very poor, especially in the evenings and when you try to call between buildings in camp.  This is because the routers do not prioritize the phones over other data transmissions.  Scott was told by the IT folks at UAF that streaming video and audio eat up the bandwidth and slow down the routers.  However, it does not sound as if we have a bandwidth limitation as much as a problem with the routers and the antennas.  Since our wireless equipment is all obsolete now, and we are preparing for an upgrade that should enable the prioritization of phones over other transmissions, this will hopefully solve the problem.  In the meantime, Scott suggested asking folks not to download streaming video and audio for a week to see if there is any improvement.

The new electric fan in the middle outhouse tower has made a huge difference to the smell, and everyone is happy about that.  It would be great if all the towers could be improved that way.

Christie commented that the food has been terrific, and the cooks are doing a great job.  Cody commented that the science support has been terrific, and the staff is very helpful this year, especially Scott, Thom, and Shelby.  There is a lot of stuff going on, but the staff is handling all the requests really well, and he appreciates it.  Others agreed that the speedy service for science support has been terrific.  John Hobbie commented that the upper level management sets the tone, and he appreciates that the tone is very good now.  Brian and Donie are happy to hear that. 

Folks who attended or provided comments: