July 1, 2010

Donie Bret-Harte represented the Toolik Management Team.  Chad Diesinger, Station Manager, attended. 

General Kudos:
TFS has been incredibly busy this year.  Yet, numerous people have commented that it doesn’t seem as if there are as many people here as there actually are.  George Kling commented that having the extended dining hours in the evening is very helpful.  Anne Hershey commented that TFS is running very smoothly this year, and Anne Giblin concurred.  Anne Giblin commented that the food is excellent, and she is getting fat.  Cody Johnson said that he really appreciated help from the staff in cleaning out the old aquatics Conex, especially given how busy everyone is.  He feels that the new location next to lab 5 is much better than the previous location, and the new shelving is very helpful. 


Folks are excited about the new dining hall/kitchen, which is taking shape before our eyes.  The construction crew has done an impressive job of building quickly and efficiently while not taking up any more space than necessary.  Many people have commented how well the construction crew members are fitting into the Toolik culture, and how much we appreciate their efforts. 

An anonymous comment on the chalkboard asked for “more labs, please!” as a priority for future infrastructure.  The labs are very crowded this summer, so it is likely that many people feel this way.

With crowding in the labs and year-round use, TFS is moving toward more of a hotel plan for lab space, where users are requested to pack up their science equipment and clear the lab benches at the end of the summer.  The only labs that can be heated properly during the arctic winter are Winter lab, Wet lab, and Dry lab.  TFS used to try to use only Winter lab, but now there is enough use that Wet and Dry lab are also needed.  Anne Giblin felt strongly that the wet lab could not be packed up completely.  The chemicals and glassware, in particular, would be damaged, and it would take a lot of time to pack and unpack them.  Donie and Chad responded that we would not expect the wet lab users to pack up all the contents of the cupboards, but just to consolidate equipment to make bench space available to winter and shoulder season users.  Anne agreed that more consolidation in the wet and dry labs could occur, and suggested that no personal equipment should be stored in the labs. 

This led Ed Rastetter to ask where personal equipment should be stored?  He has a box with a sleeping bag that he likes to leave here.  It was suggested that he put it into one of the Conexes. 


Ed commented that the internet connectivity in Cottongrass has been poor, though it seems to be fine on the lab side of camp.  His email is fine, but anything involving web access is very slow.  Chad explained that we have been having trouble with the access point on that side of camp.  Mimi’s helicopter coordination office is on that side of camp, and she has also had consistent problems with dropped calls.  OIT has been contacted, and we are trying to get it fixed.  Poor connectivity on that side of camp has been a source of frustration for both staff and scientists.  Ed asked whether the difficulties stem from too many people streaming video over the internet.  Chad commented that OIT has “packet shaper” software in place, which slows down streaming video.  Donie commented that internet access has been much better recently than it was in May, when there were fewer people but the “packet shaper” software was not yet operational. 

Cody asked whether the phone list on the web has been updated since several of the phones have been moved around or replaced.  He has tried to call George in lab 4 several times and has never got through or been able to leave a message.  Chad said that he will ask Thom Walker and Chris Merrill (EMT) to put together a new phone list and check it against the phones in the labs.  The new list will then be put on the web.

Quality of life:

Ed commented that all of the hooks at the sauna are filled up with towels, so that there is no place to hang your clothes.  He wondered whether all the towels that are down there are really in use.  A spirited discussion of how to ensure that unused towels are removed ensued.  Chad commented that at the end of the season, staff collected all the leftover towels, washed them, and made them available for people who might need a towel.  It was suggested that perhaps leftover towels could be given a number and checked out to users.  Chad was not excited about having to keep track of them.  It was agreed that some hooks at the sauna should be designated for clothing only, not towels.  Donie commented that some of the hooks under the cubbies in the shower module have fallen off.  With this many people in camp, all hooks are valuable and filled with towels.  Faye agreed to install a few more hooks in the shower module, and to move the two washing machines that are waiting for dryer kits to be installed elsewhere for the time being, so that the hooks that are blocked by those washing machines can be used. 

Ed commented that the sinks in the shower module do not have stoppers so that they can be filled for shaving.  The old basins that we used to use in the old washup trailer are now gone.  Chad agreed to ask Brett Biebuyck to procure some rubber mats to use as stoppers in the shower module sinks. 

Donie asked whether the furniture in the residence Weatherport tents was adequate.  Anne Giblin said that she is staying in Cottongrass and has no complaints.  Ed commented that his Weatherport doesn’t have a dresser, but there isn’t room in there for one, because his has a Queen-size bed.  Cody commented that life in tent city is fantastic. 

Elissa Schuett and Julia LaRouche requested that TFS purchase some yoga mats and make “Emergen-C” available in the dining hall.

Suggestion box comments and discussion:

The suggestion box was opened.  Several comments were received regarding the sauna.  Two comments requested that the hot water at the sauna be made hotter.  This gave rise to some discussion.  Donie commented that if the water isn’t very hot, then people tend to use more of it, rather than mixing it with cold water, which means it gets used faster and doesn’t have enough time to heat up.  Chad reviewed the history of the various sauna stoves.  Peter wondered whether there was corrosion in the pipe that leads into the stove, which prevents the water from circulating well.  Chad and Faye agreed to try to clean out the pipes.  Ed commented that the difference in height between the intake and the outtake should be sufficient to get good convective circulation.  Several other suggestions were raised, including insulating the water tank and providing an electric heater for the water.  Chad was not in favor of solutions that involve more parts that can break.  Faye and Shib will look into trying to improve water circulation through the sauna stove. 

Two comments in the suggestion box requested that rogue saunas be co-ed all evening.  During discussion, concern was expressed that this might lead to confusion as to what nights were rogue vs. regular.  Cody thought that we should not mess with the sauna schedule, as it has taken a long time to get one that works well.  Suggestions for altering sauna hours last year met with substantial resistance from the science community. 

Another comment in the suggestion box proposed getting rid of the oldest “crappy plastic-wrapped prison mattresses.”  Chad commented that TFS has been purchasing new mattresses.  We have purchased as many as we can for this fiscal year.  A new linen service will provide a mattress cover and pillows, starting very soon.  This news was received enthusiastically.

A comment in the suggestion box indicated that people’s eyes were tearing up in the towers, and folks would like to be able to open the windows.  This comment did not have a date.  Chad commented that, if the comment was written by an early season user, the electric fans might not have been running yet, and the smell was pretty bad during that period.  Now the towers are quite reasonable. 

John Hobbie put a comment in the suggestion box that perhaps the GIS department could produce a map of past Sunday hike routes, based on the hiking log-books.

A suggestion was received for ping-pong.

Several food comments were in the suggestion box.  These were passed on to the cooks.  They included:

  1. A request to alternate days with and without grapefruit in the mixed fruit at breakfast.
  2. Two comments suggesting that one side of the coffee maker be designated for stronger coffee, while the other be used for regular strength coffee.  This suggestion was implemented immediately after the User Forum.
  3. A request for power bars or Cliff bars in addition to, or instead of, some candy bars.
  4. A request not to put potatoes in the “roasted roots” dish, because there are lots of other potato dishes.  Cody commented that he loves potatoes in the roasted roots dish. 
  5. A request not to put salt in the food, and instead have people add salt at the table.  If someone needs to reduce salt for medical reasons or personal preference, he or she should consult with the cooks and they can likely accommodate this request.  It would likely provoke a strong backlash among other diners to put no salt at all in the food. 

Persons who attended or provided comments afterwards:

Faye Ethridge
Randy Fulweber
Anne Giblin
Anne Hershey
John Hobbie (suggestion box)
Cody Johnson
George Kling
Julia LaRouche
Ed Rastetter
Peter Ray
Elissa Schuett