August 2, 2007

Donie Bret-Harte and Brian Barnes represented the Toolik Management Team. Chad Diesinger, TFS Camp Manager, attended.  Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended.

Much of the discussion at the second User Forum centered around items of common-use equipment that would be helpful to participants in their research.  There was good representation of graduate students and research assistants from most of the major projects currently working at TFS, and all of the Toolik labs.  Many graduate students need access to pieces of equipment that are not provided through the project that funds them, because they are often doing independent research.  While a spirit of cooperation prevails at TFS, and it is generally possible for them to use equipment purchased by other projects, the consensus was that it would be very helpful for TFS to acquire additional pieces of common-use equipment that would be useful to multiple projects and students.

Ken Fortino commented that it would be very helpful to his project if he could get access to a centrifuge that could accept 50 ml tubes.  Access to the centrifuge purchased by the former Roots project would meet his needs, and in fact he was able to use it for much of the summer.  However, the current owners of that centrifuge were not able to guarantee access, and that made it hard for him to plan his activities.  Dendy Lofton and Angie Allen seconded his recommendation, saying that a common-use centrifuge would be a high priority for them also.  Christie Haupert, Toolik Environmental Data Manager, commented that the Toolik Management Team is already planning to request one centrifuge, one shaker table, and one balance through the Toolik CA in this coming year. 

Cody Johnson asked about the status of the deionized (DI) water system in the wet lab, which has not been been performing properly.  Most of the labs rely on the DI system in the wet lab, although there is a much lower capacity system in lab 2.  Christie responded that she has ordered a new pump and motor for the wet lab DI system, which should solve the problem.  Both DI systems were purchased and formerly maintained by the Arctic LTER, but as they are truly common-use equipment, TFS will take responsibility for maintaining them now that Christie is on-board to do it.  Scott wondered whether it would be helpful to have third DI system in camp, perhaps in lab 3 or the dry lab, to take some of the pressure off the system in the wet lab.  Most people felt that it worked alright to get DI water from the wet lab and take it to other locations, but concurred that it might be nice to have another system. 

Christie updated us on the status of the part for the vent to attach the new muffle furnace in the dry lab, which is still not here (though it was ordered in June), but should be coming soon.  It is supposed to arrive in Fairbanks within a week.  Cody commented that the muffle furnace was very helpful for his research, even though it had to be used outside this summer.  Angie Allen and Dendy Lofton commented that they both anticipate using the muffle furnace next year.  

Elissa Schuett and Jeremy Mears commented that the thing that would most help research conducted in the wet lab would be additional filter stations with vacuum pumps, because that is often the rate-limiting step for people doing chemistry on aquatic samples.  This is a request that was first received last year, and Christie commented that it is still in our plan to put filter stations with vacuum pumps in all of the laboratories.  Vacuum pumps need to be purchased, then Scott can construct the filter apparati.  Jeremy also commented that it would be very helpful to purchase a set of 3 general use pipettes with disposable tips for the wet lab (5 ml, 500 microliters, and 100 microliters). 

Jeremy and Elissa also noted that there are a lot of chemicals in the corrosives cabinet in the wet lab, but it is not clear who has custody of them, and there is little free space in the cabinet. Chad responded that Molly Marvel has been working with Bill Krause of UAF’s Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Department to inventory, organize, and date all chemicals at TFS.  Chemicals that are more than 5 years old will be evaluated to see whether they should be kept, and any that are not claimed will be removed.  TFS has also received two new flammable cabinets from EH&S, and Molly is investigating whether one or both could be converted to corrosives cabinets, which would help ease the space crunch.

Rod Simpson and Greg Selby commented that their research on soil fauna would be significantly easier if TFS possessed a moveable laminar flow hood.  Byron Crump’s LTREB project could probably also use a laminar flow hood.  Christie commented that Bill Fitzgerald generally brings in a small laminar flow hood for his mercury work, so there are small models available.  Rod thought that a moveable model could be purchased for approximately $3000.  Rod also suggested that a stand-up incubator would allow them to do protozoa counts on site, which they would prefer to taking the samples south and doing them in Colorado.  Ken Fortino added that a stand-up incubator might also take some of the pressure off the incubation facility, for experiments where temperature control was needed but light control was not important.  

Rod and Greg said that they could also use a shaker table, and an outside sink for sieving soils.  Scott commented that there is a hose bib on lab 3 for washing roots, and wondered if they could use that.  They appreciated the suggestion.

Laura Reynolds asked about the policy on temperatures for drying ovens, as she had some samples that were wrecked when someone turned up the temperature on an oven containing her samples.  Oven users are supposed to sign up on the door, and indicate the temperature that is needed.  It seems that there was a failure of communication in this instance.  Laura also asked if there was a second working sink in lab 4, to which she could have access.  There is a sink in the area that she uses, which is currently covered over to provide more counter space.  Scott indicated that he could uncover this sink and put it back into action for her.

Angie Allen commented that everything is working well in lab 3, and that she has had a positive experience borrowing pieces of equipment.  She commented that Christie and Shelby Bakken have both been very helpful in meeting her research needs.  Dendy Lofton commented that the incubation facility worked well this season, and she appreciated the job that Christie did to schedule it.  Carol Moulton commented that her season has been good, and she does not need anything else.

Jeremy passed on a list from Seth Ring of suggested improvements to the exercise equipment at TFS.  The exercise facility received a lot of use this summer, and several people commented that it would be helpful if it could be moved to a larger space, such as a polar tent.  Exercise equipment has also been a high priority for staff members during the winter, when outside exercise is very difficult.  It is possible that additional equipment could be obtained from the Student Recreation Center at UAF, as they turn over their old equipment.  Seth’s requests included an Olympic bar and weights (bench and curl bars), a squat rack (that could also serve as a pull-up bar), an adjustable decline/incline bench, and equipment for leg work (quad extensions/hamstring curls).  Aerobic exercise equipment is particularly important for winter use.

Ken Fortino brought up his concern that, in a recent survey of users for possible changes to sauna hours, Thom Walker expressed the view that the sauna is mostly for recreation now that we have showers in camp.  Ken feels that most people in camp who use the sauna do so as their primary means of bathing. Showers are limited due to water conservation.  Most of those attending concurred with his view. Ken suggested that if the camp staff takes the view that the sauna is primarily recreational, it will change the culture in camp as new users arrive.  Others commented that describing the sauna as “recreational” makes the open sauna hours seem less appealing to women.  Chad commented that the sauna hours will not be changed, as it is now clear that only Thom and Eric Borass supported a change, while everyone else was unanimously opposed.  He apologized for not providing more supervision when the petition was put up, and agreed with the view that the sauna is primarily for bathing.

Another concern that Ken raised concerned Mike’s memo on safe driving for users of the NSF Science Support Trucks.  Ken commented that the penalty of being barred from driving the trucks for failing to drive safely seems severe, and should not be implemented without a thorough review of the facts in any given case, so that it is not misapplied by hearsay.  It would be a big burden to a project if one of their assistants could not drive a truck and needed to sample away from camp.  Chad commented that safe driving habits have been more of an issue this year than last year, and that there have been some serious incidents.  People need to think carefully when getting into a truck.  Scott commented that it is really important to drive carefully and courteously, especially around the big trucks.  We do not want Toolik to get a reputation for bad driving and annoy the truckers.  In winter, especially, staff and scientists depend on the truckers in case there are mechanical failures.  Brian and Donie commented that IAB will implement a clearly defined protocol for disbarring someone from driving the trucks, if necessary, and post it on the web site, and agreed that the penalty should be applied only after a thorough review.

Rod commented that the announcement of the change in Toolik taxi policy following Alaska Airlines’ change to its Prudhoe Bay air schedule was too late.  He had already booked flights and had to change them when he realized that the Toolik taxi would not be meeting that flight.  The Toolik managers agreed to try to stay on top of these schedule changes and post the Toolik taxi schedule earlier next year.

Laura Reynolds asked how to get onto the Toolik email list to hear about things like changes in the taxi schedule.  The answer is to send an email to Mike Abels, and he will put you on the list.  She asked if there was an internal list that would reach the people in camp.  Brian commented that we could set that up, but would need a bank of email addresses, which could be collected from the registration forms.  This is something that Ed Debevec could help us establish, as he set up something similar for IAB. 

Peter Ray mentioned the importance of ventilation in the community center during seminars, in order to keep people from falling asleep.  The new arctic entryway helps quite a bit, but it is still really hot in there sometimes. 

Brian commented about the need to update the Toolik Development plan, which the Toolik management team hopes to do over the next winter.  He informed the group that the highest priority after the winter-capable science support building is a winter-capable kitchen/dining hall.  But, the Toolik management team would like to get input from the users.  There was no disagreement with these priorities. 

Scott commented that he had requested four new weatherports for next year, and had asked for singles.  He wondered whether they should be located with the current ones, or spread out to be farther away.  Rod commented that he felt that all of the living area should be consolidated, and the whole area kept quiet.  Donie commented that the current weatherports are not soundproof anyway, so having them slightly farther apart would not make much difference.  There was general agreement.  Brian asked whether people preferred the weatherports or the dorms.  Angie commented that she thinks that most people prefer weatherports, but the dorms are good for some.  She thinks that replacing the existing old dormitories is a good idea.  Chad commented that the dorms are really important for winter use.  Rod commented that dorms without showers would be preferable to ones with showers, if possible.

Scott asked people for comments on the impacts of classes and other outreach activities at Toolik.  Cody commented that the people in the classes he saw were considerate, and he didn’t mind having them in camp.  Angie commented that it classes are only problematic when there are a lot of people and it is already crowded.  She felt that having classes in camp on a Sunday was not particularly desirable.  TFS already has a policy to restrict large classes to the edge seasons, when the population of researchers is lower.  

Amy Carroll and Cody Johnson commented that they really appreciated the gluten-free and lactose-free food.  Kudos to the cooks!

Persons who attended or gave comments afterward:

Angie Allen
Brian Barnes
Donie Bret-Harte
Amy Carroll
Chad Diesinger
Ken Fortino
Christie Haupert
Scott Houghton
Cody Johnson
Dendy Lofton
Jeremy Mears
Carol Moulton
Peter Ray
Laura Reynolds
Seth Ring
Elissa Schuett
Greg Selby
Rod Simpson
Alison York
Ellen York
Julia York