July 1, 2009

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

General kudos:

Chad Diesinger commented that attendance at this User Forum is rather sparse, but several people have told him that they don’t see a need to attend, because things are going well.  Anne Giblin also commented that things are going well, and Steve Whalen commented that operations are smooth and the staff is very responsive.  Cody Johnson commented that generally, when items are brought to the attention of TFS management, they are taken care of right away.  For instance, moving the filter manifold in lab 1 was taken care of within one day of the request; he’d like to thank Scott Houghton.  John Hobbie also commented that it was very helpful that Scott was here in June when most projects are setting up for the year.  He would like to see Scott be present in June in future years for science support, as that is a critical time of the field season.


Mike and Donie provided a brief summary of progress on the new kitchen/dining hall, which will be built next summer.  It is our number one priority for a structure, because it will provide the most benefit to the greatest number of people.  The kitchen/dining hall will be substantial and winter-capable.  Right now, the facility is envisioned to be approximately 6000 square feet.  The Toolik cooks (Laura Belval, in particular) have provided input to the kitchen architect, Tony Clevenger, on layout and kitchen equipment.  The dining hall will contain two dining rooms, which can be used for science support in the winter (when the population is smaller).  Marie Gilbert suggested that some of the additional interior space be used to showcase the history of Toolik Field Station and its research.  Perhaps some of the products of the artists-in-residence could be displayed.  Scott Houghton seconded this, and suggested that perhaps in new construction, NSF could designate 1% for art. 

Mike commented that CPS has been tasked to help update and revise the Toolik Development Plan.  Diane Huebner asked whether there is a vision for the ultimate footprint of Toolik Field Station.  She commented that she would certainly support efforts to make Toolik cleaner and greener as the infrastructure expands, to minimize the effects on nearby experiments. 

Donie led a brief discussion of Tracy Dahl’s proposal to incorporate renewable power into the Toolik grid.  People were generally enthusiastic about renewable energy.  Solar panels on buildings and waste heat recovery sounded good to all.  With respect to a wind turbine, some concern was raised about birds.  Donie commented that Tracy had told her that the newer wind turbine designs decrease the interactions with birds substantially.  Chad commented that the biggest concern he’d heard mentioned is potential hazards to navigation for the helicopter, so the wind turbine would need to be far enough from the helo flight path.  In addition, a turbine between the community center and the helicopter pad might lead to drifting.  Scott commented that the winds at Galbraith can reach 114 mph in the winter, so a turbine would need to be able to handle high wind speeds (though there may be less wind here).  Tracy has the wind data collected by the TFS meteorological station.

Common Use Equipment

Jeremy Caves commented that the common use leaf area meter is receiving a lot of use this year.  The belts have already had to be replaced.  He commented that the small unit that TFS owns is not practical for large amounts of leaves, and he would like to request that TFS purchase a larger leaf area meter.  Donie asked Jeremy to provide specifications for a larger leaf area meter, and it can be requested for next year.

John Hobbie commented that the expansion of common use equipment has been very helpful, and that TFS should consider having a designated manager for it, so that managing common use equipment doesn’t take up all of Christie’s time.  This year Jorge Noguera is helping with the management of common use equipment during the field season, and this seems to be working quite well. 

Cody Johnson commented that the management of common use equipment seems to be working very well this year.  The equipment is in good shape, and the binders with the user logs and manuals are helpful.  The ability to use the common use equipment has made his research much easier.

John commented that the freeze dryer is heating up the room in which it is located, and a fan would be beneficial.  The other folks in the wet lab would like to either have the freezer dryer moved to a different location, or to have a way to cool down the room where it is located.  

Scientific duplication:

John Hobbie commented that it seems to him that NSF has not been paying sufficient attention, and has been funding projects some of whose efforts are duplicative.  As the senior scientist, he has been spending a fair amount of time trying to mediate among some of these projects, and this is a burden.  He would like to develop a channel to provide feedback to NSF so that they don’t fund duplicative efforts like this.  Should this be something that TFS management should take on?  Donie and Mike didn’t think so.  John agreed that it is probably more appropriate for LTER to play a role, but someone needs to tell NSF what is going on.  Are there any procedures in place at NSF to oversee these decisions and catch potential conflicts?  It doesn’t seem that there are, especially if the projects are funded by different programs.  John would like to see a mechanism set up to tell NSF when duplication occurs.  Mike commented that the abstracts of funded projects that are provided to TFS management do not contain enough information to detect this duplication.  John requested that we mention this problem at the TFS Steering Committee Meeting if NSF has a representative attending, and discuss development of a formal mechanism to prevent duplication.  It is a waste of taxpayer money to fund duplicative projects.

Orientation and safety

John Hobbie commented that Chad gives an excellent welcoming orientation and safety talk to new people, which is quite efficient.  He would like to make sure that a safety orientation is also given to returning people, even though they have had it before.  We do not want people to become complacent about safety, or about water use.  Perhaps the orientation for returning folks could be shortened.  Chad agreed.  Thom commented that material in the towers could be updated to remind people about the need for water conservation, and to send material to him. 

Quality of life:

Cody commented that Shiloh wants to know whether the sauna deck could be screened in to avoid the mosquitoes while bathing.  A spirited discussion ensued.  In the end, it was suggested that a fan might be the best option to try, though Thom favored a mosquito magnet.  Chad agreed to start with a fan.

Peter requested that a sign be placed in each of the old towers reminding people to latch them when they are done.  Otherwise, you can’t tell whether they are occupied or not.  Scott commented that he is planning to replace the existing latches on the old towers with sliding latches, which will make occupation self-evident. 

Jeremy asked about energy efficiency, as he has noticed lots of computers left on in lab 2.  In general, we want to be as efficient as possible, and instruments should be turned off when not in use (including computers). 

Marie commented that she really appreciates the cleanliness of Cottongrass.  It is better than a hotel.  She also offered kudos to the cook staff.  The food is ungodly good, and self control is difficult.  Cody also appreciates the efforts that the cook staff make to accommodate his special dietary needs.  He also expressed appreciation to the camp staff and science support help, which are outstanding.  Marie commented that people should be careful what they ask for, because it actually happens. 


The following suggestions were received from the suggestion box:

  1. Please put less salt in the food.  There is salt on the tables for those who like salt.  (This suggestion was received twice.)
  2. Put a pen and paper near the suggestion box, which would make it easier to use.
  3. When is nacho bar #2?

The food comments were conveyed to the cooks.

Persons who attended or provided comments afterwards:

Jeremy Caves
Anne Giblin
Marie Gilbert
John Hobbie
Scott Houghton
Diane Huebner
Cody Johnson
Peter Ray
Thom Walker
Steve Whalen