June 23, 2011

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

Comments received from PIs who did not attend the User Forum Meeting:

Anne Giblin is pleased that TFS is willing to do an integrated boat safety training that will meet the needs of the MBL.  MBL employees are required to wear a personal flotation device (PFD), while the State of Alaska requires only that a PFD be available in the boat.  This difference will be emphasized for MBL employees.  Dan White (MBL) and Ben Moore (UAF EMT) will coordinate to ensure that the content is appropriate.  Anne has no other comments at this time.

George Kling is pleased with the new hiking orientation (which he helped to produce).  He has no major issues at this time.

Breck Bowden feels that things are going well.  He expressed appreciation for help from TFS staff to set up and run the all-hands meeting for his Thermokarst project.  His chief frustration is that the BLM permit process is burdensome.  Laura Gough and Gus Shaver also expressed frustration with the time and cost of the BLM permit process.

Comments received during the User Forum Meeting:

General Kudos

Several people commented that even though it is quite crowded at TFS, things are running smoothly.  Thanks to the staff.  The food is excellent, as usual, and having the salad bar available all the time is awesome.


There were several questions about when the deck on the new kitchen will be completed.  Larry Levin commented that the deck is in the design phase and could happen this year, or possibly at the beginning of next year.  The picture isn’t clear yet.  Many people expressed support for having a deck on the back of the dining hall.

Ed Metzger asked what the red light on the outside of the new well house means.  He has seen it several times lately.  Chad Diesinger indicated that the red light does not indicate any danger, but please notify camp staff (manager on-duty or maintenance person on-duty) if you see it, as it indicates a condition that needs attention.

EDC outreach and classes:

Dan White commented that he is really excited to see Anja’s course being offered this year.  He wondered if a one-day version could be conducted on a Saturday, as he would love to take it.  Anja will consider this for next year.

Cat Daily would like to see more see more CPR emphasis in the safety training courses offered at TFS.  Several other people agreed.  Amanda Koltz commented that the CPS course offered this year was great.  She suggested that it be made mandatory for all new researchers at TFS.  Dan White commented that it would be possible to attend safety training in the lower 48 states, before arriving at Toolik, if time is an issue (as it always is). 

Common use scientific equipment:

Questions were raised about the muffle furnace, which still isn’t functioning properly.  Jeb Timm commented that repairing it is a work in process.  Several parts have been replaced, but nothing has solved the problem yet.  We are currently waiting for a new temperature sensor unit.  At the present time, we are providing calibration curves, as the temperature read-out is faulty.

Faye Ethridge commented that the -80 oC freezer seems very full, and it might be a good idea to get another one.  Chad commented that it would be good to get a smaller one.  Dan White wondered if there are smaller ones available.  Anja Kade will check into this. 


Jennie McLaren commented that the Fairbanks-TFS trucks are very full this season, and she is having trouble getting a seat when she wants one.  Would it be possible to add a third truck run each week?  Brett Biebuyck responded that with our current fleet of trucks, we cannot support a third truck run each week.  It takes appreciable time to turn the trucks around for their next trip up the Haul Road, and there are only two that are dedicated to N-S runs.  Jennie commented that the two that are based at TFS are also much in demand.  It would be good to get another truck.  There was general agreement.  Justin Johnson wondered whether we should send the white van on the TFS-Fairbanks run when it is busy.  Brett responded that it is hard to predict the taxi capacity needed for TFS-Prudhoe Bay runs, but it is often more than can be handled by a single truck.  We need the van for the taxi run.   Mike Abels indicated that another possibility would be to contract with Dalton Highway Express (DHE) for a dedicated run to Toolik each week.  We did that last year, but it was not economic for DHE, so they canceled it for this summer.  It is still possible to take the DHE from Fairbanks to TFS, but it is often slow and inconvenient.  TFS management will explore what it would take to get a dedicated DHE run available again, or other low-cost options. 


Marjan van de Weg commented that she would like to know more about what sets the priority for freight going south in the NSF Science Support trucks.  Chad replied that passengers with reservations to travel on the truck that day have first priority for freight.  Additional freight is transported if space is available.  Jennie McLaren noted that she has had trouble getting a cooler of frozen samples southbound on the truck, and it is hard to plan if she doesn’t know if she can get the samples on the truck.  Recently she was unable to get samples on the truck because it was full of garbage going south.  Justin Johnson commented that the workday starts at 8:30 for most TFS staff, and the trucks leave at 9 am, so there is not a lot of time to organize last minute freight items and pack the truck.  If there could be more advance notice of freight that needs to go south, the staff will try to plan for it.  Chad commented that staff will now pack garbage and other items on the day of departure, not the day before, to leave the maximum possible space for freight.  He urged both staff and users to be flexible.  Peter Ray commented that it would be useful to include information about outgoing freight policies in the orientation.  More signage about outgoing freight might also help.  Jeb Timm commented that this information could be included in the FAQs in the towers, which need to be updated, anyway. 

Ed Metzger commented that he likes to see the list of departures and arrivals each day.  Chad is good about posting them when he is in camp, but Thom has not been posting them regularly when he is the manager on-duty.  Chad indicated that he will “crack the whip” on Thom.  Ed would also like to see the camp population listed on the arrival and departure list, as it is helpful to prepare mentally for the peaks. 

Quality of life issues:

Sadie Iverson expressed appreciation for the yoga mats, which are great.  Ed Metzger is happy that Toolik logo clothing is now available through Café Press.  Justin Johnson commented that Café Press products are always good quality.  Sadie Iverson commented that the women’s clothing sizes seem to run large.  Randy Fulweber heard from a person who wishes to stay anonymous that embroidered logo clothing would be nice.  Chad indicated that only TFS staff get embroidered logo gear, as it is much more expensive. 

Marjan van de Weg commented that she really likes the new ice cream maker in the dining hall.  It is awesome. 

Verity Salmon really appreciates the new hooks for clothing in the sauna.  It would be even better to have even more of them.  Randy Fulweber and Dan White agree.

It was suggested that it would be great if TFS could organize a gear exchange for users wishing to borrow backpacks, tents, etc. for overnight trips.  Chad indicated that it is not in our budget to buy recreational tents, but we could take donated gear.  Ben Moore commented that it is a lot of work to provide upkeep for gear.  Chad indicated that there is a box for “free” gear (not to be confused with the box for “lost and found”).  Dan White commented that the fleece that he is wearing came from the free box, and it is great.  

Cat Daily suggested that it would be great if there were a TFS sewing machine and hand needles available to borrow for repair of torn clothing.  We can certainly provide hand needles and thread. 

Peter Ray commented that there is a strong sewer smell on the far side of the shower module.  Marjan has noticed it also.  Chad wondered if the smell was caused by an air plume from the north Tower.  Maintenance staff will investigate. 

The following comments were received in the Suggestion Box and discussed:

  1. More bicycles for use around TFS would be appreciated.  TFS currently budgets for approximately two bicycles per year, so more will be coming.  Randy Fulweber suggested that more “Cruiser” bikes for local use would be great, and there was general agreement.  Ben Moore commented that some bikes with smaller frames would be good, as there are a lot of large ones already.
  2. It was nice to have one long table and several short ones in the old dining hall, so that people can either mingle with others or have a more private dinner. Jennie McLaren and Marjan van de Weg commented that the second dining hall is used for overflow and is often a quieter space.  This to some extent serves the function of the smaller tables.  Now that there are more people in camp, there is more mingling, and the main dining room (where the food service is) can be loud.  It is nice to have both options.  Due to the configuration of the main dining hall, it wouldn’t be possible to put a long table in there without losing a lot of seats.
  3. The food is generally great.  If TFS wanted to go to the next level, it would be nice to have more grilled items at lunch.  The grilled items are awesome.   This comment was passed on to the cooks. 

Persons who attended or gave comments afterward:

Seth Beaudreault
Brett Biebuyck
Breck Bowden
Ken Czapla
Cat Daily
Faye Ethridge
Joe Franich
Randy Fulweber
Anne Giblin
Laura Gough
Sadie Iverson
Justin Johnson
Anja Kade
George Kling
Amanda Koltz
Mallory Ladd
Larry Levin
Carolyn Livensberger
Jenny McLaren
Ed Metzger
Ben Moore
Robin Rauch
Peter Ray
Verity Salmon
Jake Schas
Gus Shaver
Jeb Timm
Tiffany Tsosic
Marjan van de Weg
Samantha Walker
Karen Word
Dan White

(Plus a few others who were not identified)