August 26, 2014


Staff: Chad, Randy, Jason, Justin, Jeb, September

Science Community: Marilyn Ramenofsky, Bill Cable, Ellen Dorrepaal, Laurenz Teuber, Heather Greaves

Chad described the reasoning behind holding user forums, their value to planning, policy development and improving the overall user experience and science support by staff.

-Marilyn Ramenofsky asked for explanation about yesterday’s planned power outage. Chad and Jeb explained.

-Marilyn asked about heat in Winter Lab. Jeb explained that a new furnace was installed but one of the parts provided with the furnace was not correct so replacement part is on order to complete the job. Chad offered portable heaters to warm the lab until the furnace is online.

-Randy commented that he thought the common use areas have been getting very messy this season. He noted that he witnessed repeat offenders spilling things and not cleaning up after themselves. He asked if maybe more public shaming may have a positive effect to make individuals take a more active role in helping keep these areas clean. Chad commented that this technique was used earlier this season to address individuals that were repeatedly observed driving too fast on camp pad with positive results. This technique will be employed during the busier part of next season.

-Heather cited that the trend is science users seem to be younger in last few seasons.

-Heather Greaves requested a Toolik email list serve which she and others thought would be beneficial for:

      1. Toolik Job Postings
      2. General announcements and information
      3. Science questions, etc.
      4. Could be advertised at LTER March meeting

Could be set up through TFS reservation system and an auto add feature to the list serve would take place if you checked a box giving permission to have your email address added

-Heather noted that the towers smell worse when people open windows. Chad and Jeb explained why this is. Signs will be placed in towers requesting windows remain closed and toilet lid closed to allow exhaust vans to work more effectively.

Suggestion Box was opened and “suggestions” were read:

Food Service Related “Suggestions” (Typed here as written on the actual suggestion … no editing)

-Could the veggie lunches and dinners be posted on the board as well? I like surprises but I think some people would appreciate it.

-Fair trade chocolate (conventional chocolate uses slave labor)

-Breakfast for lunch and/or dinner (or save breakfast leftovers in fridge i.e. eggs)

-Lunch vegetarians dinner meat eater always! Easy to implement, just make more vegetarian hot lunch.

-Why are there no pepperoncini? Haven’t had any since June?

-Frozen turkey burgers, spaghetti, hot dogs… Why are Toolik user days so expensive? It’s obviously not going to the food budget.

-Spaghetti and meatballs?! I’d rather cook for myself. Would you prepare this for NSF reps?? How many cooks do we need to make this meal? We have at least 5 at all times?!

-Drinking glasses that are reusable

Comments in response to these “suggestions”:

-Chad responded to the last comment about glasses…we do provide a reusable mug to everyone with a reservation. Glasses would require much additional water usage, racks to wash them and space to store and dispense them. Others agreed this is not a good idea.

-Many voices spoke in fond support of spaghetti and meatballs, hot dogs and turkey burgers.

-Heather noted that the meals have been more basic this season and less ethnic dishes prepared. She assumed it was a reflection of staff changes/new staff and their cooking preferences.

-Marilyn was critical of the negative comments regarding this season’s meals.

-Chad pointed out that Toolik has a suggestion box, not a comments box, criticisms box or an opinions box and that these criticisms are not helpful since they offer no suggestion as to what should be done differently or better. It is just someone wanting to anonymously state their opinion.

-Chad noted that the negative commenter obviously is not aware of the true operating cost of running TFS. User day fee is less that the cost of a hotel room in Fairbanks in summer. Toolik user day fee is greatly subsidized by NSF Cooperative Agreement and includes many services that are included for the fee. 

-Discussion ensued regarding the negative opinions about food this season and was generally dismissive of the comments and in support of the food being prepared for them by hard working kitchen staff.

-Chad and group discussed possible criteria that should/will be implemented and posted on suggestion box including the following:

A name should be required if a suggestion is to be considered. That will allow more discussion and clarification by staff with the submitter. This will also discourage unhelpful, anonymous criticism.

This is a suggestion box, not opinion box.

In-person suggestions are preferred so they can be discussed in more detail. Staff is readily available to listen to suggestions and comments.

Suggestions should be well thought out and practical. If you are uncertain, ask a TFS staff member.

Suggestions from box regarding facilities/infrastructure

-The towers closest to the Winter Lab stink, but only during strong breezes out of the south. Maybe because the tank is open to the south and not the north! Could this be remedied by using wind blocker (on south side of tower) under the stairs? 

*Chad’s response: Tank is not open on south side (just does not have siding material covering the tank under the stairs). The strong breeze affects the ability of the stack ventilation fan to work. Leaving the toilet lids open and opening windows in stalls increases odor also because it compromises fan’s sucking ability so air is no longer drawn down into tank. We will place signs in tower requesting windows remain closed (window cranks have been removed but people still open them) and reminding users to close lid after use.

-A slightly higher mirror at the sink in the dining hall would be nice for ~1/2 the camp population.

*Chad’s response:  Chad ordered taller mirror.

General suggestions:

-Can we add a map with magnets to the naturalist’s board in the dining hall to better locate animal sightings?

*Chad’s response: Although it is interesting, the animal sightings that are recorded in the naturalist journal are focused on critters around TFS. Not sure that a magnetic map will benefit people any more than writing where you saw the animals on the board. We have very limited wall space for hanging things in Dining Hall.

-Hand out maps of camp to new arrivals.

*Staff response: GIS staff will be updating aerial photo of camp. We can have a collection of medium sized versions of it that are laminated and have them available for new arrivals to use and return them when they are finished with them or departing.  We will consider also having the labeled aerial photo available in several additional locations around camp.

-Encourage bringing beer in cans to reduce the amount of glass deposited in the “pond”. Lots of good beer in cans these days

*Staff Response: Staff agrees. Not sure best way to advertise this but help us by bringing your beer in cans and suggest that to your Toolik friends.

-It’s hard to judge how long 2 minutes is when you’re turning the water off and on in the shower … timers?

Staff response: Use your best judgment and/or that Ironman watch you have … it has a timer on it.

-Print a few NYTimes Digests every day and leave them in Dining Hall (or get Sunday Times?)

Staff response: Not everyone likes to read NYtimes digest and staff is generally busy with other things besides printing things for others to read. Toolik community is welcome to utilize the computer outside of staff office or in Community center to print things they would like to read…or better yet, save paper and read it on line.

-Destroy the Community Center. The building is out of date, dirty and used only for partying. Not needed at a research station

Staff Response: Toolik Talking Shop is held there every week, music is played there, ping pong, foos ball, movie viewing, computer lab, lab group meetings, science equipment (drying ovens and walk in chiller and freezer)…not just partying. It definitely could use some upgrades but the structure still serves a valuable need at the station until a modern structure replaces it.

-It would be nice if Toolik had a “computer lab”. Maybe UAF surplus could donate a few good “older” machines to the IAB? The only 3 computers we have are sometimes not functional. Maybe the “study hall” could be turned into a proper computer lab with machines capable of running programs like ArcGIS. They should also have blocks on them for websites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. to ensure that they are only used for work.

Staff response: We do have a “computer lab”. It is true that some of the machines are sometimes problematic which is obviously true of all machines…especially “older machines”. Donated machines from surplus would most likely not be suitable to fill this need. Staff will support buying some additional computers for the computer lab and having ArcGis on some of the machines. We did have a computer with ArcGIS available all summer in the computer lab. Not sure about blocks on these machines for the websites suggested.

General comments:

Ellen Dorrepaal stated that she has been very impressed with the vegetarian food and appreciates the support she has gotten at TFS.

Laurenz Teuber agreed and both he and Ellen have been impressed with TFS, the support staff and wish Abisko Station would employ a similar process to allow science users to comment and suggest improvements to station infrastructure and procedures there.

Equipment requests:

-Ellen and Laurenz requested a Soil Thaw Depth Probe and hand coring tool. Laurenz sent Chad the following links to specific models and Jeb was also researching.

Forum adjourned