Toolik Users’ Forum, June 9, 2016

Donie Bret-Harte, Mike Abels, and Brian Barnes represented the Toolik Management team

Attending: Helen Chmura, Brie Van Dam, Tyler King, Ellen Dorrepaal, Konstantin Gavazov, Lily Cohen, Juliette Funck, Faye Ethridge, Glenn Helkenn, Will Longo, Jason Dobkowski, Tom Parker, Steve Unger, Dan White, Jason Stuckey, Jim Laundre, Jesse Krause, Kent Compton

Notes by Donie Bret-Harte

The suggestion box was opened to start the Users Forum.  There were many suggestions, as it had not been opened since the end of the previous summer.  Comments are summarized below, with comments by those attending the forum interspersed.

  1. Several comments indicated that the newly remodeled Toolik Health Club is a huge improvement. 
    Jason Stuckey and Jesse Krause agreed with this statement.  Dan White suggested that information about the capabilities of the Health Club and the need to bring indoor shoes be posted on the website.  Dan suggested that he would add this to his list of things to bring that he provides to MBL employees.  Juliette commented that it could also be added to the TFS staff manual. 
  2. Rails on the sides of the boardwalks would be helpful to keep wagons from falling off.  Also, please provide “boardwalk width” carts.
  3. It would be nice to grade the road and the pad to remove the bumps and potholes.
  4. Battery-powered, motion-detector lights in the towers would be very helpful in August.
  5. The new ATCO housing units are great, but it would be nice if they had more shelves in their closets, hangars, and blackout curtains.  (This was taken care of later in the summer).
  6. Thanks to Chad for helping out with an unexpected emergency on a Saturday night.
  7. A couple of kayaks would be nice.
  8. A pool table would also be nice.
  9. More solar power would be great to decrease use of fuel. 
  10. A variety of food comments were received.  Most of these were positive (“the food is better than ever”).  A variety of specific items were requested, including HP Brown sauce, baked beans, dark chocolate, more curry, lemons or limes in the fruit bowl, Stilton and broccoli soup, and free beer at the user forum.  (The cooks will consider these, at their discretion.)
  11. World peace!

Unmanned aerial vehicles

There was discussion of the use of UAVs.  The current system of COAs is going away, and it will be easier to get permission to use a UAV, but the requirements for pilots for non-hobby use are increasing.  The Toolik GIS staff members are looking into the possibility of collecting and processing data for scientists.  Is there interest in this by the community?  Yes, people were positive about this.  Are there concerns about use of UAVs in camp?   Jim Laundre expressed concern that UAVs are noisy and intrusive.  It also would not be a good idea to fly near the sauna.  Others agreed.  In general, it seems that flying UAVs near heavily used areas should require greater scrutiny, and coordination with the helicopter is obviously required (these points were implemented in the Toolik UAV policy).

Manned vehicles (trucks)

There was discussion about the NSF-owned truck fleet.  The three that have been retired to local use around TFS (the oldest ones) are all having issues.  Will Longo asked when they could be fixed.  Dan commented that having the trucks open to drivers under 25 has been a huge boon to the LTER project.  There was general agreement that TFS could benefit from having more (and better) trucks.

EDC data

Will Longo expressed that he was very happy with the EDC and GIS departments.  He has used the EDC data quite a bit, and wondered if it would be possible to have more advanced data products (derived from EDC data, especially for climate data).  Jesse commented that he spent quite a bit of time analyzing the repeat photographs to determine snow return and snow-free dates for a publication, and would be happy to make that analysis available for others on the EDC website.  Brie expressed a willingness to make more products available, but would like suggestions on what would be most useful. 

Future needs

Brian Barnes asked whether there were pieces of equipment that would enable more science to be done than can be done now.  He wondered whether walk-in environmental chambers (a wish of his) would be useful.  Tom Parker commented that growth chambers for plants (which might not be walk-in) could be useful, though they are expensive and hard to maintain.  Will responded that walk-in chambers would not be necessary for algae, though another dry incubator like the one in the incubation chamber, with a grow light, would be helpful.  A transplant garden and greenhouses in camp might be appreciated in the long run.  Dan commented that an autoanalyzer would be nice, but we have always bumped up against the issue that then you need someone highly trained to take care of it, and it doesn’t make sense unless you can run lots of samples.  He thinks that it is more appropriate to have folks run their samples at their home institutions. 

Helicopters and safety training

Dan commented that he appreciates the small helicopters, which are more flexible.  He also likes the CPS safety classes, and his people like them also.  However, he would like to get information on the dates that they will be offered more in advance, as he can’t always arrange for his people to take them on short notice. 

Miscellaneous quality of life issues

Jason Dobkowski commented that there seemed to be shortage of brooms and dust pans in the labs.  Jim commented that the floor in the computer room is warped, and it is easy to trip on it (this is on the CPS tasking list for this year).  Dan commented that smaller sponge mops and smaller buckets would work better in the labs than the current industrial scale mops and buckets.  Jason commented that a white board where people could list items like this would be helpful.  Dan commented that items in the SCUA (stuff that can be used again) Conex could be organized better and labeled, and then it would be easier to find items. (This was done later in the summer).  Jason commented that the back door in the community center doesn’t latch.  Steve Unger wondered about what would be needed to get better wireless connectivity in camp.  Mike Abels gave a brief explanation of what is expected to change once conduit is in place and another mesh antenna is installed. 

Warm storage

Dan commented that the new warm storage capability is nice.  Helen indicated that there was some confusion about what was appropriate for warm storage; she felt that people were asking for things to be stored warm when it wasn’t really necessary.  She requested that staff post some guidelines in the labs (this was done following the meeting).

The meeting adjourned.