Toolik User Forum, August 17, 2016.

Donie Bret-Harte, Brian Barnes, Brett Biebuyck, and Mike Abels represented the Toolik Management Team.

Attending: Alex Huryn, Jeb Timm, Alison York, Seth Beaudreault, Helen Chmura, Brie Van Dam, Lawrence Teuber, Steven Unger, Karla Atkinson, Konstantin Gavazov, Jeremy May, Darrel Deck, Randy Fulweber, Dan White, Nicole Ho

Notes by Donie Bret-Harte


The suggestion box was opened to start the forum. 

1)      A database of Toolik alumni that is searchable by field and with links to their publications and data would be awesome.

There was quite a bit of discussion about this.  It would be great, but it is a tall order.  We do plan to expand the Toolik Information System (where projects must register) eventually to include links to publications and data.  These field will be searchable by the public.  This might be a way to partially satisfy this request.  Alison noted that ARCUS maintains a database of arctic researchers, which may or may not be kept up to date.

2)      Having some bikes with larger frames would be helpful, as people come in different sizes.  Also, a second comment requested more bikes at Toolik.  We love bikes!

Nicole Ho commented that it would also be nice to get some bikes with smaller frames, as she is petite.

3)      Please put a second bike rack in front of the dining hall (this has already been done).

4)      Please put a bike rack on the north side of the shower module.

5)      Please get some bike seat covers that can be put on the bikes when it rains.

6)      Some of the washing machines need to be fixed or replaced, as they are not getting the clothes clean, especially when the load is full.

Helen Chmura and Steve Unger agreed with this comment.

7)      Please grade the access road near the helo pad.

8)      Please put the sauna deck out on the lake earlier.

9)      Thanks for the creative and healthy vegetarian meals!

10)  Please put more coat hooks in the entryway to the dining hall (however, there isn’t a lot of additional space there).

11)  Please provide some paper next to the suggestion box!

12)  Use animal proof trash cans; the ravens are getting into the trash.

13)  How about some large umbrellas for the deck, so that we can eat outside in the shade?

14)  Please allocate lab space considering the length of stay and project size (we try to do this already).

15)  Please provide some naturalist guides and books in the library, so that people can check them out.

Helen added that it would be nice to have 5 or 6 copies of Huryn and Hobbie’s book “Land of Extremes” available for Toolik users to read.

16)  A variety of food requests were received, including ramen noodles, a never-ending supply of death by chocolate ice cream, chewing gum, microwave popcorn, lactose-free milk, chocolate milk, pre-made sandwiches that people can grab when going into the field, more franks, hot sauce.  (The cooks will consider these requests, at their discretion.)

Steve commented that it might be good to have one suggestion box for food items, and one for everything else. 


Brian Barnes asked attendees whether they felt that lab space or other infrastructure was most limiting.  Helen indicated that she had heard the most complaints from graduate students about lab space this summer.  Jeremy May and Steve agreed.  Jeremy commented that in Barrow, there is one large lab building, and each group is assigned space there while they are there, but they are not allowed to store anything within the lab building. Each group has separate storage space that is assigned to them, and they have to pack everything up at the end of their time.  This works reasonably efficiently. Toolik does assign space taking into account the times of arrival and departure, so that different groups share the same lab space, but it doesn’t always work out perfectly.  Justin commented that there is not enough storage space to accommodate all of the lab equipment associated with the different projects. 

Miscellaneous equipment.

Dan White indicated that the garden carts are getting really beaten up.  They are used a lot, and need refurbishing.  Steve agreed and noted that some more small ones that can go on the boardwalks would be helpful.  Dan indicated that he doesn’t like the black ones, which haven’t held up well.  Mike Abels indicated that he would look for sturdier options in Fairbanks, as well as online.

Dan indicated that the chairs in the wet lab are also beat up, and often collapse backwards.  Brett noted that we have recently bought 20-30 new chairs, but they are not in the wet lab.  We will get some more. 

Brian made another pitch for environmental chambers, which would be useful to his lab group.  There was no opposition expressed, but not a lot of support from other groups, either.

Plot markers and tundra trash

Helen commented that the markers that we use in the tundra for plots and sampling locations degrade over time, especially the plastic-topped stake flags, and become “tundra trash.”  It would be nice to encourage people to remove their transient markers and to mark long term sampling sites with weather resistant materials.  There are too many stake flags and too much rebar in the tundra.  Mike commented that we have talked about this at the Steering Committee meetings, and encourage people to put permanent markers only at the corners of plots.  Brian commented that we should stay away from survey tape.  The GIS department could give recommendations for markers, but the choice of marker is up to the individual scientists.  BLM permits already state that markers should be removed when the work is done, but often short-term projects become long-term projects.

Radio frequency overlap, internet access

Helen asked how radio frequency use is coordinated. Jeb has been working on an inventory of all of the scientific devices that use radio frequencies on the camp pad.  Mostly, we have just tried to spread them out.  Helen commented that she has experienced radio interference in camp when she was tracking songbirds using radio telemetry.  Brian suggested that requirements for use of radio frequencies could be incorporated into the Toolik Information System, when projects are registered.

Randy asked whether people have experienced problems with internet access this year.  It seems to him that this has been one of the best years for connectivity.  Steve commented that there are still problems on the residence side of camp, especially in ATCOs 1 and 2.  The problems in 5 and 6 have been resolved by adding another access point.  We will put more access points in the dorms when the fiber ring is completed (freeing up the access points in the labs). 


Brett asked whether an option to be picked up in Coldfoot would be a useful alternative to flying into Prudhoe Bay, as there has been a lot of construction on the road that makes the trip from Toolik to Prudhoe very slow, and there are now scheduled flights into Coldfoot.  There was some interest expressed, especially if it was cheaper.  We will explore the options more.  The Dalton Highway Express is used quite a lot, but has received mixed reviews.  Most of the folks at the user forum felt that it continues to be a good option, especially now that there is a dedicated Toolik run.  A third science truck run each week would be nice, but it would be hard to handle the turnaround times required in Fairbanks.

Requests for common-use equipment

Helen requested a modest set of binoculars (10 x 40) for checkout. The EDC has been providing some on an informal basis, but she thought that there would be quite a bit of demand if the binoculars were on the common-use equipment schedule.  She appreciates the common-use balances, and has used them quite a bit.  Jeremy commented that he appreciates that the printer in the common-use computer lab has been repaired, and works with Rite-in-the-Rain paper.  Mike asked if the scanner there is used.  Yes, it is.  The old printer in lab 2 needs to be upgraded as it no longer works on the network. 

The meeting adjourned.