Today Diana, Byron, Ed and Breana flew in a Bell 212 helicopter out to the F6 camp, on the edge of Lake Fryxell. Lake Fryxell is the easternmost lake in Taylor Valley and is surrounded by several productive streams that we have sampled in the past for soil animals, moss and algae. Many of our core MCM LTER projects are located in this lake basin, and it is typically considered the most productive place in Taylor Valley.

On the way to F6
Into the Dry Valleys

Ed and Breana on the helicopter
Ed and Breana in the helo

F6 is a small fixed camp, with a permanent hut containing kitchen and lab facilities. Typically this camp is used and managed by the stream team, who work with Diane McKnight from CU-Boulder. This year the team consists of Nate, Andrew, and Lee.
F6 camp
Stream team

The folks at F6 sleep in tents outside, in full view of the lake and the glaciers. The hut is solar powered.
F6 tent
Solar panel

We were there to sample and treat our stoichiometry experiment. This is a large core experiment we set up last year to investigate the effects of nutrient additions on the soil ecology. We set up 56 plots at F6 and on the south side of Lake Bonney. We also have a small side project here, where we sterilized soils and placed them back into the field in fine mesh bags (pantyhose, actually) to see how fast they would become colonized by soil organisms.

First, we had a snack and a hot drink.
Breana, Diana, and Ed

Then Byron and Diana sampled the Stoichiometry plots while Ed measured soil respiration at the Sterilization Experiment. Diana and Byron used ITEX chambers (used in our warming experiments, they increase surface soil temperature) to make sure that they were sampling in the right spot. We use these as “templates” for sampling and treating these plots.
Sampling the stoichiometry experiment
Ed measures respiration with a device that connects to the soil with a respiration collar and records CO2 flux.
Respiration Collar
Ed measuring soil respiration

Then, Byron and Breana added the nutrient solutions to all 48 treatment plots by pouring solutions from jugs into an area marked with an ITEX chamber as a “template”
Watering the Stoichiometry Plots

A skua visited us while we sampled. Mostly it was interested in rooting through our things searching for potential snacks. Skua are quite well known scavengers, and can pick a sandwich right out of your hands. A few years ago a survival cache exploded in a winter storm, and bits of granola, chocolate bars, dehydrated meals, etc. flew all over the Fryxell basin. We found the remnants that summer, and there were only wrappers left. Certainly the skua is waiting – hoping – for a similar windfall.
Survival cache

After all that work, we were exhausted and took a nap while waiting for our helicopter. We take so much gear into the field for this experiment that we weighed over 1800 lbs. After carting all that water around, you’d be tired too!
Gear and collapsed bodies