Hi! My name is Ms. Harsh. Please join me as I travel to Churchill Canada to study climate change.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Day In The Lab

We spent the morning doing lab work. We have collected approximately 67 samples from the FEN (wetland), TIS (tree island), BFR (burned forest) and the TUN (tundra). We divided up into teams. One team was in charge of determing the moisture and organic matter content of each sample and the other team was in charge of determing the color, pH, and conductivity. Each of these tests can tell the scientist relys different information about the properties of the soil.

Working in a lab can be very difficult if there is not good communication between the workers. So first we had to develope a system for all the testing and a way to record all the data.

Team 1- moved to the back lab to work on moisture content and organic matter content. To determine the amount of moisture each sample had to be weighed before and after it was dried it in an oven at 105°C for 12 hours. Then a small sample of it was transferred to a crucible and burned the sample in a Muffle oven (550°C for 3 hours) to figure out how much organic matter there was in the soil. This tolwill help us to determine much carbon was present in each sample . Dr. Kershaw can then use this information to determine the "carbon pool". This is important because it tells us how much carbon can be released in the atmosphere if the permafrost melts because when organic matter decomposes it releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.

Team 2- stayed in the classroom and set up an area to test pH, conductivity and soil color. A sample was removed from the bag and was made into a paste, then we used electric probe to measure conductivity. This tells us how much salt is in the soil, again giving us another characteristic of the soil system. Generally soils closer to the coast have a higher salt content, therefore a higher conductivity. Soil pH is a measure of acidity or alkalinity. An acid solution has a pH value less than 7. Many plants and microorganisms prefer either alkaline or acidic conditions and the pH can affect the availability of nutrients in the soil. Next, a small sample was placed on white paper and the color was identified using the Munsell Soil identification chart. This is an internationally agreed upon table to describe the colors of different soils and can give a person information about the quality of the soil.

After lunch we set out with our bear monitor, Carley, and went to the burned forest. The forest has burned twice in the past, once in the 1980's and once in the 1990's. Each group dug three more pits and collected samples from the soil profile. Then once again looked for new seedlings. The bugs were aweful!!! Even in full bug gear one managed to find its way to my nose!

Well tomorrow is our day off! We have a guide who will hopefully be able to guide us to the polar bears and beluga whales!

Please use the comment section to post questions about the research. I know we will be able to answer them.

http://nsidc.org/cgi-bin/words/glossary.pl use this to define a PALSA, PINGO, HUMMOCK (please post the answer in the comment section)


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