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Changing of the Seasons

Brought to you by PhD student Rebecca Finger:

As temperatures start to drop and the colors change, graduate students are returning from near and far field sites to fill EEES laboratories with samples and specimens. For me, the spring and summer brought me to western Greenland, along with fellow EEES graduate students Melissa DeSiervo, Christine Urbanowicz, and Jessica Trout-Haney, where I spent over 7 weeks tracking the progression of the short Arctic summer. I am particularly interested in modelling the phenology of plant systems and biogeochemical cycles to better understand potential changes occurring as the climate warms. Some of the questions I am asking include: How do soil characteristics relate to plant traits? As temperatures warm, are growing seasons lengthening promoting more plant production or are soils becoming drier and limiting plant growth? How is Greenland different than other parts of the Arctic?

Sitting at our campsite, I am launching 75 temperature loggers in order to track soil and ambient air temperatures as the Arctic transition from spring to summer (Photo credit: Melissa DeSiervo).
Sitting at our campsite, I am launching 75 temperature loggers in order to track soil and ambient air temperatures as the Arctic transition from spring to summer (Photo credit: Melissa DeSiervo).

Currently I am sifting through over 200 soil cores and thousands of shrub leaf samples that were collected from May-July in order to better understand plant-soil linkages in the tundra of Greenland. But before I can answer any questions, samples must be sieved, sorted, extracted, ground, and analyzed. It is going to take quite a long time, but luckily I have all fall and winter to transition a freezer full of samples into spreadsheets full of data. Perhaps that is just one of the hidden perks of being an ecologist; each season brings about its own tasks and challenges. Well that, and we sure do get to do a lot of cool science that matters in some truly special places.

Here I am installing temperature loggers and site markers for one of my study sites (Photo credit: Melissa DeSiervo).
Here I am installing temperature loggers and site markers for one of my study sites (Photo credit: Melissa DeSiervo).