- May 3
- Return to Utqiagvik
- Apr 29
- Squishening Shrublandia
- Apr 27
- Sand Sea Dreamin’
- Apr 24
- New Snogo and Snowscape
- Jan 7
- Drain the lake
We’ve been working in the Ikpikpuk Sand Sea region for the last three days now and today’s weather was by far the best yet. Hot and clear blue skies and zero wind. One of the best things about being in the Sand sea on days like this in the spring is all the wildlife you see. Right off when Misha and I took off to first study site we ran into flock of nearly 50 ptarmigan (probably some of the ones we heard clucking during the night).
Caribou were everywhere in groups of 2 to maybe 10 and literally saw hundreds. Lots grazing in the drained lake basins we’re studying. Lots of snowy owls here and farther out on coastal plain. Thought I saw one with ground squirrel in its talons. Ground squirrels were notably out from hibernation today.
Lots of foxes, both red and arctic.
Really always blown away by the abundance of animals you see in this part of the coastal plain that’s very poorly understood or even known about even though it covers about 1/3 of the entire coastal plain of northern AK. Only good study documenting it that I know of is by Dave Carter published in Science back in the day. Its hilly terrain comes from a dune field that was active during the Pleistocene and has vegetated and stabilized the massive dunes oriented mostly ENE to WSW. Yesterday we worked at the Pik Dunes about 25 clicks to the North, which is a big lake complex that drained a couple 100 yrs ago, but for some reason never revegetated.
Today we worked on a couple drained lakes to the S and W of camp. Misha collected hard fought sandy permafrost cores, UWyo crew did geophysics deep (looking for taliks) and shallow (snow depth), and Dr. Jones collected high res imagery to develop snow cover DEMs. One acquisition target was the infamous Three Creatures Basin (named by former PhD student Andrea Creighton for her crew working there one day). Its classic Sand Sea DTLB with a big incised drainage outlet, heaved center with tall willows, and several remnant ponds.