One of the coolest parts of the Kaktovik Oceanography Program is teaching local students about how the science we do relates to their local ecosystems. This year, fellow UTMSI PhD student Craig Connolly led an activity on groundwater.
In the Arctic summer, water moves through the thawed soil layer and enters the lagoons, bringing with it nutrients that could be important for the base of lagoon foodwebs. Students got to hammer piezometers (basically well points) into the tundra soil until they hit the permafrost layer, they then pumped up the water and collected it in bottles. We also collected a sample from the lagoon, downhill from the groundwater collection point.
Back in the lab, students measured nutrients (nitrate and phosphate) in each of the water samples, demonstrating excellent safe lab technique throughout.
We found that while both the groundwater and lagoon water had similar levels of phosphate, the lagoon had less nitrate than the groundwater. The students deduced, based on a previous lesson, that phytoplankton in the lagoon must be using up the nitrate that comes from the groundwater. Pretty cool!