A season of change

Well it has been just less than a week since I arrived in Abisko and already the signs of spring change are here. The snow is receding and the lake will soon be ice free. So far I have been busy preparing and monitoring my plots, studying the effects of early snow melt on the snow and soil microbial community. The snow cover here is extremely patchy and variable but deeper areas still exist. A sudden warm spell about two weeks prior to my arrival kicked off the snow melt phase, and if climate change is to bring warmer spring temperatures then this may be occurring earlier in times to come.

Laying out the heat absorbent and snow insulating plots to speed up/slow down melt rate
Laying out the heat absorbent and snow insulating plots to speed up/slow down melt rate

My experiment here involves  covering regions with dark, heat absorbent material, making the snow cover melt sooner than in other parts. After a week of snow melt I will collect soil samples over a number of days in order to study the microbial community during this dynamic phase, comparing microbial diversity under different thicknesses of snow cover. I will also investigate some of the interesting questions that arise when studying the complex       properties of the snow structure, such as the effects of different snow depths and melt-water on soil properties.

It's not just scientists who visit the research station!
It’s not just scientists who visit the research station!

The station may be very quiet at this time of year, but there is still lots to do. As well as daily snow depth measurements I have been assisting Dylan Gwynn-Jones of Aberystwyth  as we prepare and install the UV-B/CO2 plots in time for the summer growth season. Some repair work will have to be done as we make sure everything is looking in top condition for the visit of the Swedish king in a little under a fortnights time! And after all of this it is nice to be able to kick back with a cold beer and a relaxing sauna by the lake in this stunning landscape!

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