10 days in Tarfala – by Aliyah Debbonaire

DSCN0278 copyI am on day four of ten at the Tarfala Research Station. I came here with intentions to collect tube after tube of cryoconite, gather up any biofilm samples I can and do some glacier forefield sampling. So far, thanks to a hefty layer of snow, I have achieved only one out of three and am losing hope of fulfilling the others; such is the nature of fieldwork.

However, there is hope: after three days of sun it is currently raining (not snowing!) and we have spent the last two days digging for hours and hours to try and hurry things along so Karen can begin setting up her experiment. Thankfully there is a sauna to reward my aching back after all that shoveling, and tea breaks are spent shuffling/dancing to Ed Sheeran.

Meanwhile, I have been collecting soil types from the glacier forefield, writing up sampling strategy, and filling socks with rocks (?!). Due to some dodgy scales at home, I packed extremely light, which at least means I can lug all these bags of soil home without too much back ache.

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Digging seems to be the theme of this trip, and I can report there has been a correlation between my mood and the temperature.

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Karen has been kind enough to assist me with this soil sampling, resulting in some very good, rather literal note taking: “Ooh, this soil is nice and… shovellable.” And “Bloody moss everywhere!” and photos that are much more interesting than I would usually take.DSCN0316 copy 2.jpg

Today’s indoor working day has meant giving myself a crash course in glacial processes. The station is well equipped with books and papers on Stoglaciären, and though I have learnt a little about glaciers from doing my literature review last year, it’s nice to be able to apply the theory to actual glaciers.

For the next few days I am hoping the snow melts as much as possible so I can help carry the experiment equipment up to the fieldsite and get Karen set up before returning to Aberystwyth to start a summer of lab work.

Fingers crossed!

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