Tales from the Oulanka Research Station

Greetings from the Oulanka Research Station in North-East Finland! The ’corona season’ of 2020 has been extremely busy and successful at Oulanka research station. Like everybody else, we have suffered from canceled bookings and rescheduled field courses. Despite that, we have been able to conduct our field and laboratory based research as normal. Actually, we have been more busy than ever, partly due to several new projects and partly due to several auxiliary people not being able to enter the country because of travel restrictions.

EcoClimate CO2 measurements (Photo: Jani Virtanen, Oulanka Research Station)

We have been very active upgrading our state-of-the-art long-term ecological experimental platform, the EcoClimate. EcoClimate is a replicated experiment where the focus is on separate and combined effects of climate change and heavy reindeer grazing pressure. It has two separate study areas, each in a very different habitat: a nutrient rich fen and a dry, nutrient-poor pine forest. During this season we have added PAR sensors to the instrumentation, and through Prof. Jeff Welker’s (UAlaska & UOulu) research group have continued manual and automatic CO2 chamber measurements that were started last year. The contributions of postdoc Maria Väisänen (UOulu) have been especially important here.

During the previous winter, we also started continuous CO2 measurements under the snowpack in a subset of the research plots, again with major contributions from Jeff’s group. Our new collaboration that was started by Maria Väisänen with Phd Gesche Blume-Werry from the University of Greifswald, Germany, led to the installation of special tubes in each of the plots on the EcoClimate fen site last autumn, enabling highly detailed research on root growth and dynamics. First sets of actual data were collected this summer, partly through INTERACT Remote Access (RA) and partly through INTERACT Trans-national Access (TA) At the moment, a new call for both RA and TA is open on the INTERACT website for access taking place in s/s 2021 and a/w 2021-22.

Another area of research where this year has seen significant upgrades is related to surface water DOC, groundwater and isotope research, where assistant professor Hannu Marttila (UOulu) and associate professor Ali Torabi Haghighi (UOulu) together with their research groups have started new projects and more are being considered. Related to these, we are getting ready to drill several new groundwater research wells into the ground in and around the EcoClimate platform. During the spring we installed a continuously measuring DOC sensor (Trios Opus) into the nearby river Oulankajoki. This will provide high-quality data related to carbon cycles.

Continuous Trios measurements in Oulanka river (Photo: Katja Sippola, Oulanka Research Station)

Regarding one of our traditional strong points in research, stream ecology, where Prof. Timo Muotka (UOulu) is the lead researcher, there have also been significant investments into both laboratory facilities (new DOC analyzer) and field instrumentation (new automatic water level and temperature loggers in 24 headwater study streams). These streams belong to a major long-term data series where standardized macroinvertebrate sampling has now been done for 20 years, in addition to measurements of water chemistry parameters. This data set might even be unique on a global scale due to the length and number of study streams! We have also installed a number of new, automatic oxygen sensors into selected study streams in the area.

 

We are also expecting significant and exciting new projects together with Prof. Torben Christensen and his collaborators from Aarhus university in Denmark, also concentrating on our EcoClimate platform. More news to come later this year, I hope!

This summer we have also recruited new people, including a second field technician, who will greatly help us coping with the much increased work load. Last year our crew was augmented by a research technician, whose contributions are super-important especially regarding our EcoClimate platform. Our auditorium received a new 4K laser projector and Genelec speakers so presentations and the like will both look and sound much better than before! 🙂

Frost and autumn colors by Oulanka river on a crispy September morning (Photo: Katja Sippola, Oulanka Research Station)

 

In addition to all the above positive business buzz, we’re also enjoying fabulous weather and nice fall colors at the moment 🙂

Stay safe!

Riku Paavola, Station Manager

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