On Aug 8th we had the pleasure of traveling up the Kobbefjord by boat to visit the Nuuk Basic field station. Nuuk Basic was established in 2007 through funding by the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and is run by the Danish Energy Agency. The aim of the field station is to document and study the effects of climate change on aquatic and terrestrial systems. Although relatively new, the station has already housed many researchers and is generating incredible data. What’s more, the long term data they have begun collecting will undoubtedly be valuable in the coming years and decades, especially when compared to the data generated by its sister field station, Zackenberg Basic, in Northeast Greenland.
After a lovely 45 minute boat ride from Nuuk we were greeted by our guide for the day, Maia Olsen. Maia is a Nuuk native who traveled to Denmark to obtain her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology but has returned to Greenland to spend time in the field.
Maia is in charge of collecting data associated with BioBasis, which is one of the four branches of research conducted at Nuuk Basic (the others are ClimateBasis, GeoBasis, and MarineBasis). For BioBasis, Maia is observing phenology of flowering plants, conducting bird surveys, and pan trapping for insects among other duties. I was interested to learn that, like the Colorado habitats where I perform my field work, snowmelt is the main driver of flowering phenology in these habitats.
Next we were introduced to Maria, a Danish researcher who is getting some field time in before starting a Master’s program. Maria is currently in charge of collecting data on soil methane release. The set-up is incredible, and consists of a series of small bridges extending into a wet meadow. The bridges lead to eight plexiglass boxes. Once every few minutes, the lids automatically close and take methane measurements using a sensor similar to the IRGA that we learned about from Julia Bradley-Cook. One of the most incredible features of this research is that all of the data are instantly and freely available online (link).
After a quick hike we came across three more researchers who are studying how climate change could affect soils and vegetation. They are using ITEX, the plexiglass structures pictured below, to increase temperatures over several plots within a meadow near the Nuuk Basic field station. We tried sticking our hands in these plots and noticed that the air was considerably warmer in there, so the treatments seems to be working well! The first researcher explained that she is studying how increased temperatures could affect soil CO2 flux by placing an IRGA over a small patch of bare soil in each plot (learn more about an IRGA from Julia here!). Next, another researcher demonstrated how he collects data on vegetation CO2 flux using a larger chamber that fits completely over the shrubby plants within the plots. Finally, yet another researcher showed us how he collects air samples to test for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by the plants.
Nuuk Basic is an incredible facility filled with enthusiastic scientists. Thanks to Maia and all the other researchers for taking time out of their field seasons to show us around, we are eager to see what conclusions can be drawn from these data! Keep up the good work!