Today we tested our scientific instruments called LI-CORs that measure carbon in the air. We will use these to measure how much carbon is entering and leaving the ecosystem. Carbon enters the ecosystem through photosynthesis and leaves the ecosystem through respiration. My interest is in the net balance between these two fluxes and how warming affects this balance.
The first success was to test to ensure the LI-CORs had no air leaks. Perhaps our first success (i.e., no air leaks) can be attributed to our mascotte: lego cable guy (see photo).
I had purchased a cool little thermal camera that can be mounted on a cell phone. Today I tested whether it could produce an image that showed the locations of warmer and cooler areas. If so, then we can take thermal images to show that our warming experiment is successful in increasing tempratures. In the first photo I am holding a mug of warm (not hot) coffee. There is a gradient from hottest (white) to warm (red and yellow) to cool (blue), hence my coffee mug is white.
And now for the real test: does the open-top chamber work?
The results are promising, with lots of red in the inside, and cooler areas outside the chamber. It was a cloudy day, so I am glad to see it seemed to work even then! How does the chamber work? It lets in sunlight (which is shortwave radiation), but the longwave radiation (i.e., heat) gets somewhat trapped inside. The open top allows precipitation to enter so that we just warm the inside, but keep changes in other variables (such as rain or snow) to a minimum.
Kelly and I were jumping for joy (ok, almost) when we found some very nice patches of vegetation. I was a little worried a couple of days ago (day 14) when all we found were small patches of vegetation, mostly in rock cracks (and not in soil), seemingly dead as they were a very dark brown color.
This means we can start to establish some plots! Today was a much-needed break from our challenges.