Saturday, June 16, 2018

Soil microarthropods of Kilpisjärvi

Now I will start telling you a bit about the research projects being conducted by our students.

The first science+art team I'll talk about are Tiffany and Guillermo. They are investigating the soil microarthropod communities of Saana, the fell that we climbed early in our visit. They are interested in what communities live in and beneath moss as you increase in elevation up Saana. If you have read my past blog posts, you will now all about soil microarthropods! If you are new to the blog, you can brush up with this post, this post, or this post. (Of course, those posts are about the communities of the other polar region: Antarctica. But the same concepts apply to the Arctic!)

Yesterday, Guillermo and Tiff hiked up Saana, taking soil samples from low, middle, and high elevation. To extract the microarthropods, they crafted a portable version of the Tullgren funnels that I have used in Antarctica for my research. These extractors use heat (created by lightbulbs) to convince the microarthropods to leave the soil and drop into a funnel into our sample container.
Tiff and Guillermo put samples on their home-made Tullgren funnels
Tiff and Guillermo put their samples on the funnels yesterday, and they will gradually turn up the dimmer switch on the lights over the next few days, then use microscopes to look at the microarthropods they collect on Monday.

They will also measure the pH, salinity, and temperature of the soil, to understand how the microarthropods' soil habitat changes with elevation. This will be pretty interesting, because nobody has looked at the soil organisms around this research station before!

What kind of critters will they find? Here is a video Guillermo made from a test sample we extracted overnight. You see a variety of different species of soil mites and springtails:

They have also come up with a very creative way of communicating this research project. They have made their own clay, which they are using to sculpt microarthropods. They will show how interesting these organisms are, using material from the organisms' habitat!
Tiff photo-documented the process to make their clay.
So, Guillermo and Tiff are making great progress on both their science and communication. Stay tuned to future posts to learn what the other students are doing!