Snow Melt Sampling at Hubbard Brook

I have been up in New Hampshire preparing to do some snow melt sampling since late February. Initially I was hoping to get prepared, attend a catchment science meeting in Hawaii, and then return to sample. The weather, however, had other ideas. The forecast for the Hawaii week looked warm and ripe for a melt event, so I cancelled my trip to remain in wintry New Hampshire and make sure I didn’t miss an event.

Indeed, perfect conditions began to emerge as the week neared to an end. As the event approached, so did the arrival of Suzanne, a student from the University of Utrecht, who was coming to help with melt sampling and start a project of her own. She arrived Saturday evening and Sunday the sampling push started. Quite the quick turn around from trans-atlantic travel to hiking heavy loads into the mountains of New Hampshire!!

On day one we set up ISCOs and put vacuums on the collection bottles for our Prenart soil water samples. The next day was the first of three big sampling days.  We collected samples from ISCOs, 30 prenart lysimeters, and any of the 15 wells at those sites that had a water table.  In addition we collected from 3 snow lysimeters installed throughout the catchment. Brad, our field tech, was able to help on the first day, which really made things move a lot quicker.

Prenart lysimeter bottles under vacuum and ready for water!

At the end of day 2, we got another field assistant, albeit an unintentional one. My girlfriend, Jennie, came up for Virginia Tech’s spring break to see the mountains of New Hampshire and do some skiing and ice climbing. Instead she was recruited to take hundreds of water samples! She was a great sport about it and an even better field tech.  It turns out we were very lucky she was around. After the first day of samples we had about 100 that needed pH run as soon as possible. This meant we needed one person in the lab running pH’s and as many as possible out in the watershed collecting samples. Without Jennie, ‘as many as possible’ would have been 1 (Me). The extent of sampling we were able to pull off would not likely have been possible without a third person.

Jennie’s surprise field day began with promise and ended wet, cold, and with a ton of samples!

Tuesday Jennie and I collected samples all day in a steady, drenching rain with temperatures hovering in the mid 30’s. We were soaked thru within an hour. We took turns running up and down slopes in the catchment to stay warm at sampling sites and wrung out our gloves often in a feeble attempt to keep our hands warm. Despite all of this, it was a very successful day. We collected all soil and snow lysimeter sites and hourly samples from an ISCO on the main stem of Paradise Brook in watershed 3 and a side stream. Additionally we got a third ISCO running on a not yet flowing tributary. This involved hacking through a couple feet of snow and ice to get down to the stream bed, but we got samples!!!

Digging through ice to try and find a stream.

The final day was 50 degrees F and sunny. We collected all sites and all three ISCOs for an incredibly diverse and dense sample set! But coming down from the catchment wasn’t the end of it. We were up until 1:30am running pH’s and labeling and organizing samples, getting them ready to be sent out for analysis.

On Thursday we awoke from our long night and drove to Durham, NH to drop about 300 samples off at the Forest Service lab in Durham.  That was that. It was an incredible amount of work, but hopefully will yield some fun and interesting data!

Pumping well samples during the main event. Soaked through but getting samples!!