It seems like only a few weeks ago since we were last in Russia working on Lake Baikal, collecting water and sediment samples whilst standing on the frozen lake. Since our return at the end of March we’ve been busying analysing the samples that we collected both at the University of Nottingham and University College London, as well as at the NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory at the British Geological Survey.
Following our departure, conditions in the region became gradually warmer as spring arrived, with clear (ice-free) water appearing in the South Basin in late April. However, it wasn’t until early June that the lake was completely free of ice in the North Basin. Now, with the university term and other teaching commitments finished, it’s time for us to return for our summer expedition when we fly out to Irkutsk in a weeks time. However unlike last time when temperature plunged as low as −30°C, for this trip we can expect temperatures to be c. +20°C or higher!
Of the original expedition in March, four of us will be taking part in this summer trip: Anson, Ginnie, George and Sarah. Suzanne will unfortunately miss this trip as she’s currently moving to the University of Nottingham’s Malaysian campus in Kuala Lumpur (www.nottingham.edu.my) as part of a two year position. In Russia we’ll be working with our colleague Elena Vologina at the Institute of the Earth’s Crust, Russian Academy of Science (www.en.crust.irk.ru). We’ll also be joined by two American school teachers (Alison Ball and Julia Lehman) from the Urban Promise Academy in Oakland, California, who are currently working their way across China and Mongolia into Russia.
We will be working in and around Lake Baikal for a month to enable us to collect water and sediment samples from parts of the lake that were inaccessible due to the ice and snow earlier in the year. We’ll also return to the sites we visited in March to assess what has changed in the intervening months, as well as travelling around the lake’s catchment to collect samples from rivers that flow into the lake. This includes an extended trip down the Selenga Delta and river towards Mongolia when we’ll be collecting water samples at key sites as well as coring some wetland lakes and a Ramsar site to provide a further perspective on environmental change in the catchment. This is an important component of the project as the region contributes 60% of the annual river flow into Lake Baikal and is an area that has undergone significant agricultural, urban and industrial development in recent years.
Due to the amount of work to be done, we’ll be splitting into two groups. George, Sarah, Lena, Alison and Julia will be working on the boat “Geolog”, visiting and collecting samples marked in orange on the map above, whilst Ginnie and Anson will be travelling around the catchment (blue sites on map). The range of water and sediment samples that we’ll be collecting on this expedition will be similar to that collected early in the year. Together these samples will allow us to further assess how climate and environmental changes in the region are affecting the chemistry and ecosystem of the lake. Over the past week we’ve been packing up our equipment and everything we’ll need whilst we’re away. We’ll be taking twelve large suitcases/rucksacks from the UK, each of which will be packed up to the maximum weight limit allowed by the airlines. All we need now is to get our visas from the Russian embassy in London!