During my co-op work placements throughout my undergrad, fieldwork was my favourite part of the job. So, you can imagine my excitement over my first field deployment, in southern Alberta, as an MSc student. But you may not picture that I was equally stressed and nervous. A ton of organization and preparation goes into a field campaign, and I was anxious about being prepared in time and being the only FluxLab member on the trip.

Thankfully, I had lots of help and support leading up to my fieldwork. Dave helped me develop research questions, Chelsie took care of travel logistics, and Dan answered my questions about packing and shipping the field equipment. I am especially grateful for Katlyn’s help during the week beforehand. She already had experience using some of the equipment I would be taking with me, and she spent the week in Antigonish helping me with local trials so that I would feel more comfortable using the gear on my own while on the other side of the country.

My field setup included 4 auto chambers, a multiplexer, and a gas analyzer. The auto chambers look kind of like upside-down buckets that move up and down, allowing gas to recirculate and taking measurements when the chambers are closed. The auto chambers are tethered to the multiplexer by long cables and tubing. The multiplexer uses software that allows the user to control the auto chambers by telling each chamber when to close and open. The auto chambers and multiplexer were developed by a company called Eosense. The gas is transported through the tubing from the auto chambers to the multiplexer, but it doesn’t stop there. The gas is then pumped into an analyzer called a Picarro, which analyzes various gases precisely and simultaneously. This means that we can see the measurements of the gases on our computer screen as the chambers are going through their cycles.

I studied gas migration at well sites by taking measurements of greenhouse gases as they left the soil and entered the atmosphere. I was particularly interested in methane flux, isotopic methane, and the relationship between methane and ethane.

I mentioned earlier how I was the only FluxLab member going west, but I wasn’t alone. Deirdre, who works for Eosense, came along as my field partner. Together we took turns writing notes, moving the auto chambers, and watching the Picarro screen. We made a great team and I’m thankful to have had her there with me. We (StFX and Eosense) were working collaboratively with MundleLab of UWindsor and Chemistry Matters on this gas migration project. Dr. Mundle and his students were collecting their own samples using probes and domes. It was neat working alongside MundleLab and seeing how their sampling techniques differed from ours. It will be interesting to see how our measurements and results compare to theirs.

Unfortunately, due to a snowstorm we had to wrap up the campaign early. We didn’t get to take as many measurements as intended, but I feel like I learned a lot during my short time in the field. My experience in Brooks has taught me the importance of taking detailed notes and diagrams, the need for an organized research plan, the value in collaborating with others, and so much more I’ll utilize as I pursue my MSc.

Rachel Lewis