We are all just back from Fairbanks, AK where we travelled with the SERDP Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Following presentations from the Principal Investigators of three FY17 SERDP new starts, the Board then shifted to a strategy session. This gave each of the Program Mangers an opportunity to discuss with the SAB any emerging issues in their Program Areas and outline the FY18 Statements of Need that addressed these issues. It also gives members of the SAB a chance to offer feedback to the SERDP staff on overall program direction, balance among the program areas, and trending environmental issues.                  

We typically bring the SAB to a DoD Installation yearly to give the members a chance to see some of the research projects they have considered, talk to working-level DoD staff about the day-to-day problems they are facing, and gain a better understanding of how SERDP-sponsored technology flows through ESTCP and into the field. This year was no exception; we were able to arrange visits to two sites for the SAB. 

The photo on the right shows our group ready for our tour of the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory’s Permafrost Tunnel Research Facility. We were treated to a tour of the main permafrost tunnel as well as an auxiliary tunnel being dug adjacent to the main tunnel and planned to eventually link into the main tunnel. It was quite educational to see 40,000 years of geologic history in the tunnel even if my feet were freezing by the end of the tour. Leaving the boots at home seemed like a good idea while packing but not so much at the end of the tour.

As we drove to our second site on Eielson Air Force Base, we squeezed in a quick visit to a section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline to learn about its engineering features related to permafrost. Once at Eielson, we were given a briefing and a demonstration at the water treatment plant covering their efforts to remove PFOS and PFOA from the base water supply. For more discussion of this topic, see the April 2016 ER blog. Several members of the SAB are experts in ground water remediation and toxicology and they were particularly involved in the discussion on this topic.

The SAB will convene in September and October to consider FY18 SERDP new starts.  We’ll get a lot of work done in those two meetings but we won’t have as much fun as we all had in Fairbanks.