Monthly Archives: June 2010

Team Snapshots…what we’re up to

Team Goose:  is in training for a gig as a NASCAR pit crew (they’ve been changing a lot of tires).

Team Goose...changing yet another tire.

Team Moose: is traveling in style on the Polar Express, en route to Manitoba.

Team Moose...enjoying Happy Hour on the Polar Express

Team Kug: is sharing a love of entomological field work with others.

Kenneth, Crystal's new bear monitor, sorting through an aquatic catch


On the move

Team Goose’s work in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, is complete and the team has been travelling to their next destination:  Schefferville, Quebec.  

Team Goose in Goose Bay, NL

Their email update describes some of the “hazards” of travelling and doing field work in more remote locations.   You should ask them sometime about their “fun” plane trip, and I think it’s more than safe to say that they are experiencing a major case of culture shock in their new environment.   The team leader will be joining them tomorrow, then hopefully the work will get underway. 

Team Moose has wrapped up their work in Moosonee, Ontario and is preparing to journey northward to Churchill, Manitoba for the next round of standardized sampling.   Once their equipment has been cleaned and re-packed, they’ll hop on the Polar Bear Express for the first leg of the journey.  Air travel should bring them to Manitoba by Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, in Kugluktuk, the standardized sampling is going well.  Angut has left for a canoe trip, but Crystal has been able to find a replacement bear monitor, so the work will continue.   In between servicing traps and hunting mosquito larvae, she’s been getting to know the local flora (with 24 hour daylight, these plant excursions are very often at 12-1 a.m.!); the flowers of spring/early summer are quite beautiful. 

Arctic Poppy (Papaver radicatum)

Meet the Team: Crystal Ernst

This week’s profile features Crystal Ernst, Ph.D. student at McGill University.


I earned a B.Sc. (2003) and M.Sc. (2005) in Biology from Carleton University; my research there focused on plant-insect interactions and communities in the context of biological invasions.   Between 2005 and 2010 I worked in the public sector for various federal agencies, including  NSERC, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Parks Canada.   The five-year hiatus made me realize how much I actually wanted to pursue an academic career.   I was admitted to McGill University in January 2010, where  I am now a Ph.D. student in Dr. Chris Buddle’s lab.   

I was still in the process of researching possible schools/labs when Chris told me about his plans for the NBP.  This program offered everything I was looking for in a Ph.D. project – innovative research, extensive field work in exciting locations, and an incredble oportunity for multidisciplinary, multi-institutional collaborations – so of course my reaction was a resounding “Count me in!!!”

My work in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, during the summer of 2010 will have three main thrusts:

  1. Conduct the standardized two-week NBP arthropod sampling protocol; my 8-week stay in “Kug” will allow me to gather unique temporal data with three collection periods;
  2. Conduct manipulative field experiments related to the effects of temperature on ground-dwelling insect communities; and
  3. Work with students and others in the community to generate a collection of locally significant insects while providing informal training and educational opportunities; enhance the usefulness and meaning of the collection with relevant Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

Broadly, I am interested in how the structures of ground-dwelling insect communities are affected by climate change and other environmental variables.  I will use data from my own field experiments as well as the sampling being conducted by the entire team to answer my research questions.  I am thrilled to be a part of this program, and honoured to work with such a great team.

Team Kug is on the tundra

Hello from Kugluktuk, Nunavut!

Team Kug’s work is well underway…Angut, the high school summer student acting as Crystal’s field assistant/guide, has proven to be an invaluable source of local knowledge.  The team has been navigating the tundra trails on ATVs, locating sampling sites.   Two of the standardized trapping grids are now established; you can see in the picture below that the landscape is very different than that in which the other teams are currently working.   However, as barren as it may seem, the land is actually bursting with spring growth, including many beautiful wildflowers.

A lonely Malaise trap next to the lake

The Malaise trap set yesterday (pictured above) already has a good catch of mosquitos, while the pan and pitfall traps are successfully snagging many wolf spiders and ground beetles, as well as small flies.   Bumblebees have been sighted, as has a butterfly.  The team will set up the final grid tomorrow, then hopefully start some opportunistic sampling. 

There are many beautiful aquatic habitats dotting the landscape; but they’ll have to thaw a bit more before any sampling can take place!

Ice on S Lake

NBP in the news: Insects a window to ecological changes in the north

From CBC Newfoundland and Labrador Morning:

The new “canary in the coal mine” Insects are a window to ecological changes in the northThe weather this year may be hard to predict but one thing’s for sure… When the temperature rises, the bugs come out. People in Labrador have noticed even the creepy crawlies are changing. This is exciting news for one group of visitors to Happy Valley – Goose Bay. They’ve come from all over the country to collect insects. Chris Buddle from McGill University is leading the group. Our Tara McLean put on her hiking boots, and followed him through back trails and shrubby terrain near town.

Team Goose was interviewed by CBC Labrador, you can download the mp3 file by clicking on this link!  Enjoy!

Tales from the field: aquatic sampling, exploding malaises, black flies attack!

Updates were received from Teams Moose and Goose today…here they are in their own words: From Chris (Goose):

Hi all – good day for team goose today – got all four streams done and 1 of 2 ponds. Caught some HUGE stonefly larvae.  It was a bit warmer today and we snagged some leps, hover flies, and packed four vials with black fly larvae.  The team is pretty tired but in good spirits- we do our first check of pans/pits etc. tomorrow.

And from Doug (Moose):

In the spirit of the World Cup, I must report that the black flies are having a field day with Jana.  Although she wore her bug jacket today, it seems that she neglected to zip the hood up.  The results of this neglect are amply illustrated in the attached pic.  See especially her beet-red ear.  Anyway, I hope Jana will soon have an opportunity to wreak revenge on their babies!

Also attached is a wider shot of the “exploding head” malaise trap,  showing the site characteristics.  I don’t think we could have found a  better site for snagging tabanids!  Today we found a considerably more  mesic site where we deployed the rest of the pan and pitfall traps.  We also found time to sample the “stream pond”, which yielded quite a few caddies, mayflies and odonates (among other things).

Boy, Doug wasn’t kidding about poor Jana’s blackfly encounter -0uch!  Let this be a lesson to you all: don’t forget to zip!

Meet the Team: Sarah Loboda

Sarah Loboda, M.Sc. student at McGill University, is today’s “Meet the Team” profile!_________________________________________________________________

I conducted my own project about salt marsh spiders during the last year of my undergraduate studies at the Université du Québec à Rimouski and since then I love spiders! Spiders play a key functional role as terrestrial predators and can be used as bioindicators.  The Northern Biodiversity Program gives me the chance to study my favourite taxa in amazing sites in Canada’s north. The first theme of the project is to compare the structure of communities in different ecoclimatic zones and my role is to conduct this analysis for spiders. Also, this project allows me to compare different life history traits, like size or fecundity, at different latitudes. I’m a member of the second team who will go to Goose Bay, Schefferville and Hazen Lake. It’s really exciting to go in three ecoclimatic zones in the same summer!  To sample ground dwelling spiders, pitfall and pan traps will be placed in two habitats (wet and mesic).   Identification to the species level will require a microscope to observe sexual morphology. This laboratory work will be done at McGill University after the field season.

If you are passionate by spiders and you have any questions, send me an email (!