Monthly Archives: June 2011

Update from Team Knife

Life in the ‘knife has been busy and exciting!

We’ve been enjoying a lot of hot and sunny weather.  Our trapping efforts have led to some nice catches, the aquatic sampling has gone off without a hitch, and we’ve had excellent opportunities to explore interesting and novel sites for some opportunistic collection.  We’ve also been enjoying the hospitality of the very friendly people of Yellowknife.

A few days ago, after a rather muggy session of trap servicing on the Ingraham Trail, we found ourselves wandering down a narrow, bumpy gravel road in search of access to the Cameron River, near Prelude and River Lakes, for some aquatic work.  The road ended in a very sandy clearing in the forest.  Not realizing that Big Red was only in 2W drive, we quickly wound up stuck in the sand.  This little misadventure was ultimately incredibly fortunate: several hours later we had successfully sampled the river and were enjoying lemonade on the porch of a generous family whose nearby waterfront property had served as our sampling site. Charlotte, Rowena, and their mother Penny spent the afternoon with us as we sampled.  The girls, both very keen on science, got to watch entomologists at work and proved to be excellent tour guides, pointing out good sampling nooks. 

Meagan and Crystal sorting aquatic specimens with Penny and Rowena, our hosts

Meagan and Crystal sorting aquatic specimens with Penny and Rowena, our hosts

Patrick with Charlotte, who knows everything about beaver logs!

Patrick with Charlotte, who knows everything about beaver logs!

That night we treated ourselves to the world-famous Yellowknife dining experience at Bullocks Bistro.  Renowned for their fish and chips, it was an evening of tasty food, get-it-yourself beverages (“here are the glasses, there’s the tap”), colourful proprietors and over-the-top decor.  Definitely worth the splurge!

Team Knife outside Bullocks after a delicious meal
Team Knife outside Bullocks after a delicious meal

Crystal, Meagan and Patrick checking out Bullocks' decor

On Thursday, in search of some small streams and novel sites in which to sample EPTs and black flies, we took to the waters of the Yellowknife River in a pair of canoes.  Strong currents and winds made the trip challenging, but, as Patrick said at one point “It’s likely that no one has ever sampled this stream in the past, and it may never be sampled again”…in other words, it was worth the effort (the scenery was definitely an added bonus).

Meagan and Laura on the Yellowknife River

Meagan and Laura on the Yellowknife River

Laura investigating the beaver dam that dried up one stream our gps claimed we should have been able to find.

Laura investigating the beaver dam that dried up the stream our gps claimed we should have been able to find.

As if we weren’t busy enough, “Team Arthropod” stormed the Yellowknife Midnight Sun triathlon early (very early!) morning!  With Laura in the pool, Patrick on a borrowed mountain bike  (in hiking boots!) and Meagan taking the team to the finish line on the run section, Team Arthropod took first place in the team sprint category! 

Patrick did the biking leg, wearing hiking boots no less!

Patrick after the biking leg, wearing hiking boots no less!

"Team Arthropod" wins the team sprint at the Midnight Sun Triathlon!

"Team Arthropod" wins the team sprint at the Midnight Sun Triatholon!

We’ve wrapped up the day with sample processing, some sorting and equipment cleanup in preparation for the next leg of our journey, which will take us to Kugluktuk, Nunavut. We’ve all enjoyed our time in Yellowknife: it’s truly a fantastic place to work and play.


Bugfest at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

On Thursday, Team Knife spent the evening at the Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, where Bugfest 2011 was taking place.

The crowd starts to gather for Bug Fest at the Yellowknife Northern Heritage Centre

Bugfest participants gathering outside the Heritage Centre

Each team member managed an activity station featuring a different type of insect collection method or expertise.  The outdoor fun was followed by a great talk by Chris Buddle.  The event was well attended and well received by the very enthusiastic participants of all ages.

Check out the article featured on Yellowknife Info for details and photos! 

“A Buggy Good Time”

News from Team Wells

From Team Wells:

All is Wells in the Mackenzie Valley! We were met at the Norman Wells airport by Richard Popko of the NWT Department of Resources, Wildlife & Economic Development. After grabbing a quick lunch and dropping off our gear at the Valleyview Apartment, we sussed-out prospective sampling sites within easy driving distance of town. We managed to deploy all our trap sites the following day (Tuesday), and have been busily taking aquatics-, biting fly- and opportunistic collections ever since. Our local contacts have been extraordinarily supportive…. especially Richard and Glen Guthrie. We’re looking forward to connecting with Alasdair Veitch at some point next week!
The weather has been unseasonably cool and wet this week, but a warming trend over the next few days should really bring out the insects. We’ve already seen plenty of vertebrates, including black bears and foxes. The former are quite numerous, and two bears were put down this week when they wandered into the heart of downtown Norman Wells. The locals like to remind us that, on one memorable occasion, a black bear entered the very apartment complex we’re staying in, chasing a terrified resident down the hall. Fortunately, the bears we have encountered so far have been well behaved.
Tomorrow is a big day as we’re planning to service all our traplines. Hopefully the Canucks/Bruins game doesn’t go into overtime, as we’ll need to start early to get everything done. From the shores of the mighty Mackenzie River, this is Team Wells signing off for now.
Ruben sets up a Malaise trap in Norman Wells, NWT

Ruben sets up a Malaise trap in Norman Wells, NWT

Collecting along the shoreline in Norman Wells, NWT

Collecting along the shoreline in Norman Wells, NWT

Bison, black flies and more!

From Team Knife:

Our crew managed to get all of our pan, pitfall and malaise traps set on Tuesday, so we’ve spent the past two days conducting aquatic sampling.

On our way our of town on Wednesday, we were treated to an eyeful of local megafauna:

Bison spotted in Yellowknife

Bison spotted in Yellowknife

This bison chewed away quite complacently at the side of the road, not bothered in the least by our vehicle parked close by or the “tourists” taking photographs.

Part of the aquatic sampling protocol includes searching the substrate of moving bodies of water for black fly larvae, one of our target taxa.  Yellowknife has proven to be extremely fruitful in this regard:

Black flies from Cameron Falls, Yellowknife, NWT

Black fly larvae on a submerged birch log taken from Cameron Falls, Yellowknife, NWT

Collecting black flies (larvae) from Cameron Falls, Yellowknife, NWT
Patrick with a huge haul of larvae

The waters seem to be generally very productive here; we’ve removed many specimens of caddisflies, stoneflies, mayflies, damselflies and dragonflies doidoing kick sampling and seaches of submerged rocks.  

Dragonfly larva collected in Yellowknife, NWT

Dragonfly larva collected in Yellowknife, NWT

Net weaving caddisfly larvae in Yellowknife, NWT

Cone-chaped webs constructed by net-weaving caddisfly larvae, used to capture food flowing downstream

After a morning of sampling in several rivers, tributaries, and streams west of town this morning, our team spent the afternoon with local residents at the Yellowknife Heritage Museum…more on this fun event to follow in another blog post!


Team Knife is in the ‘knife

From Chris Buddle, PI:

The NBP team’s travels from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa went smoothly, except for the loss of some of our vials in a security check. Thankfully, in Edmonton, the marvelous Felix and Janet Sperling (fellow entomologists) were able to track down supplies for our team on short notice. They took time out of their Sunday afternoon to help us out, and our teams are very grateful! Entomological karma is strong…so good things will certainly come to the Sperling family.

The NBP team in Edmonton

Chris Buddle, Laura Timms, Crystal Ernst, Patrick Schaefer, and Meagan Blair arrived in Yellowknife Monday morning (June 6).

Yellowknife is a terrific northern city – although it is not a large town, it feels like a big city because of all the amenities and services. We quickly settled into our hotel, and then proceeded to drive our rental truck (BIG RED) out to a few potential sites to scout out potential locations to set our terrestrial pan & pitfall traps, and our Malaise traps.

Driving Big Red through the rolling rocky roads north of Yellowknife

Along the way we also found some good locations to collect aquatic insects. We are confident that we will be able to set out some terrestrial traps tomorrow (7 June). Although it was a cool day (8 C), the sun was shining and we were pleased to see some small wildlife Camponotus and Formica ants, Pirata wolf spiders, some flies, moths and butterflies) and some larger wildlife (a pair of bald eagles, two foxes, and more than a few ravens).

Chris and Patrick inspect the substrate for aquatic invertebrates in the river at the end of the road; the sites marks the start of an ice road used during colder months

We are excited to be out in the field, and are certain that Yellowknife will prove to be a productive place to collect, and the town seems warm, friendly and welcoming.

Meet The Team: Laura Timms

Laura Timms is the NBP’s postdoctoral researcher.  She now works out of the Lyman Museum under the supervision of Terry Wheeler and Chris Buddle.  Laura will be working in Yellowknife and Cambridge Bay this field season.
I joined the NBP after completing my PhD (2010) in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Toronto, where I studied the ecological impacts of the gypsy moth on native forest caterpillars and their parasitoids. I also earned my MScF (2005) at U of T, researching the within-tree distribution of another introduced forest insect, the emerald ash borer. My research on the gypsy moth focused on the long-term ecological impacts of species invasion, addressing the question of what happens to an existing food web when a new species is introduced. Overall, the results of my doctoral research indicated that native forest caterpillar communities were mostly resilient to gypsy moth invasion. This was a surprise to me, and inspired me to pursue questions on the impacts of other types of disturbance on insect communities. Cue the NBP!
My research with the NBP focuses on the Ichneumonidae, a family of parasitic wasps in the order Hymenoptera. Ichneumonidae is one of the largest families of organisms on earth, with over 60,000 known species in 38 subfamilies. There is a great deal of variation within and between the subfamilies in regards to host groups, life history strategies, appearance, and biogeography. In general, ichneumonid richness peaks at higher latitudes than most other animal groups (at around 38-42 degrees) and drops off at a slower rate heading north than it does heading south. This portion of northern biodiversity remains largely unstudied, however, despite that fact that ichneumonids play a number of important ecological roles and that the impacts of climate change on ichneumonids and other parasitoids may represent a magnified view of the impacts on lower trophic levels. Broadly, my research addresses these issues by looking at patterns in ichneumonid diversity across our sample sites, and comparing present day diversity to historical data.
I started working with the NBP in September, and so missed out on last year’s field work. But I’m very excited this year to be heading way further North than I’ve ever been before – to Yellowknife, NT and Cambridge Bay, NU!

Field Season 2011: it’s here!

Time has quickly crept up on us; it’s been months since our last NBP update! The past few months have been very busy for our team, as we’ve been sorting through the thousands of specimens collected in 2010.

And now, suddenly, the new field season is here – right here! Most of this year’s field crew is leaving for the north this Sunday.  We are tackling the western sites this year.

Team “Knife” will be sampling in Yellowknife (NWT), Kugluktuk (NU) and Cambridge Bay (NU).

Team “Norman” will start in Norman Wells (NWT), move up to Dawson City (YT), and finish up with an adventure on Banks Island (NWT).

There are a number of new faces on the team this year, and we’ll introduce them soon.  In the meantime, watch for news and updates from the field!