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From Laura Timms on behalf of Team Knife; they’ve returned to the south since this update was written:
Team Knife is half way through our last stop for the summer: Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Cambridge Bay is located on the southern end of Victoria Island, on the Queen Maud gulf in the Northwest Passage of the Arctic Ocean. When we arrived on July 6th the Bay was still covered in ice but with all the sun and ‘excessive heat’ (17 C the day we arrived) it has been quickly melting. In fact the last large pieces of ice disappeared yesterday while we were out collecting. Cambridge Bay is home to an old DEW line station and soon to be home to a new federal government funded High Arctic Research Station.
Our work here is going very well – we have finished our first servicing of the traps, the vegetation protocol, two sweep samples, and 10 of the 12 aquatic sites. Our traps have been full of spiders, beetles, crane flies, midges, and all sorts of smaller things that we can’t wait to go through back home under the microscopes. Patrick has been especially good at spotting cocoons and caterpillars of the arctic woolly bear (Gynaephora groenlandica) on the tundra. This species can take up to seven years to complete its life cycle, cramming as much eating and growing into the short arctic summer as it can before going into dormancy for the rest of the year. Some of the cocoons we have found are full of puparia of tachinid flies instead of the moth – these parasitoids lay their eggs inside the caterpillars and consume them from the inside out, emerging just before the caterpillar pupates. Laura is currently rearing the cocoons in our hotel room, hoping to get some adult moths and parasitoids for our collection.
We have also had encounters with some of the larger fauna around here, having spotted several chatty arctic foxes, some muskoxen, a lemming, a seal on an ice floe, and many of the over 100 species of birds up here. One of our encounters with the local wildlife was a bit too close for comfort: both of our ATVs were dive-bombed in succession by some very territorial terns as we were driving on a beach east of town the other day. Luckily we were wearing helmets!
As the weather is continuing to warm up, the vegetation is becoming greener, and the black fly larvae are getting bigger, we are looking forward to continuing to explore the area and do more collecting. The road to Ovayok Territorial park is currently washed out, but we are crossing our fingers that we will be able to get there at some point before the end of our trip. And we are hoping to not spend too much more time with ATVs and/or team members stuck in pockets of wet clay that are almost impossible to escape from!
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Sarah Loboda, from McGill University, has created an incredibly entertaining compilation of video footage shot while she and the rest of Team Goose conducted sampling in Schefferville.
Check it out!
Well, it’s official: field season 2010 has come to an end. Our teams did an incredible job traversing the eastern regions of northern Canada, working in 8 communities in 5 provinces and territories. A mind-boggling number of specimens have been collected, along with important environmental data. Now the real work begins! Before we talk about the next stage of the project, some of our team members have provided some snapshots of their final days in the North. I think it’s safe to say this summer was one that won’t soon be forgotten.
Sarah Loboda on Lake Hazen
Hazen is a dream for anyone who likes to be isolated in a tent on an amazing site; Hazen was a dream for me. I felt so lucky every second I was there even after a few days of work because to work in Arctic is a great opportunity! This ecosystem is breathtaking. It felt like a privilege to see it. Ellesmere Island is almost the size of Great Britain but with only one thousand people on it I would say (because of military bases). It was exactly what I needed : free space for my free time.I spent all my free time hiking around. My best hike was with PhD students I met on the camp. We left the camp at 10 pm. We followed Skeleton Creek and climbed the crete on the hill between Blister Hill and McGill Mountain. It was perfect! Funny to hike at night time. McGill Mountain was a challenge, probably the most difficult mountain I climbed. There was no trail but so many rocks. Every step you make, you fall half a step because of rolling stones. Meagan was amazing. We call her “the mountain goat”. She was so fast; she arrived 45 minutes before us! On the top, there was a box with a journal to put your name and your comment. And surpris: a student from Alberta put a bubble bottle to make bubbles on the top of the mountain ! What a great idea 🙂 and what a view. It was the only place where I saw both extremities of the giant lake. Bigger than what I imagined before going. And the other side was spectacular too, a lot of mountain with glaciers. It was too cold (around zero) to stay on the top…but I kept a picture of the view in my head. What I did in Arctic was unforgettable: meet people with incredible background, hike and drink water from glaciers and see mystic animals like muskox and arctic wolves. When you go once, you just want to go back to see more.
Patrick Schaefer on Iqaluit
The final stretch in Iqaluit was amazing. The weather really picked up after Chris left, and we had some warm days at 22oC. This was approaching the historical high temperatures of 23oC for Iqaluit. These days were spent going on long hikes doing opportunistic collecting, and finding snow patches for photo ops. One of the more interesting finds was another hornet’s nest inside a Caribou skull! Unfortunately, the last few days were quite a bit colder. Since I study biting flies, I was probably the only one upset by the lack of mosquitoes on those days. Overall, I found the summer temperatures to be more agreeable up north than those of my home town of Toronto, where the temperatures will get to the high thirties and low forties with 100% humidity. We spend these last few days taking in out terrestrial traps, sampling for aquatic insects and making ready for our departure. We are very grateful to Jamal Shirley, from the Nunavut Arctic College for all his help and for kindly agreeing to run a malaise trap for us throughout the rest of the summer. This will allow us to get an idea of any seasonal changes in the insect community that we might have missed as the summer comes on an end in the north. We also prepared a small collection of local beetles, wasps and butterflies for the Nunavut Arctic College. These specimens were collected by children participating in a summer science camp and they had a great time in the process! Luckily our departure from the north and arrival at our various home universities went smoothly. I am looking forward to examining the insects we found this year, and next year’s field season.
Donna Giberson on Lake Hazen
Lake Hazen is known to be an “arctic oasis” that is considerably warmer and lusher than many other arctic localities located much further south, and while we were there we experienced highly variable weather… everything from near freezing and 30 knot winds to calm and beautiful days in the high teens and low 20s. The site had an earlier than usual start to the season this year, so by the time we arrived, many of the flowers had finished blooming, and the season seemed well advanced. The lake still had a lot of ice on it as well, but all the ice disappeared while we were there.
We stayed at “Hazen Camp” which is maintained by Parks Canada, and consists of a number of all-weather shelters for park staff. Visiting researchers set up tents in the camp area, and are also allowed to use the a kitchen shelter with a propane stove and a way to get out of the weather while we cooked. Several of the shelters date back to the 1950s and have been refurbished by the park. Some new sleeping shelters were actually constructed while we were there this summer. Access to the site is by Twin Otter out of Resolute Bay, and it is an incredible 3.5 hour or so flight to get there. The landing is a bit exciting, with a very bouncy runway.The terrain was generally very dry though, and was dominated by Dryas (white mountain avens) hummocks that were quite difficult to walk on. The area is quite mountainous, with ice caps and glaciers that feed streams that empty into the lake. Valleys in the mountains behind the camp are fed by melting permafrost in the active layer, and there were tundra ponds and sedge meadows in most nearby valleys. Our main sampling sites were set up in one of these valleys, called Skeleton Valley, in the hills behind camp. We didn’t venture too far from camp (only a few km) for our sampling, as we had to carry everything by foot, but the students enjoyed some of the spectacular hiking in the area. We were also able to tag along with a helicopter that was on site doing work for Parks Canada to get across the lake to sample the river and surrounding areas that flows out of Lake Hazen.
After nearly two weeks of sampling, which included the aquatic sampling, the setting up and regular servicing of the pitfall, pan, and malaise traps, as well as extra pan trapping in multiple habitats and considerable opportunistic sampling with the sweep net, we had one of the nicest days of our time there to pack up our gear and wait for the plane to take us out. It was a bittersweet day; it was hard to leave such a gorgeous spot, but the team was pretty tired after their intensive summer, and anxious to get back home.
Hazen was an amazing experience, and I’m glad I had the chance to work there. Now we have to buckle down and sort samples to find out what we found!
Crystal Ernst on Kugluktuk:
The last few weeks in Kug were an exciting whirlwind of activity. Final trap collections were conducted and trapping equipment was removed and packed for the journey back home. Amidst this work, some amazing things were happening with the youth of Kugluktuk; kids of all ages were getting excited about bugs and science!A great opportunity to work with Kug youth presented itself when leaders from a visiting Actua Science Camp allowed me to spend a day with their campers. We talked about the importance of insects in their community and then headed outside to see what kind of bugs we could find. The kids had a blast turning over rocks for spiders, trying out “real scientists’ ” equipment (sweep nets and aspirators), and gleefully tucking creepy-crawlies in their own vials.I was delighted when, upon returning to the community centre, they immediately turned to the field guides, microscopes and hand lenses I’d brought, eager to discover the identities of their critters. The perfect conclusion to the day was when one little girl whispered confidentially, “I’d like to be a scientist when I grow up!”Classes at Kugluktuk High School resumed in August, providing me a chance to work with some older students. During the first week of school, students participate in week-long mini-courses on various subjects. I worked with two teachers to develop a course on northern insects and climate change. I gave a well-received talk and collection method demonstration for their very keen students, and then spent two days in the field with them. On the second day, the students’ newly acquired skills were put to the test: we travelled out on the land to one of my trapping sites, where they carefully gathered the contents of pan and pitfall traps, set up malaise traps, and practiced sweep-netting. These traps were left in place, and the students continue to collect their contents weekly – this will provide data for nearly an entire summer season in Kug! Since my departure, the high school students have visited the primary school to teach the younger students about their experiences.
Last but not least, my stay in Kug coincided with the final leg of the journey undertaken by Canadian high school students aboard the CCGS Amundsen, the coast guard ship that hosted ArcticNet’s Schools on Board program. These students, who hailed from high schools across northern Canada, joined up with some of the local students and spent the day with me on the Coppermine River, sampling aquatic invertebrates in the rapids. It was a beautiful day, and we had great fun spooking ourselves with the large black and yellow stone flies hidden under rocks on the shore.
Meagan Blair on Lake Hazen:
Entomological field work at Lake Hazen was a success and the view at this arctic oasis was absolutely amazing! Despite some weather related travel delays (both on the way there and back), the trip went very smoothly. Aside from insect collection, some personal highlights of the trip were: arctic camping, hiking Mount McGill, and gazing….from a distance of course….at the magnificent musk oxen. Now that we are back in the lab processing samples, I cannot wait to see what we collected from this pristine environment.
From Chris Buddle, who has been working with Team Moose in Iqaluit:
Update from Team Moose in Iqaluit
Iqaluit has been great – although we had a few days of rain and cold, the weather has mostly been cooperative and the sampling has been spectacular. On the warm days the butterflies, bumble bees, and wolf spiders have been incredibly active. So too have been the swarms of mosquitoes!
The team has serviced terrestrial traps once, and the samples look terrific. Although the malaise heads are not full of tabanids, they are certainly brimming with a high diversity of flies. One of our more exciting finds was a nest of the Arctic Yellowjacket (Dolichovespula norwegica)– this species has been found in Iqaluit before, but we now have “official” specimens, and are confident this species is overwintering in the tundra.
The aquatic sampling is also very productive: the ponds are full of Trichoptera, and although the mayflies and stoneflies are not large, they are abundant. Patrick has been overjoyed with the black fly collecting – in one day the team managed to collect black flies from at least ten different streams and rivers – ranging from tiny seeps emerging from the tundra to the impressive Sylvia Grinnell River, located just beside the Iqaluit Airport runway.
We have also enjoyed a lot of local media coverage, including a TV spot on CBC north’s news program “Northbeat”. Chris Buddle did a public talk at Nunavut Arctic College that was well attended by entomology “enthusiasts” in town! The team is also spending time with a kid’s Science Camp to talk about entomology. Needless to say, the team has felt very welcome in Iqaluit, and there is a lot of local interest in topics related to insects and spiders of the North. We are especially thankful for the Nunavut Research Institute (see: http://www.nri.nu.ca/ ) for logistical support, and for help from Jamal Shirley.
If you’d like to check out the CBC TV feature, click here (the clip is about 2/3 of the way through the program)
Update from Team Goose at Lake Hazen
Team Moose has been in contact (via Satellite phone) with Team Goose, currently at Lake Hazen. Although they were two days delayed in Resolute Bay, the team arrived at Hazen and they have already set all their terrestrial traps. On one day they reported temperatures of 15C (warmer than in Iqaluit!) and they also reported mosquito activity that day. They report that “Camp Hazen” is quite comfortable considering the remoteness of the site, and their spirits are high. They are, however, finding access to good aquatic sites somewhat difficult, and the streams and rivers are not that productive. Three members of the team (Sarah, Meagan, Christine) also took a (quick and soap-free) swim in Hazen! Floating among the ice floes….brrrrr.
Team Goose’s work in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, is complete and the team has been travelling to their next destination: Schefferville, Quebec.
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.