Tag Archives: Sarah Loboda

It’s a wrap! How about a thesis on Arctic spiders? How about two of them…?

By Dr. Christopher Buddle

This week I am thrilled to report that two of my MSc students have successfully completed their degrees! Both the projects are part of the collaborative Northern Biodiversity Program – a project aimed to quantify and understand ecological change with Arthropods from Canada’s north.

A BIG congratulations to Sarah Loboda and Katie Sim  – they are both tremendously talented students, excellent Arachnologists, and wonderful people to know.  Last night we had our annual Lab BBQ – and at that event, I was pleased to give Sarah and Katie a small token of appreciation.  Here’s a photo showing them both with their wolf spider photographs (photos by the incredible Thomas Shahan):

Katie Sim (l) and Sarah Loboda (r) - successful MSc students!

Katie Sim (left) and Sarah Loboda (right) – successful (& happy) MSc students!

Sarah Loboda’s thesis is titled Multi-scale patterns of ground-dwelling spider (Araneae) diversity in northern Canada. Her research focused on broad diversity patterns of ground-dwelling spiders collected from our 12 study sites, spread across Canada’s north. Our project spanned 30 degrees of latitude and 80 degrees of longitude –> yes that is a lot of land area! Sarah identified over 300 spider species from 14 families, and over 23,000 individuals.  Publications are forthcoming so I won’t give details here, except to say that we can learn a lot about diversity patterns over broad spatial scales using a study taxon such as spiders.

Here's where the Northern Biodiversity Program took our field teams!

Here’s where the Northern Biodiversity Program took our field teams.

Katie’s work (co-supervised by Prof. Terry Wheeler) had a different slant, but was still on Arctic spiders. Her thesis is titled:  Genetic analysis of Pardosa wolf spiders (Araneae: Lycosidae) across the northern Nearctic. The first part of Katie’s thesis was about understanding the phylogeographic history of the Arctic spider Pardosa glacialis, with particular attention to post-glacial dispersal patterns, as inferred by population genetics. The second part of her thesis was focused on whether or not there is enough evidence to suggest two northern Pardosa species should remain as separate species, or be merged into one – based on both molecular and morphological characters.  Let’s just say that Katie had to be a ‘field genius‘, ‘lab genius‘ and ‘spider genitalia genius‘.  Here’s an example of what she looked at, a lot:

The epigynum of a wolf spider species, (part of) the topic of Katie's research.

The epigynum of a wolf spider species, (part of) the topic of Katie’s research.

In sum, I am thrilled to see Sarah and Katie finish up their work, although their success also comes with a touch of sadness, as I will miss their daily presence in the laboratory.  Stay tuned… we shall soon report all the details from their research.

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The NBP “YouTubes its entomology”

Every year, the Entomological Society of America holds a YouTube Your Entomology contest in association with its annual meeting. This year, NBP team member Sarah Loboda submitted a video that she created after her 2010 field season in Schefferville, QC. It’s been featured on this blog before, but it warrants another viewing (it’s just that awesome!) We may be biased, but we’re pretty sure this is a winning entry. Good luck, Sarah!

NBP is on YouTube!

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!

Final report for field season 2010

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. 

sara2 

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. 
 

Jul 26 view of Hazen camp from lake

Hazen Camp (Lake Hazen, Nunavut)

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.  

Jul 26 Meagan and Sarah on hill above ruggles river

Meagan and Sarah sampling above Ruggles River

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.    

Jul 22 view of skeleton valley and lake hazen

A view of Skeleton Valley and Lake Hazen

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. 
Science camp kids

Campers and leaders from Actua Science Camps

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.
cooperation

Students work together to collect a yellow pan sample.

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. 

SOB crew

The gang from Schools on Board and Kug High School at Bloody Falls

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.

Updates from Lake Hazen and Iqaluit

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 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)