Monday, June 29, 2009

Polar bear dates and Willie

We had placed bets on when we will see our first polar bear. Yesterday, June 28th, was Amanda's date. It came and went, bears. In fact, besides seals, we haven't encountered much of the larger wildlife at all these past days. Erinn thought she spied an arctic fox, but was only able to catch glimpses of it running behind the bluff. Da Bunny hasn't made an appearance since that first week. Others have been bragging about caribou sightings (up to a group of seven caribou on the tundra!) but we have been unlucky thus far.

We have, however, been able to get a nice long look at one of the littler guys...a cyclopoid copepod whom we have named Willie:
Found on a caterpillar, which had been caught in a pitfall trap set by Jay (a godwit researcher on the other side of our lab bench), Willie provided upwards of an hour of microscopic amusement.

We are not accustomed to seeing live zooplankton. We observed Willie locomoting around our counting tray (what speed and agility!). We showed him off to anyone who seemed the least bit interested ("cool" and "cute" were popular descriptors).

We pondered his existence...particularly his existence on a caterpillar (could invertebrate larva be another important dispersal vector?)

Lastly, the next morning, we set Willie free. Because Planktoneers Do Not Kill Plankton Unnecessarily.

Nor do we kill large, white furry mammals we will continue to keep a vigilant watch and try to avoid dangerous encounters. The next polar bear bet dates are approaching!
(July 1st - mine, and July 12th - Erinn's)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Soakin' up the sun

The warm temperatures are sticking around! And by warm, i mean above ten. Positively balmy. So, we've been undertaking some new outdoor activities the past couple of days:

Biking! (With a gun, no less.)

Sunny as the days have been, the destination of our bike trip, Ramsay Lake, was completely frozen over still...

Next activity: The beach!

But of course, the water is still in its solid

Really thick ice...

The waves weren't exactly crashing ashore...

As you can imagine, there was not much swimming or tanning going on at this beach. But, we did get in some good seal-spotting (and seal-pretending)!

Next activity: Bouldering! This came about through exploration of Da Bluff's infamous crevice, which will now and forever invoke tales of Amanda the Human Bridge. Here we are, entering the crevice...

Must boulder to avoid ice and water!
Good thing we've been training at the Grotto... eh, Planktoneers?

Who knew Churchill would be the place to go for outdoor climbing!

Of course, we haven't forgotten our regular rock pool sampling and salting, on top of these extracurriculars. See, Karl, we are working!

We got some terrific help today from Sara, a fellow CNSC summer resident who is up here studying the effect of climate change on tundra plants. Here she is helping with the salt manipulation at Pool 70.

Now, besides these outdoor adventures, there have also been some interesting indoor happenings the past couple of days...but those will have to wait for another post(s).

Here's to more ten-degree beach weather!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

When the rain's away the planktoneers shall play!

Well the rain finally subsided and the weather has become a little more fieldworker friendly. The last few days have been spent catching up on field time lost by rain days, and our efforts were successful!

To do this catching up we required the ability of a strong willed vehicle. We were lucky to be able to obtain the elegant "lightly prancing" chauffeur, Earl, to take us to our site on a daily basis.

Behold Earl:

Earl, the extra large, propane fueled, Chevy suburban looks as though he's been around the block maybe a few too many times. And although extremely reliable, has proved unhappy with multitasking. For example, when doing a three point turn, the windshield wipers slow down. But he has enlightened us with a strong sense of security when needed the most (as long as you prime him with the key before trying to start the ignition) and has accompanied us with a new, strange, noise to greet us daily.

So...with the help of Earl we were able to get back out on the bluff and do some serious sampling and pool manipulations. Even though it had only been two days, our "bluff" legs and agility on the rocks seemed to decrease.
Below is a picture of Ingrid struggling with a boulder, she would have won but I think the salinity meter was on the boulders side in this battle.

We were also able to recruit a volunteer to come help us one evening when we went out after dinner. We opted to take the heavy salt on this trip seeing as we had an eager planktoneer contender who was willing to carry it...excellent strategy ladies!

We also had the opportunity to see some more wildlife on the same evening, including a fox of some sorts we saw running across the bluff and then across the ice.
Even though I was unable to get a picture of the frolicking fox I was lucky enough to finally get a picture of a ringed seal!

This, very detailed and descriptive photo of a common pinniped of Churchill, reveals a very happy and lazy seal basking in the sun on the ice...see him? see him basking? ... hopefully there may be a better photo later.

And despite the fact that we went out between the hours of 730- 9 pm that evening, I was able to get my very first sun burn of our trip!

The evening was also really enjoyable and there were some really pretty views

On our way back to the research station we stopped by the shore to take a closer look at some ice breaking up.
What we found was grasslands accompanied by a rocky beach, red algae all over the place and large ice chunks which meant for an excellent picture taking session.

Our volunteer, as it turned out was also a photographer and took some great pictures too, we hope to get those shortly.

The rest of our time these last couple days has been trying to find an increased amount of active hobbies to balance out all the yummy food that's being fed to us. As a result, some of us our becoming a pro at skipping!

Yesturday, we took a break from our sampling and went to the shooting range to prepare for the incoming polar bears with our shot guns and some slugs.
A prize goes to Amanda for hitting the target close to the bullseye!! but that was only after we put a picture of a worm up for her to hit...

We were inspired by the chance to use the shooting range, for the most part, as we please. So we went into town to pick up some more ammo to perfect our shooting skills and practice some "bear encounter" scenarios. I suggested that we could incorporate summer-saults and quick kung-fu action moves but wisely we all decided that may not be appropriate with loaded firearms. It sure is good we took that safety course!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not rain

It is sunny and beautiful today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


It is raining.

Monday, June 22, 2009

ducking, solstice and SALT!

Well we have had a happening few days up here! Note the brand new sign that has just been put up.

First off we traded the YSI (salinity meter) for hip waders and took to the ponds...the duck ponds. On Sunday we went out with a group of researchers looking at sea ducks, specifically the Long Tailed Duck. We helped put up the mist nets and acted as "predators" to chase the ducks into the nets. Unfortunately we were more successful in capturing the attention of the sled dogs tied up all around the pond we were working in. Apparently though, as soon as we left, the catch turned more successful....I suppose we should stick to zooplankton....

In addition to Sunday being duck hunting day it was also the solstice! Now technically the solstice occurred at 5:30am Sunday morning but the researchers at the centre celebrated it Sunday night with a bonfire and grilled cheese roast, aided by the 17 degree!! weather we experienced on Sunday. Indeed it really was the summer solstice as the sun was only beginning to dim around midnight.

This morning we woke up to more or less sunny skies, but a frigid north wind that blew icebergs around the bit of open water we are beginning to see on the horizon of the bay (also the river is open)! We started the first of our manipulation experiments today which led to our first real bluff mishap. An illustration is provided below. While crossing a crevice between two sections of our bluff, I attempted the move I attempt everyday to pass over the crack. Unfortunately I did not take into account the very heavy, salt filled backpack I happened to be wearing.

I'll have to start doing more push ups because I ended up pinned against a rock acting as almost a human bridge. Fortunately my fellow planktoneers came to my rescue and were able to pull the backpack off of me (and no they didn't pause to take a picture..hence the drawing). The day continued without incident and several of our pools are now officially more saline than they were before. And our experiment is off and running!

p.s. Karl, we met one of your field course students!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The End of Week One

Today, it was Erinn's turn to bear-watch. While she didn't see any bears, she did spy a few seals out on the Hudson ice!

Here is what one of the seals looked like from our vantage point on Bluff D: It took us a little while to identify these mysterious, blubbery black creatures, rolling around and at times seeming to have two heads. But we're pretty sure they're ringed seals, laying on the ice near a breathing hole. We're pretty sure they're not collembolas.

Another exciting discovery of the day was...purple saxifrage! A sign of spring!
These first blooms give us hope that all this ice and snow really will melt. It really doesn't feel like it, from the cold temperatures and bitter winds. Though, we HAVE been taking advantage of this wind to try our hands dispersal...the Zooplankton Way...

We did this on Bluff C in order to gather qualitative observations about metacommunity dynamics in the Churchill rock pool system. Karl, we feel that this experience greatly supplemented the hours spent staring at your concept map.

Our last "exciting" discovery was that of a paw print...which turned out to be an Erinn print... was slightly embarrassing when we figured out the true origin of this "bear track". But, in our defense, we're planktoneers, not mammalogists!

So...the end of the first week was a pretty fun-filled day. Tomorrow is our Polar Bear and Firearms Safety Course...a sure way to kick-off an interesting Week Two.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A sunny day on the bluff!

It was super sunny today along the very frozen (still) shores.

Our vigilance had to increase a few notches as we finally heard of big news...yup that's of the first polar bear siting!!!!

and no.., Amanda, even though you may have tricked me at first, you are not a bear.

Although not by us, early this morning there was apparently a young bear seen just east of our location...apparently heading we thought " hmm, time to step up our protection" so we brought along a bear banger revolver as well as our standard pump action...woo hoo!

So Ingrid took on the task of lookout today, while Amanda and I did some zooplankton catching.

In other news, we have found that in some places the terrain has become strangely difficult to navigate. Karl, it never mentioned in the paper that we signed that we would be doing intense mountaineering!

But that's OK we've adapted quite well to the challenges of Bluff D and created a well oiled zooplankton sampling machine! and suprisingly none of us have gotten too wet....yet!

Well tomorrow is another day of sampling as long as the rain and chilly winds hold out. But if not we are collecting, we have a large amount of samples to Continue processing, hope its warmer in the lab eh fellow planktoneers?!

Until, next time!