Saturday, August 21, 2010

My time is coming to a close...but not yet!

Well I wasn't sure that I would get a final blog in before leaving but as we are looking at a 12 hour train delay here the time seemed right for a summary and some thank-yous.

I've had a very productive and enjoyable field season this year, and really got a chance to be a part of the larger community up here. Thanks to Brittany and Leah, field team extraordinaire! Thanks to the ladies of S3 and the "warm" lab for keeping things fun, you really made this field season unique! Thanks to the staff at the CNSC for all the incredible work they do...without the support of the CNSC there are many research projects (including mine) which would not be possible. I appreciate all the hot meals, help with vehicles, cleaning, advice, general mentoring, field assistance and all of the other hats you wear! And finally, thank you to all the other researchers with whom I shared laughs, stress, mosquitos, fog and space with this summer. I can't wait to hear the results of the various projects in progress this year.

And now for some numbers:

- Days spent on a train heading west and north: 4

- Days spent on a train heading east and south: 4 (fingers crossed!)

- Days in the field: 82

- Egg and cheese breakfast sandwhiches: 70

- Bag lunches: 30

- Total water samples: 647

- Total km biked: 536.4

- Times swimming in Stygge Cr.: 10

- Times in S3 shower (notice the discrepancy): 8

This summer has been another season of learnings, and has given me a lot to think about, about my own science but about this place and life in general. I appreciate this immensely.

I was very fortunate this week to attend two events different than the rest of my experiences this summer.

CNSC Annual General Meeting

Wednesday was the CNSC's AGM, held in town and open to researchers, students, visitors and community members along as members of the Board of Directors. It was interesting to attend and learn more about the "behind the scenes" operation of the CNSC. In addition to the staff that work tirelessly at the centre there is also a dedicated board of directors made up of professors, community members and other interest groups. These individuals are also committed to the success and long term sustainability of the CNSC, something you don't necessarily think about as a seasonal researcher. With changes in government, funding and the environment this is an important time to be doing research in the north and I feel very privileged to have worked in Churchill these past couple years. Because of these experiences I have a greater appreciation for the difficulties associated with field ecology and especially fieldwork in a remote or northern area and feel inspired to make sure that everything I do in such places counts. This means thinking about the environmental/social impact of my work as well as improving the way I communicate my plans/results to others.

Summer lecture series presentation on "Place attachment in Churchill, MB"

Thursday night included a lecture by Dr.Patricia Fitzpatrick from the Dept of Geography at the University of Winnipeg. She did a a very thought provoking presentation on the concept of why people choose to live where they live using Churchill as an example. Not only was it interesting to hear some of the results of her research, it was also neat to think about how you quantify and analyze data that includes opinions and feelings.


Christmas Lake Esker

All in a days' work...

Had the opportunity to explore some more inland today after spending the majority of the summer on the coast. Hiked to Christmas Lake esker today and as much as I love the ruggedness of the bluff, heading inland also has it's appeal. Today we saw 3 caribou, an intricate fox den, at least 10 different types of mushrooms and a multitude of raspberries, blueberries and black currants. I feel very appreciative that after a few summers in Churchill I still see new things.

My fellow hikers took some great pictures and I will hopefully post a few group ones soon, but for now here are a few of the general scenery.

A bowl-like mushroom.

Lundy's cabin...what a front yard! Not used (as far as I know) anymore and because it is now located in the Wildlife Management Area it cannot be sold out of th family (though I imagine there would be offers).

The esker, there is a road along the top that you can take all the way out to Gordon Point.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feels like fall is upon us...

Well the last few days have brought temperatures just scraping into the double digits as well as wind gusts up to 70km/h. Myself, Emily and Liz spent most of the day yesterday on the bluffs collecting some Daphnia for one of my committee members at the University of Oklahoma. While these Daphnia have no idea, they are about to embark on a plane ride to Winnipeg and then Guelph before being rushed across the border by FedEx. They also have no idea that it can take an entire morning just organizing a shipment of water samples with the FDA! While out on the bluffs yesterday we noted that seaspray from the waves was reaching a good 200m inland. Two grain ships are anchored in the bay waiting to enter the port and I definitely would not have wanted to be at sea with yesterday's wind! According to the Manitoba Goverment, grain shipments comprise 90% of activity at the port!

With 2 weeks left in the field season I am busy getting sampling and experiments wrapped up and logistics sorted out for the trip back to Ontario. August is flying by but I've had several opportunities to take a break from my work and do some other things around the CNSC.
Showing my mom around the bluffs (my parents visited for a week and were put to work).

Showing some zooplankton to kids from the summer rec program in town (photo cred: the talented Leah Olivier).

Helping Krista and Leah haul palettes in the fen. Krista is building a boardwalk out to her flux station to reduce the environmental impact of accessing the station everyday. Thanks to Krista for this photo.

The transition going on out on the tundra is really noticeable right now, the colours are different and the air has a different feel to it. Well back to some data analysis and R...another part of wrapping up a field season, getting ready to actually use the data you have spent months collecting!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My time in Churchill

One month in Churchill. What can I say? It was a wonderful experience and I’m very thankful that I had this opportunity. I was able to do almost everything I wanted, which is surprising since we seemed to work all the time. I can’t believe I was actually there for a whole month. The time passed very quickly. I don’t know if that’s because we were so busy or that time seems to keep going faster as I get older. Getting up at 7am was difficult for me, and Amanda had to wake me up a few times. After we packed up all the equipment we’d go out sampling for the morning, come back for lunch and then go sampling again in the afternoon. Sometimes we packed lunch which wasn’t so bad once people started bringing some good stuff to share. Our work area quickly became very cluttered as my experiments got under way and Amanda continued hers.

I came down with a cold halfway through my stay which wasn’t much fun. It was during that time that I really missed being at home. Another thing I found different was being cut off from my friends. You can’t just pick up the phone and call someone. The only person I was able to talk to was my mother and even then you can’t say everything you want to because there are always people standing around you. I also really missed having my dog around, and it was really nice when Silver would come around or we got to play with Leah’s dogs. She’s a pretty cool girl, and I’m glad I got a chance to get to know her. She sent me off with half a homemade loaf of bread and butter, and two sandwiches for my train ride back to Winnipeg. It’s basically the best bread ever so I was very happy to get it.

My last day in Churchill was definitely one of my best. The wind had picked up the day before and the Bay was looking pretty angry. Unfortunately we weren’t able to sample due to the wind, but we had a fun morning exploring Miss Piggy and watching the waves crash on the beach. After Leah and I dropped Amanda off in town we went out to the front of bluff D to check out the waves there. It was pretty crazy. We were getting splashed way up on the rocks and covered in a salty mist. There were even bubbles flying off the rocks. Then we went for toasted bread and butter at Leah’s house, followed by some excellent tea. It’s always neat to run into people who love something as much as you do...mmm tea. Leah showed me a cool website where I can order loose leaf tea. In the afternoon we took down my last LC50 experiment, using the car to block the wind, and then I finished packing up my stuff and got ready to leave. Unfortunately I forgot my water bottle at the centre so I’m going to have to use some crummy one for the next couple of weeks. Amanda’s parents took us for a very nice dinner in town before my train departed. I had Arctic Char for the first time, which was very good. It was nice to have a full meal before my train left.

My train is pretty busy, I’m currently on it, although I did manage to get two seats to myself. Some woman decided she’d start having a conversation at 6am this morning. Thankfully she got off about an hour later and I was able to get back to sleep. I really miss being in Churchill already. It’s so beautiful there. I’m glad I was able to just chill on the shores of Hudson Bay before I left. Every time I’m on my way back from camping, I just like to sit on the dock, look out over the water, and breathe in the fresh air. The air was so nice in Churchill. One thing I missed was the smell of the forest. I went into the fen with Krista a couple times on her ATV. You drive through a bit of forest on the way there, and it smelled so nice. Other than that Churchill has everything, amazing wildlife, the Bay, and the Northern Lights, which I was thankfully able to see during my last week. It was a beautiful display, like colourful curtains of fog swirling overhead of me. One other cool thing I got to do while I was here was go canoeing with the Beluga’s at sunset. They were swimming all around our boat calling to one another. Even though I froze for a couple hours it was a wonderful experience.

I’d much rather be out sampling right now than stuck on this train, which is currently stopped again. I think the following picture truly sums up our field team and this summer...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wind much?

It is always cool to see something you haven't seen before. But it is especially cool when this thing happens to correspond with your science. In a paper by Weider et al. (2009), "Long-term changes in metapopulation structure: a quarter-century retrospective study on low-Arctic rock pool Daphnia", increasing salinity on the Churchill rock bluffs is discussed. In relation to that I had heard, many times, about a storm in 2006 that inundated the bluff pools with saline seawater at high tide.

Well we didn't have a storm quite like that but with wind from the north gusting up to 80 km/h, we came a little bit closer.

Below is a picture of the sea spray on bluff D from one of the windiest and most turbulent days on the bay from last year:

Pretty impressive right? You can probably just picture the zooplankton dispersing and the saltiness of the pools increasing!

Ok, but now check out the surf from Aug.5, 2010 (thanks to Leah for these pictures!):

Just another WOW moment in science!

In other news, we finally took that rusty barrell out of one of the ponds on bluff D!