Tuesday, August 18, 2009

All is done and gone... until next year

So this summer we had two very successful teen teams on this project. We'd like to thank and each one for their contributions to this research project and we'll keep you updated here on the blog about how all the data compilation and analysis proceeds!

T H A N K S !!

Friday, August 14, 2009

The last few days of sampling - August 14, 2009

Earthwatch Blog Post
The past few days...

As usual the Earthwatch team set out the past few mornings with a mission; to collect traps and hope for tadpoles and fish. We have actually caught a sufficient amount of fish and tadpoles; enough for a sample that is. We still had the three teams doing their jobs on water quality and on physical characteristics of each pond and stream. At some of the sites we traveled to bears were around and only Ben Cash was able to go out and collect/set the fish traps. During that time the Earthwatch team sat in the van, cameras at the ready, waiting for a good shot of a polar bear.
Toady, 14 August, the team visited two small streams and quickly collected the traps. There was no need for water quality and the physical characteristics were very easily documented. We got back to the study center in about an hour and began doing some house cleaning in preparation for our departure tomorrow morning. That included cleaning the van and all the gear.
Plans for the rest of today include, jumping into the Arctic Ocean, packing, and going into town one last time. As things begin to come to a close the Earthwatch team gets struck with a sudden realization that our trip is almost over. The Earthwatch team is trying to cherish our last few moments together.

Day off activites! - August 11

Day 8
Today was our day off to tour Churchill. We woke up much later than usual because we only had to hit the road at 9:15. We had to dress warmly because the weather was cold and it was raining really hard. But no matter how many layers we wore it wouldn’t be enough to save us from the bone chilling cold we were about to endure. It was probably the worst possible day, out of all the days we had been here, to go whale watching but we did so nonetheless.
We were all pretty much soaked by the time we boarded the boat. Between the ocean spray and the rain our faces were frozen within minutes of riding to Prince of Wales Fort. We toured Prince of Wales Fort which could potentially have been fun on a nicer day but with the weather as it was we weren’t in the mood for learning where the soldiers of the Hudson Bay Company slept at night. After seeking refuge by the door of the fort, we made our way down to the boat. The captain had to call the group (which was made up of primarily senior citizens) to hurry up because the choppy seas were doing a number on the docked boat. We finally started to whale watch. It was amazing to see the massive white Beluga whales in their natural habitat. Their dolphin like faces would emerge for a split second only to be followed by their tails back into the water. It was almost impossible not to see a whale because they completely surrounded the boat. We were so freezing after a while that the whales started to lose their majesty. We were all relieved to get off the boat and back into the van.
We had to go back to the study center to get dry clothes because it would have been far to unpleasant to stay in our wet clothes all day. We then drove back in to Churchill to have lunch at a cafe called Gypsy’s. We all had a good laugh here when Varun, a vegetarian, ordered a cheeseburger thinking that for some reason it would be a veggie burger. We laughed even harder when he ordered a cheese pizza and then mistakenly ate Leanne’s veggie pizza.
We then went to various shops to get souvenirs and things of that nature. We looked everywhere for bug zappers but they were sold out everywhere. We then made our way back to the center for dinner after going to see the Eskimo dogs again. Before bed, we watched Ice Age in the upstairs classroom.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12, 2009

A few photos from the field....

Day 6 - August 9, 2009

As usual the Earthwatch crew wandered into the dining room with sleepy faces looking for an early breakfast. We soon found ourselves bumping around in the old van on our way to the location for that day. We visited four ponds and a small creek out in the middle of nowhere. The landscape we were working in was beautiful. The water we visited today was surrounded by trees and ground made walking difficult because of the sponge-like ground. The creek was new to everyone, even Dr. Cash had never conducted research at this creek so we were really anxious about what we might have caught in the fourteen traps we set. Sadly we did not catch any fish in the traps we set the previous day. The lack of fish was quite the disappointment considering how valuable they are to our research. Today consisted of some long walks between ponds, and many complaints, especially from Joe. Who found it difficult to walk in water-logged waders.
After lunch we were split into teams once more and went to our appropriate places for the afternoon. Two students went back out into the field with Dr. Cash to set more traps for tomorrow. The remaining four students stayed indoors to test water, enter data, and frog log. Taking coffee breaks when needed the afternoon seemed to pass quickly. With nothing planned educationally this evening for the students, they will be spending their time behind a computer, at the puzzle, or upstairs watching a movie. All hoping tonight will grace them with the northern lights.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 3 - August 6, 2009

Day 3: Second day in the field

Today started around 7 am as every other day. We were really tired from yesterday and had decided to wake up around 6:45 and that’s what happened. Actually, we woke up at 6:50. We had a breakfast and then we put on our bug jackets & hip waders and left to collect some data and fishes. What we got the most were the bugs, of course. We were divided in three groups. I (Varun) and Drake worked on fish & tadpoles collection with Dr. Cash. Jo and Caity took physical measurements (circumference, depth, etc.) of the wetland with Scott. Lan and Rilka worked on the water quality with Leanne. They measured the pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen and conductivity of the water. Lan had some bad luck and fell down in the water. But we all had a good time and we enjoyed it.

We got back to the study center around 11:30 and some of us popped on to the facebook. We had a lunch around 12 and then I, Jo and Drake had a long nap. At 1:30 we met back at the classroom. Here we learned about the frog calling dynamics. Then I and Drake worked on the frog calling dynamics that were recorded on June 20, 2007. I scored one tape and Drake scored two tapes. Lan and Rilka worked on the water samples they had collected in the morning. Jo and Caity went out on the field with Dr. Cash to put some fish traps in the water for tomorrow. They had real fun. Here is the lab, we had some relaxing time. I really enjoyed it. What could be more fun than listing to frog calls?

Around 5:30 we had a dinner. Then I, Drake, Jo, Caity, Scott and Dr. Cash went on a small hike. It was fun, but really buggy. We had a good time. We caught one wood frog and took some pictures. We came back at 7:30 and then watched, “Catch me if you can”. Ultimately, today was awesome and we had lots of fun.

- Varun.

Day 2 - August 5, 2009

Today was the first full day we spent here at the center. It’s really comfortable in home like. All the scientists are incredibly friendly and helpful. However they all seem to revel in the disgust on our faces when they tell us how they haven’t bathed for days. This morning after a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, cereal, and just about every other breakfast food ever cooked we went to the back of the cold lab to put on our bug jackets and waders for the first time. For this first field session we didn’t do much actual scientific stuff. We mostly just tried to get accustomed to being in waders.
This didn’t look as hard as it really was. On first glance it looked like the water couldn’t be more than 1 or 2 feet deep. I was surprised when I took my first step in and found myself submerged to my knee. The floor of the pond we were in, like all the ponds in the area, was organic and made up of a loose sort of mud that virtually sucked people into it.
After field work and lunch, we had a short lecture from Dr. Cash on what we were specifically going to be doing. Our main objectives were to get samples of frogs, fish, and the wetland water. In this lecture we learned about the mysteries of how the fish and frogs stayed in these ponds that were comprised entirely of melt waters. The frogs apparently use a sort of biological antifreeze to allow their blood to super-cool rather than freeze. They do this by ramping up their glucose levels thus changing their bloods specific heat and allowing it to have a lower freezing point.
After this lecture, we went and made fish traps which were made out of two 2 liter soda bottles assembled in a way that made it so the fish could go in but could not go out. Apparently when the fish entered the trap they were completely disoriented and couldn’t figure out away to exit the trap. We first had to clean out a whole bunch of bottles that were from the recycling center. Then we had to put cut them and put them together.
We then went out and placed the traps in ponds around the wetland and then came back to the center for dinner. After dinner we attended a lecture by the Canadian Parks and Wildlife Society on Caribou which was interesting but everyone was so tired that we were more like zombies in the lecture hall rather than inquisitive students.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Arrival Day - August 4, 2009

So today was the beginning of my arctic adventure. It started at 3:30 AM when I miraculously woke up, most likely from a combination of nerves and excitement, more than ready to start my day all too early. All of my flights were relatively uneventful - in fact, i would venture to say they were all entirely and perfectly uneventful. In Chicago, i had to go through three terminals to get from my inbound gate to my outbound gate. There, I met Joe (from Pennsylvania) and Drake (from Virginia). In Winnipeg, I was very thoroughly questioned at the border but eventually got my passport stamped. There we met up with Caity (from Oregon) and Varun (from Arizona) (unfortunately, Varun’s luggage was lost along the way and the final member of our team, Lan, missed one of her connections, so she will be shipped up north tomorrow morning). We all went through security, checked in again, got something to eat, and went through security again. Flying into Churchill was an interesting experience for me. As the plane landed, all I could see was a cluster of small buildings – each no bigger than a house. It took me only a few minutes to realize that that was the Churchill Airport. There we met Ben, LeeAnn and Scott. We threw all our bags into a car and piled ourselves into a van whose windows were a mosquito graveyard (to which we added greatly by locking a number of live mosquitoes into the van as we slipped in). We proceeded to take a long drive to the center, during which we saw not one, two or three polar bears, but no less than six polar bears! Even Ben and Scott were stunned by our luck. Three were males (we saw them from fairly far away), but the other three were a mother and her two cubs. We managed to get a little too close for her comfort, sending her stalking into the tall grass to hide her babies. Arriving at the center was also an adventure: in the 15 steps it took for us to walk from the van door to the main entrance of the center, each of us had to swat away roughly 3 dozen mosquitoes each. And here is where the perk of staying in polar bear territory comes in, because the bears pose such a danger, doors never remain open, making it extremely difficult for mosquitoes to get into the building. On the downside, bear territory means there are bars on all the windows, giving the place a bit of a prison-like feel. In any case, we got settled in, took a tour of the facility and our 9 (soon-to-be 10) person team sat down and got to know each other better. Tomorrow we wake up bright and early and get trained out in the field.