Sunday, August 7, 2011

thE EPIC TundRa PoEm COLLecTIon

Thanks to the best bunch of Earthwatch teens. Your help was immeasurable and your search for knowledge on the tundra amazing. Thanks for all. Here is a small sampling of the epic tundra poem collection.

When you hike out on the green
Everything has an irresistible sheen
Your eyes can’t pull away
growing ever upwards,
not to be stopped;

with a break in the clouds,
a rest is allowed
in the emerald expanse:
lie back, let your lids slowly shut…
drift away on the wind.

Doesn’t exist here. Period.
if You were to look
defiance is all that can

And the best of all -> the TUNDRA RAP

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Amanda.
Today we saw a polar bear, not a panda.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Matt.
I strut the tundra in my red hat.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Cecilia.
I burst my eardrum on the “aerolinía”.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Carolyn.
I be slappin’ dem mosquitoes, whilst holdin’ tha water bin.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Paige.
I protect my kids with my 12 Gauge.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Marianne.
I get down in the mud with my beetle pan.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Kat.
I like nature, take a look at my tat.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Fishbee,
I carry a gun so you best not diss me.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Dr. Cash.
Look at my face, I don’t got a ‘stache.

Yo Yo Yo, my name is Dora.

Final field day

Hello again,
The last time I wrote a blog for you all was on the first field day of this Earthwatch expedition, now it is the last day, and we are all a little reluctant to leave. In my last blog I wrote about us going to the coast to investigate some ponds but we had to leave and go to a different location because a polar bear was spotted. We went to that same location today and found no polar bears, so we investigated the three last ponds of our trip. I spent these last data collecting hours on the dip net team with Marianne. With our nets and plastic bags in hand, we looked through soot and sediment for insects, fish, and frogs/tadpoles. We found wood frogs, wood frog metamorphs, wood frog tadpoles, nine-spine fish, beetles, and beetle larvae. Leaving the last pond was a bit difficult, but we managed to make our way back to the mystery machine and take a couple pictures beside the pond. The time being only about 11:00 AM, we drove around the tundra to see some more wildlife. Sadly, there were no polar bears hanging out beside the bay; however, we saw a bald eagle perched on a rock looking out at the water.
We arrived back at the study center, de-wadered, and went to our rooms. After lunch, I did a little last minute gift shopping with Carolyn and Cecilia. Once that was done, we went to the lab and now are currently entering data and filtering water. The rest of the day will include cleaning of the van, our rooms, and sadly, our belongings. We will surely miss the serenity and beauty of Churchill, the tundra naps, the cafeteria food, the wandering polar bears and other wildlife, and lastly the people. We have compiled some poems and raps for anyone willing to read them that will be posted with the blogs—enjoy!

So long and farewell, Dora

P.S.: The power just went out, maybe from all the rain today, and the generator is running... exciting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Twin Lakes chronicles

Hi guys, I’m Cecilia, from China! Just so you know, obviously I’m not a native speaker of English, please forgive me if you see any grammatical mistakes or spelling errors for the rest of blog, thanks! =D

/Briefing & Preparing for lunch/
Today is a nice cloudy day, moderate wind with bright sunshine. We had our briefing after breakfast and was noticed that we had to prepare some packaged lunch. (I was completely unprepared for this news at that time, so did everybody else.) Anyway, we walked to the canteen and found out we got some vegetables for sandwich today! Sweet~ Everyone was pretty excited about the long hiking (maybe...), and our journey soon started...

We only did 4 wetlands today, which are way less than the usual (most of time we do 6), probably those wetlands were far way and we spent too much time on driving... We caught some diving beetles, fishes, and larvae, saw some wood frogs as usual. But the interesting thing was, all the wetlands we investigated were pretty deep, Marianne’s and my pants (we were doing Dip netting) got wet completely, which is so sad.
By the way, after all these day’s investigating, I suddenly realize that the old saying in China, which is “If the water is too clean, then there’ll be no fish.” is so true! Almost all the wetlands which had clear water can hardly find any fish.
Leeann mentioned about how a open area among trees formed, and she dug through the soil so everyone had a chance to touch the cold water beneath the surface of the earth...(really cold!)

We had lunch near a big “pond” (or lake?), the wind was strong (keep the bugs away but it was a little bit chilly) and the sandwich was great. The scene of pond and trees and clouds is awesome!

/All about berries/
There was a bunch of berries around our wetlands, and they were pretty tasty. We got crowberries, cloudberries, soapberries (not that good), strawberries and dewberries. Actually we picked up a lots of strawberries and planed to make some jam someday...which is really nice.

Pretty much that’s it for today. Well, we’ve got only one and a half day left, although the tundra is really buggy and kind of irritating, but I love it, and I guess every does to. It’s just so nice to work here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hello everybody from the Arctic Ocean

Hello Everybody! Another day in the wetlands! The weather was beautiful and mostly bug & rain free, so we were able to do our usual 6 ponds today. We stood in the Arctic Ocean briefly after we finished the first wetland. After the third wetland, we spotted a polar bear in the distance on the way back to CNSC. He was really far away, but we managed to get some pretty decent pics for proof.

Another highlight of the day was a trip to town for ice cream. We had just finished our last wet land so we had to walk in the ice cream shop with all our mudding gear on. We didn’t explain ourselves though; we just left the young lady working there kind of confused. I got blueberry ice cream; it was the best! Today we also had a major and devastating causality out in one of the ponds. It was supposedly a freak incident that led to a tragic and fatal ending. At least that’s what Carolyn claims, but no one knows for sure. For all I know, I could be staying here with some mass murderer. Rocky was his name and swimming was his game. He lived a short and ironic life. R.I.P little tadpole.... Carolyn says she’s sorry!

Later in the evening we had a very interesting lecture about the Semi-Palmated Plover bird from a researcher here at NCSC named Anne Corckery. She tracts/studies these birds to figure out if climate change is affecting the peak insect bio mass in the tundra, which is the major food source for this bird, and if the affects in the peak insect bio mass are affecting the growth/life of the Semi Palmate Plover. Complicted? – yes. From her short talk about her research, we could tell that her job is hard work and requires endless amounts of dedication and creativity.

We also have another lecture tonight after our lab work. Leeann will be giving us a talk about Climate Change and it’s affects in the arctic tundra. I’m really looking forward to this, and believe many others are too. I simply want to know the truth. When you live down in Texas, and are looking for the latest news about global warming, all your information comes through the media, which can’t be trusted and is usually complete bogus. But since I’m up here in Canada, surrounded by the arctic tundra, in polar bear country, if anyone has accurate information about climate change it’s these people. Stay tuned to hear how it goes!


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Great Tundra Adventure

Although everyday here at CNSC is an adventure, what with our constant tromping through the wetlands of Churchill, today was especially notable. Instead of going out in the morning to several wetlands and then coming back for lunch, we instead opted to spend much of the day on our feet. After driving in the self-proclaimed “Mystery Machine” through bunches of conifer and open expanses of turf on a pretty bumpy road, as well as a small but still unexpected creek, we reached the end of the road and the beginning of our hiking trail.

We followed the stony/springy path for a period of time—why would you want to keep track of time if everything around you has its own tempo—and continued to venture deep into the tundra (just kidding, we only traveled about three miles during our little escapade). When we had reached a ridge, the whole group stopped for a well-deserved snack and then proceeded to work on the wetland that was waiting for us at the bottom of the hill. Somewhat more soggy, with a mild scent of methane and sulphur emanating from our waders, we again went up to our little spot on the ridge and ate lunch out of crackly brown paper bags that we had stuffed into our backpacks. PB & J, PB & B (peanut butter with bananas—don’t make a disgusted face, it’s really good actually :))), PB & J & B, as well as PB & B & C & BN & CN (yes, that sandwich was a bit more questionable in its composition of bacon, cinnamon, bananas, peanut butter, and cornflakes, but as the saying goes, each to its own) were all sandwiches that we hungrily consumed with relish. To top off all these wonderful bready incarnations, cookies, apples, and bananas were polished off. You may be thinking that we then energetically got up and practically skipped across to the next wetlands to be measured and probed—that would be correct, but that actually only happened after we had the best post-lunch nap ever!

Napping on the tundra is an experience unlike any other. Lying on the springy moss and savouring the delicious blue of the sky above you is quite nice if you want it laid out simply. Preferably, this experience should be supplemented with a nice breeze, and warm sun, without the annoyances of not-so-nice black flies and malicious mosquitoes (it kind of ruins that surreal wonder that you feel). We were able to obtain all these ingredients that equal a pleasurable time as Ben had ordered this superb day in advance (he wasn’t however, able to order a north wind being that that would have cost premium ;)).

It’s nice to walk around once in a while without the obstructions of man-made structures and truly appreciate nature’s handiwork. However, as I don’t have anything against the wonderful food in CNSC’s cafeteria, it’s time for me to grab some dinner.


A few whale pics!

Thanks to Amanda for a couple great shots of the beluga whales from our day off on Saturday.

A superb Sunday on the Hudson Bay coast

Hey everyone, Carolyn here!

Today’s (Sunday) weather was rainy and windy…PERFECT weather for visiting the wetlands, due to the fact that the mosquitos finally left us alone! In the morning, we visited three wetlands in the bushes, down Twin Lakes Road. Two of the wetlands were quite muddy, which left us with many wipe-outs (shout out to Amanda) and instances of getting stuck in quicksand-like ways. Even so, we were able to find many of the creatures we were looking for, such as tadpoles, odonates, and plenty of diving beetles! The third wetland of the morning was engulfed with sedge, and honestly not much water to work with! We still managed to find many diving beetles though!

After a much needed lunch, deliciously made back at the Research Center, we headed back into the Van and we were off for the afternoon! We visited three new wetlands this afternoon, all three being right on the coast which not only made for beautiful scenery, but an amazing breeze while we worked. We found that the temperature in these wetlands was colder than others we had visited, mainly due to the fact that these wetlands were formed from the ice that had just melted. We found many critters this afternoon, ranging from wood frogs and tadpoles, to more beetles and dragonfly larvae. After a productive afternoon, we headed back to the research center to input our data in the lab.

After emptying the puddles out of our boots, we headed to the lab to sort through various critters stored in ethanol, filter water samples from the wetlands, and input the data from our probe and GPS.

Following dinner, we had a very informative and jaw-dropingly cool discussion on Aurora’s. This amazing phenomenon can be seen 200 days throughout the year in Churchill. Unfortunately, we are not here at a time when many can be seen, but the radar online says it still may be a possibility one night this week, so our fingers are crossed!!

Suddenly, someone informed all of us that there was a Caribou sighting in the Tundra not too far away from us. We all hopped in the van, driven by Ben, and after about 2 minutes of anticipation, we emerged from the van and saw a Caribou with HUGE antlers! It was an awesome experience to see a wild animal that we had eaten a few days earlier!

Following the excitement of the Caribou and many other beautiful photos, we decided to watch one of Matt’s favourites… The Dark Knight. Having never seen it, let me just say, what a thrill! It was such an awesome movie, that I could barely stay in my seat the whole time! And let me just remind you, that it was a very long time, try about three hours… Before we knew it, it was midnight, so here I am; tired, but excited for the week ahead!

We miss all of you back home, but can assure you that we are all having a blast, learning a lot, and eating VERY well.
See you soon!

P.S. ODE TO CHURCHILL (shout-out to Paige)
Roses are red, Violets are not,
Today was pretty cold, and blue, our shoes are not.

A day away in Town

... more whale photos to come...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dear everybody!

Today was our big day off! After getting up relatively early at 6:30 and a quick breakfast, we piled into the “Mystery Machine”, with Paige as our guide, and headed off towards Churchill. The first stop was the Zodiac tours. We donned our oh-so-attractive bright-orange life jackets and boarded the Zodiac, a rubber boat with a propeller. We first started off towards the Prince of Wales Fort, but caught our first glimpse of the beluga whales on our way there. We disembarked on the shore and took a walk up towards the looming stone fort up the hill. The tour guide was quite knowledgeable, and gave us fascinating insight into the history of the fort as we walked. Inside the fort itself, we were given a few other brief history lessons, and then were released to take photos of the impressive fort and the magnificent surrounding landscape. Unfortunately, our view was slightly marred by hordes of the notorious arctic blood-sucking fiends of the sky (aka Mosquitoes) but we fended them off and the sights were quite beautiful in the early morning sun.

After leaving the fort, we again got into the Zodiac to continue our whale watching tour. The whales were everywhere, and we had no trouble getting right into the middle of a pod and getting a good look at these awesome animals. Everyone was so excited every time we saw the back of a whale emerge from the water. The Zodiac pilot and tour guide even dropped in a hydrophone, to let us eavesdrop in on the whales’ incessant chatter. When we had finished mingling with the belugas, our guide took us around the coast to look for a polar bear. We scanned the rocky shoreline, and, sure enough, we soon spotted a moving white dot; we got our first up-close look at the infamous polar bear. We left the Zodiac excited, surprised, and awed at the wildlife we’d had the fortune to see.

Back on land, we then took a trip to the local Eskimo Museum. Paige works there during bear season, so she gave us a grand tour, telling us of the history and culture of the museum, as well as pointing out the important and interesting artefacts. After looking around the museum to see the unique relics, we left the museum to get a bite of lunch. This took us to the Lazy Bear Cafe, where the waiter was very friendly and the food was delicious! Finally, after chowing down on the tasty fare, we went on a shopping spree. We traveled around the quaint town of Churchill, searching for nice clothes and trinkets to take back home as souvenirs.

Our last stop in Churchill was the Parks Canada train station, where a young man led us on a tour of the exhibits and told us a little about the town. We also started watching a little beluga whale video, but after seeing the real deal, the film just could not compare. We left the town in high spirits, if slightly drowsy, and returned to the research center just in time for dinner, after which we all went to our room for some rest and relaxation. Our day ended with a great talk on evolution by Professor Cash. He enlightened us not only to the mechanism of evolution and natural selection, but also to the history of how the theories came to be. All in all, an eventful day and a well-spent day off. However, we are looking forward to returning to the field- and SCIENCE!- tomorrow.

Sincerely, Matt and the Earthwatch team.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Field ready to go

Dear Society,

Amanda here! Today was a day full of mud and bugs. We visited two wetlands in the morning and three in the afternoon. It’s exactly 5:00pm at the moment and I’m a little past exhausted. Most of the wetlands today were spaced pretty far apart so we got a pretty awesome workout walking through mud and goop in between each one. We collected things like tadpoles, dragon fly larva, and diving beetles. We saw Boreal Chorus frogs, Wood frogs, a Golden eagle, damselflies, stickleback fish, and a few fairy shrimp. It was a beautiful day, but warmer than yesterday, therefore more mosquitoes and bull dog flies. Even though we saw/gathered many little creatures, it was quite an effort to find them. Sometimes we’d spend a whole 30 minutes at one wetland searching for significant bugs, but only walk away with one lonely diving beetle, which was kind of depressing. Dinner is at 5:30 every day, which for most people that’s pretty early, but right now I would consider myself on the edge of starving. Did I mention the food here is amazing? Because it is. They have a very vegetarian friendly menu, which is always nice. When we get back from our “afternoon wetland trips” each team records/organizes their own data they collected. This consists of things like labelling and dividing up all the creatures we kept into vials filled with ethanol, filtering water samples and organizing them into capsules, and recording measurements of wetlands and their characteristics onto a spreadsheet. I didn’t realize how much technical equipment I’d get to use/learn about on a daily basis. At first it’s super confusing and really scary, but by the end of the day I actually understand what I’m doing and can do some of the tasks all by myself. It’s quite a self-improvement that I’m very proud. Later this evening we have a lecture on polar bears, which I am very excited about. Well, dinner is being served so gotta go!


Friday, July 29, 2011

The first day of training

Today’s Wednesday, July 27, 2011—although this may have seemed to be deceptively normal day, it was decidedly not; this day contained the joyous occasion of six teens on an Earthwatch expedition trying out their stylish (that dark brown is very attractive) and “hot” hip waders. Luckily, with the help of all the beneficent adults watching over us (Ben, LeeAnn, Paige, and Kat), we were able to find our respective boot sizes and waders, as well as those wonderful bug jackets that prevented us from becoming bug bait. Afterwards, yes, this was all in the morning, we proceeded to try out our newly fitted gear. There some near full-body immersions, but luckily, the composite experiences were avoided. The feeling of striding around in the wetlands was strange and slightly disorienting because what sometimes looked shallow was actually much deeper; the same sort of principle seemed to govern the solid-looking areas of the wetland—sometimes they were steady, but other areas seemed to pull you right in. However, one could argue that all of this was irrelevant in the glorious face of the science we were being exposed to (not really). Seriously though, it was fascinating to be able to see the amount of life that existed in the areas that Ben showed us how to sample with a dip-net. This sort of vitality was persistent in many of the things we saw along the way, including the dense and springy vegetation, the variety of birds, the bugs, everything…It changes one’s perspective a bit to see how all this life is able to exist in such variable conditions. Constantly changing, the environment allows little leeway to the organisms that do not adapt with it. Compared to all that, biting bugs, and slipping just a bit in the water does not amount to much on our part. ;)

Blog post by Marianne Dang

First Day in the Field!

After our normal morning briefing about the current day’s weather and objectives, we all collected our outdoor gear, put on our waders, and headed out to the coast. Today was a sort of special day because we had a small filming crew from the Winnipeg Zoo come and film us for a video in their polar bear exhibit. Before the team stepped out of the van, Ben Cash and Kat checked out the horizon for any polar bears to be safe. Once the coast was clear, we all began walking towards the chosen wetland to examine its water quality, specimens, and physical data. Right before we started working on the wetland, Ben said he spotted a polar bear out in the water, so the team and the film crew walked back to their cars, and we ventured to another wetland. Once the new location was checked clear of polar bears, we began running data collections of three different ponds, one at a time. Cecilia and I were in the physical data group, so what we had to do for each pond was measure the circumference, fifteen points of depth, and the exact location of the ponds. The dip net group and the water quality group also finished, and we drove back to the CNSC to have lunch.

Having gained some more energy from the delicious lunch, we went back out into the fields hoping to collect data from the very first pond we went to in the morning where the polar bear was spotted. On the way there, we saw another polar bear, or maybe the same one, far in the distance lying on some rocks in the water. We stopped and tried to identify that it was in fact a polar bear and photographed a couple blurry but exciting photos of the bear. We turned the car around and went to a different location not very far and examined three more ponds. Many frogs, fish, and tadpoles were found in the morning ponds and also in these later ponds. I held one large one for a few seconds when Ben threw it on my data notebook, and it was very cold and wet, but still cute. We left that area and tried to find the polar bear again because it was seen by another group closer to the coast; however, he or she seemed to be hiding behind some huge rocks, and we had no luck in seeing the bear. Back at the study center, we are doing the lab work from our collected data, like water filtering, which is a pretty tedious process, and sorting out specimens from the wetlands. Dinner is about to begin, and we all have worked up an appetite from the rewarding and hardworking day.
See you soon, Dora