Monday, October 13, 2008

Part IV, Day 7: 080727

Today I collected what I could from as wide a range of habitats as I could find here at Truelove lowlands. The group of us set out after breakfast on “reconnaissance”, a general look around at the landscape, so that everyone would have a decent idea of what was going on here. We reached the shoreline to the North and West of camp (probably more West than North, really) after walking for about 45 minutes, where we discovered the tide level was sort of middling. I don’t have a tide table for any part of Devon Island, so I’ll take what I can get in terms of intertidal access.

Once again, distances in the High Arctic are deceiving. That’s the ocean in the top of the picture, viewed from about a kilometre away. The line of white is some semi-permanent snow that seems to persist better near the ocean than it does in more inland positions. There is a cold breeze blowing in off the ocean, which all of us have been warned about regarding hypothermia – it’s July, but the fact of our geographic position close to the North Pole is of much greater importance.

I collected a few marine amphipods, and showed them to my companions. Perhaps not surprisingly, most soil scientists are relatively unfamiliar with intertidal crustaceans, so there followed some entertaining discussion about the relative ugliness of our chosen study systems. Amphipods are basically ugly creatures, apparently. A nice, rectangular pit or a long, straight transect are more elegant, according to some opinions.

An amphipod, photo credit here. Do you think it’s ugly?

A view looking almost due West from the shoreline. Those are chunks of sea-ice, composed of frozen seawater. Almost every single piece is strongly reminiscent of a polar bear when viewed through peripheral vision.

My companions continued on their tour of the landscape while I busied myself with marine collecting. Almost the only macroinvertebrates present in the intertidal here are amphipods. At a guess based only on gross morphology, I’d say there are 3 or 4 species here, all in quite high abundance. I’m not sure what they eat, or why they are so active, but they’re gratifyingly easy to collect, and they certainly count as a core taxon of interest for my project.

I moved in a wandering path inland, gradually making my way back to camp. My companions were expecting me back for lunch, so I needed to check in at least. Polar bears generally approach this area from the sea, so among all of us I am probably at greatest risk of an encounter. Fortunately, no bears were seen today.

This small crescent-shaped pond is nestled against a low, rocky bluff, about 2 metres tall. I pulled some anostracans (fairy shrimp) and notostracans (tadpole shrimp) from amongst the short reeds growing in the shallowest parts.

After lunch, I went out again for a bit to find some more critters. Today is probably the last day I’ll have to devote entirely to my own work, rather than helping my companions, so I tried to take advantage of the situation and cover lots of ground. The biodiversity here is much higher than around Resolute, but still very limited compared to more Southern locations – this is tundra, just as surrounds Churchill, but it’s as clearly different from Churchill as Churchill is from Northern Ontario.

Tomorrow I plan to collect from more ponds and streams, and I’ll help with the work my soil scientist companions will be doing.

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