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2019 Summer Arctic Trip

August 16, 2019


Today, we woke up on the train. Around 6:30am, we arrived in Gilham, where we had to part from our friends Cory and Cambrie. Next, we ate breakfast on the train. After breakfast, some students took naps, while others sat in the dome car, watching the scenery, playing cards, and spending time together. The time flew by, and lunchtime seemed to arrive quickly. After lunch, we debriefed as a group, then began work on a collection of various tasks. From updating our spreadsheets to rewriting our packing lists, there were lots of things to be done to help the next generation of ISAMR students. Around 4pm, we arrived in Thompson, where we sorted through all the recycling we had brought from Churchill. Our car was overflowing, but we managed to get all the items to the recycling collection center. Around 5pm, we picked up our rental vans and began the drive to Winnipeg. Car activities were varied, but they included audiobooks, music, movies, mitten making, conversation, and (for the passengers) sleep! We only made two quick stops (one for dinner and one for a stretch), and the long drive with our new friends wasn’t too bad for most of us. By the time we arrived to Greg Speiser’s home in Winnipeg, it was about 2am. After teary goodbyes to our friends from Winnipeg, the Baltimore students fell asleep, exhausted from the long travel day. We had an early flight to catch the next day.


August 15, 2019


After a good night’s sleep in our warm beds at the CNSC. We woke up around 6:00 a.m. to get ready for breakfast at 6:30. We had french toast, yogurt, and oatmeal, the perfect last meal at the CNSC. Then, we loaded our bags into our vans, and headed out for a morning hike. Although we did not get to do that hike because there was a polar bear resting in the trail we were going to take, we still ended up hiking for a bit. Also, we had a tour of the Prince of Wales Fort. The brisk air made the hike very relaxing. Afterwards, we went whale watching and saw many beluga whales in the Hudson Bay. We also heard the whales communicating under water using a microphone. Then, we got back into our vans and headed to the Parks Canada office. There, we ate lunch, and Jill gave us a presentation about the snow geese in Wapusk National Park. After the presentation, we went to collect recycling around town. We had two hours to shop around town and hangout and explore. After that we went to the Complex. We had a fire with the Churchill Junior Rangers  and had a barbecue. We had lots of snacks and burgers and hotdogs. Then, we had to say goodbye to our Churchillian friends and drive to the train station. We are now on our way to Thompson, we have two junior rangers getting off the train at Gilliam. 

Mesra and Cambrie

August 14, 2019


Today was a day filled with travel, packing, and unpacking. We woke up early to clean Nester 1 and to pack. After making everything at the camp look shiny and new, we prepared to return to the CNSC. We returned in groups of four and five via helicopter. 

Once we arrived, we each had jobs to do. Wether it was unpacking boxes or organizing photos we all had things to do. 

After the first helicopter group left, the rest of us took inventory of the tools we had left at Nester One, finished getting all of our bags ready for the helicopter, and started to welcome Dr. Ryan Brook and a group of his graduate students to Nester. There were scheduled to be five helicopters taking all of us and our gear back to the CNSC, but after the fourth group left and the helicopter came back, the pilot wanted to eat lunch. The only students left were Jacob and Mesra, with Jill staying behind as well. We then had to wait for the pilot to eat, and then afterwards take Ryan and some students for a ride. In the end, we were stuck at Nester for seven hours after the first group left, and four and a half hours after the previous group left. 

Once everyone had made it back to the CNSC, we ate lunch and worked on packing our personal items. Then we visited the places when the Sayisi Dene lived in Churchill, they are a heavily persecuted group of aboriginal people who we had read a book about before we went on this trip. 

We finished the day off with a relaxing time by a rocky shore of the Churchill River where we watched beluga whale swim by.

Jacob and Sam

August 13, 2019



This morning Corinne and I woke up at around 5:30, ate breakfast and hopped on the helicopter with Julie, Jill, Leanne and our cool pilot Alex around 7:00. We flew over to our first site which took about 45 minutes. We worked through the sites pretty fast and got to see some great views, both at the sites and between! We finally headed back to NESTER1 after refueling at a cool cabin. When we returned to NESTER1 we were greeted with warm reception and delicious pasta.


I woke up at 8:00 and had breakfast then at around 10. We trekked to our transect which we finished at 11 and headed back to NESTER1 for lunch. We hung out at NESTER1 until 9:00 when the chopper arrived than we had a bonfire and went to bed. 

August 12, 2019


Today we split up the group. Three students (Tate, Hayley, and Luis) and Julie went on a helicopter for the whole day to sample more sites that were not close enough to hike to from camp. We woke up early to have an early breakfast so we would be ready in time for the chopper. We flew down about 30 minutes to a site. It took us about an hour to sample to first site, which was a bog. We then flew to another site and after collecting that data, we ate lunch and then flew to our third site and quickly collected all the data we needed. It was a very small crew to do all that work and when we got back to Nester One, we were pretty tired. We cooked a big dinner for everyone and waited for their return. 

Meanwhile, the other 15 students set out across the marshes to do two sites, one of them being an uber, which is just a way to check each other’s work. We set out around 10:00 AM to a very close site only around 1/2 a kilometer from camp. The weather was quite cold on the way there and we were all worried about rain. We worked fast, and after we finished, it was only 1:00. We headed back to lunch, and after an hour we went off on the real adventure. 

We set off north, and got more and more confused as we slowly curved west. After an hour of hot sun, beach ridges, marshes and a very exciting water crossing, we reached the site, and realized we almost went in a circle as we were only a kilometer from camp. The transect was quick and we took a more direct (but much more wet) way back. 

We came back just in time for dinner and had great conversation, amazing food, and a beautiful sunset. 

Tate and Max

August 11, 2019


 Today we woke up fairly early to eat breakfast at 8AM. This morning we had some delicious breakfast burritos containing eggs, peppers, beans, rice, and cheese. After breakfast we stayed in because the weather wasn’t very appeasing. Today the forecast called for lots of rain and high wind. So instead we began to sew our mitts. We learned about the data and short term needs and long term goals. After we went on a walk and learnt about the experiment taking place just outside of nestor’s, people are seeing how the habitat changed with adding fertilizer and snow fences. The weather wasn’t to great but it was still a fun and educational hike. When we came back we had chili and cake with blueberry pie filling. Right now we are chatting and getting ready for bed. 

Cory and Cambrie

August 10, 2019


Fen-tastic Adventures in Wapusk National Park

This morning, we woke up later than usual (almost 8 o’clock). Then we ate breakfast, which was delicious. We had eggs, turkey bacon, and hash browns. Then, we set out on an adventure. At first, the rainy weather was dreary and the cold weather chilled our bones. At the fen, we collected our data, doing various types of plant identification, along with probing to discover the thickness of the active layer and DNA to investigate the microbiome. Another adventure began after the fen. We set off towards our first fox den of the trip. However, we were delayed by some caribou, who observed us as we observed them eating their lunch. We proceeded onwards, and finally reached our destination. Julie and Jill enlightened us to the habits of arctic and red foxes, and we observed the impact the fox den had on the surrounding environment. We collected soil samples, then headed back towards Nester One. On our way, we stopped at two archeological sites: a hunting blind and a chute tool-making spot. We learnt the significance of these sites from Jill, and hiked onwards. We reached Nester One in the late afternoon and soon enjoyed dinner: a delicious snow goose soup prepared by Jill, chicken seasoned by Julie, and scrumptious salad. After dinner, we played another round of our group bonding game Salad Bowl (a game a bit like charades) and enjoyed another evening together. We can’t wait for tomorrow!

-Arenal (Baltimore) and Leanne (Winnipeg)

August 9, 2019


This morning we woke up bright and early to prepare for the helicopter ride to Nester 1. We packed tons of food and stuffed our day packs so we were ready to load the helicopter. We went out on our 20 min ride in groups of five. Both of us were lucky enough to to sit in the front seat. On our flight we saw polar bears and caribou. 

Once we arrived to Nester we each had specific jobs like setting up the tents, going through the field gear list, or making lunch. After getting settled we sat down for craft dinner and hot dogs. After lunch we had a Nester 1 orientation where we learned all about how we should save water and keep the camp clean. We also found out our tent groups so after we got our sleeping areas all ready. 

Even though we were tired we still had time to do a site. We went on a short hike where we took data on a fen. When we were all done and ready for dinner we came back to the camp for tacos. After we finished we entered some data and then had a family game night where we played Salad Bowl. 

Mesra and Corinne 

August 8, 2019


Today we sampled our last two sites in Churchill. We left the CNSC early in the morning and drove out as far as we could before hiking the rest of the way to the two sites. They were both lichen bogs that were overflowing with large amounts of soft lichen beds. The difference between the two site we were working in was a forest fire that went through one of the bogs 20 years ago. We looked for differences in the two areas that may have been a result of the fire. While we were out there, we discovered why this area was called ‘arctic.’ It was cold and rainy, but we powered through. The weather had one upside as there were no mosquitoes to be seen today.

After these two sites, the group split into two groups. One went off on a long adventure to complete one more site, while the other went back to the CNSC to warm up. The group that continued on went on an hour long hike to get to the site, which was another lichen bog, that was full of moss. They quickly finished up the site and hiked the hour back to the van. The group back at the CNSC spent the time cutting out mitten templates to finish sewing out at Nester 1. After dinner, Dr. Ryan Brooks gave a presentation on Nester 1 (the campsite that we will be staying at out in the park) and talked about his project on caribou. Then we began preparing to leave for Nester 1.

We all packed out bags lightly to take out there to Nester 1 while placing everything else in bags to leave at the CNSC while we are out there. We re-situated the boxes of food so that they can be carried easily. 

Anna and Sam 

August 7, 2019


This morning, we all woke up to it being another rainy and overcast day. Still half asleep, we had breakfast and gathered together in the classroom shortly after to get set for our first big adventure in Churchill: our first day in the field collecting data! 

Ensuring that we had all the needed equipment including the probes, quadrats, and tape measures, we soon were off down the road to our two sites, both of which were fens. 

Once we arrived, we put on our hip waders, and began by searching the fen for many different plants. Using duotangs filled with paper, we taped numerous species of shrubs, herbs, and moss onto the pages. Finally, we were ready to start the researching journey!

After being split up into partners and then assigned one of the four data collecting jobs, we trudged through water, soil, and a countless number of plants. Out of the four jobs, macro, micro, pinning, and active layer testing, I first got to do micro which is where you have to go in depth, find each species of shrub, herb, moss, dead vegetation, water, soil, and lichen, and record an estimated percentage of each type. 

Once everyone had finished their testing, we had lunch, but quickly got back to work in the next fen. This time I had the opportunity to complete the active layer testing. Using two probes of different lengths, my partner and I had to find the thickness of the active layer by putting the probes into the ground and finding where the permafrost started. It was not an easy task as there were many rocks, and in this fen, the active layer had measured to be up to about 200cm! Two people even got stuck in the fen and we almost lost their shoes! 

Although my feet were cold, and at times I was knee deep in water, it was one of the greatest experiences and I cannot wait to see what the next week has in store for ISAMR.

Later, we visited the train station and learned about the history of the Sayisi Dene through a presentation from Florence who is a Sayisi Dene herself. Soon after dropping off recycling collection posters around Churchill, we headed back to the CNSC and went to bed, getting well needed sleep after a everlasting day to remember.


August 6, 2019


We woke up this morning on the train at six am, because Julie saw a black bear walking next to us. At seven, we went to the dining car and had a delicious breakfast. We arrived in Churchill at about 12:30, met up with Jill and the Churchill Junior Rangers, and drove to the Churchill Northern Study Center (CNSC) where we had a lunch of pizza and soup. After lunch we had a classroom meeting where we did icebreakers to acquaint ourselves with each other and to check everyone’s well being. Then we watched a polar bear safety video. By then it was time for dinner. After an hour of free time to explore the CNSC, we travelled to the Churchill visitors center. There we listened to a presentation by Antonina Kendurin about the Cree presence at York factory, and their move to Churchill and York Landing and the factory closed. After returning to the CNSC, we prepared for tomorrow by getting fitted for hip waders. We are excited to go to our first fen sites tomorrow. 

Sasha and Jacob

August 5, 2019


We arrived in Thompson today at 6:30 in the morning. The weather was quite chilly which made for a pleasant walk into town for coffee and breakfast at McDonalds while Carla and Julie stayed to watch our stuff at the train station. Once we all had a bite to eat, we went to Walmart to gather some extra supplies. We met back up at the train station after where we had some down time sleeping on surprisingly comfortable piles of rocks. After a while, they had finally opened the train station. Once the train station opened we checked our bags and went to Pizza Hut for a some lunch. Back at the train station, we did a data collection activity on the iPads to practice for Churchill and finally boarded the train. We found our seats and at the end of the day, we did some icebreakers as a group to get to know each other better. Now we are heading to bed hoping to catch up on sleep in order to have a great day tomorrow. 

Luis and Nicole 

August 4, 2019


This morning we woke bright and early at 2:30 in order to meet at Julie’s to load the cars, say goodbye to our families, and leave for the airport. After rushing through security we made our first flight. On the first plane to Minnesota most of us slept. Once we landed we had breakfast at a Twins Bar with a waitress with Minnesota nice. Then we got on our second flight to Winnipeg. We finally arrived and our host and Canadian leader, Greg, picked us up and took us to his house. 

We settled into Winnipeg and split into two groups: one to get food for the remainder of the trip, and the other to prepare the data set for adding this years data. Once we joined back together we met the Winnipeg kids, packed up all of our food, and then ate a BBQ dinner prepared by Greg and his family. Now we are getting ready to hop on a bus and travel to Thompson to catch our train for tomorrow. It’s been a long day but we are both excited for all the adventures to come.

Corinne and Calvin