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The official website of ISAMR (International Student-Led Arctic Monitoring and Research).

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Summer Arctic Trip 2017

August 17th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Today was yet another crazy day full of surprises and adventure. It started off with us leaving nester via helicopter which went smoothly. I was on the first helicopter with Sarah, Terry, and Miriam and this time it was a smaller helicopter which meant if we had four people in it you can’t take any luggage. Once back we cleaned up our storage unit at the CNSC called M-10 putting all our gear where we found it. We had taken all the hip waders that we usually keep at Nester out as well so we had to organize all of those so we could get rid of any that didn’t work anymore and get an inventory of what sizes we have and how many of each so we can buy and bring up what we need next trip. It was sad to leave Nester but we pushed through it and got everything done. We ate lunch then went into Churchill and spent two hours walking around doing touristy things like seeing their horses going into a cute trading post and seeing the Eskimo museum. After that we learned we wouldn’t be sleeping at the fort that night as there was a tornado advisory so instead we would be staying at the CNSC for another night. Before going back to the CNSC though we went to the beach and roasted hot dogs and veggie burgers over a bonfire. Overall the day was a sappy one as no one wanted to be gone from Nester. There is something beautifully untamed about being there. It makes you feel free yet small and insignificant in the best way possible. No other place I have been to can match its beauty. I can only hope I will be back there soon.

-Matthew Hudes

August 16th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Our last full day at Nester was spent collecting data at our last site and having a bonfire at the Hudson Bay. We went searching for fossils at low tide, collected more plants for our duotangs and sat around the fire making s’mores. I tried to take in as much as I could before we had to leave; the sheer emptiness as far as the eye can see, the dryas integrifolia splayed in a patchwork across the beach ridges, and the way the land seems to speak to each and every person who passes through. By the end of the week, we had all become slightly different people. The land had left its mark on all of us. We had bonded so much as a group and had made so many memories together, and all of it had happened under the beautiful arctic sky. That night, we ate dinner together outside and spent time in silence, breaking the quiet only to say something we were grateful for. After lying on the observation deck and watching the stars, we crashed into bed, eager for sleep.

-Anna Connors

August 15th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Today we continued to help John and Jim on their new project monitoring vegetation on fox dens. The majority of the group stayed with Jim and John and worked on identification of vegetation, while four students continued the trek to different dens with Chloe, a graduate student of Jim’s.

Mahey: After our groups branched off, the group I was a part of continued the work we had been doing, and conducted microanalysis on several quadrats near the fox dens. It was similar to what we had been doing before, so the work went swimmingly. It’s cool to become familiar with the plants to the extent that ID’ing them is simple. My favorite plant is the Draba Alpina because of how unique and rare it is. The hikes between each site were tough, but it was a nice feeling of accomplishment to get through them and embark on the few kilometers back. It was difficult to wade through the ridge and mud, but once we got back we went for a swim to get clean. Though I was nursing a few blisters, I was excited to see my friends get back from their expedition with Chloe.

Lexi: I had no idea what to expect for the long hike with Chloe. The day itself was a nice change from the large group hikes. The hike consisted of walking in mud that went past our thighs, spotting wild animals (bald eagles, foxes, caribou, voles), adding new plant species to our duo-tangs, and bad puns. Once at the dens, we split up into pairs and got to work. While we identified plants, Chloe changed the cameras at each den. After our work for the day was finished we decided to take a swim at a nearby lake.  We burst out into laughter as we dunked ourselves into the cold water. We also found a small island of sand in the lake and named it “Squad Island.” By the end of the day my feet were aching and I was extremely tired. I was excited to be reunited with the rest of the group and share our stories of the day at dinner. Today was definitely one of the best days out on the tundra.

  Mahey Gheis and Lexi Mantilla 

August 14th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Since we were ahead of schedule, we had the opportunity to send everyone who hasn’t been on a chopper to go into Wapusk. We split into different groups—setting up the permafrost wells with Jill, setting up fence post for the fox project with Jim and John, and taking data on another fen in the park with Julie. Everyone had a great time, and we all bonded quite well in our liTTle groups. We wrapped our day by playing mafia with all the adults during usual programing time, narrated by Chloe. It was a really great day, and we are all looking forward to tomorrow’s big hike.

- Sarah Rauf and Yifei He

August 13th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Today the breakfast was served at 7 o’clock, we started to wake up at around 6:50; we had pancakes and omelets and it was pretty good, there were also coffee and tea. After breakfast the chopper came and picked up some of the students. We started to get ready by chopping up the rebar and hauling metal stakes, some park rangers came and helped us through the day; we left nester one at about 9. We didn’t walked very far, around 800 meters, and got to our first site; we got split into two groups, our group went ahead to conduct micro on the different sites, the other group had set up for us. There were two different transects that included eight different plots, after finishing 3 plots we had lunch on a hummock and rested for a bit. Then we finished the work and came back to nester one at 4:30. We started to make dinner and the chopper group came back. We had supper all together like a family, it was spaghetti with break and salad, and watched Chloe’s presentation about arctic and red foxes after, it was really interesting. We had cake for dessert and played salad bowl, it was a really intense and funny game. At around 10 the people start to get ready to sleep and some people put the data that we took today and transferred it to computer. And now I’m writing this blog for the first time and I hope you enjoy it. Goodnight

- Golnar Mahmoodi

August 12th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Today we continued our routine of getting up ten minutes before breakfast, eating at 7 am, and gathering our field gear. Before we could head out, however, the chopper came by and picked up a couple of the other students, which ended up only being one student due to the weight. Sarah was still happy to come with us (I hope).  After this, we hiked to a new fen, a couple kilometers out from Nester 1. We conducted the research with the watchful eye of the Park Rangers, who came out with us, and Chesca and I did pinning. After this, we had lunch and then grabbed our stuff to hit another site. On the way, we stopped at a lake and giddy to see a body of water we all dumped our heads in to get a quick refresher. Jim also showed us a goose’s nest and egg membranes. Once we were at the second site, the heat and fatigue had begun to settle in again, and it took a couple breaks for us to finish our transects. I was doing macro with Terry. We hiked back to nester and changed so that we could enjoy swimming in a nearby lake. Though it seemed like a lot of fun, I myself ended up freezing after our canoe was shipwrecked. Shivering back, we warmed up at home base and greeted those who were on the chopper when they arrived. We had a warm chicken dinner, and played another few rounds of the camp favorite game Mafia. After the long day we had, settling into bed was not difficult. The days are becoming more familiar, but having such a wildly different routine here than at home is exciting. I am ready to finish collecting our important data.

-       Mahey Gheis

August 11th, 2017

Park ISAMR

The day was full of positives and negatives, but in the end we were all back at camp safe and sound, thankful for yet another fulfilling day out in the tundra.

Everyone started the day off with at least 9 hours of sleep and breakfast prepared by the adults! In addition to being well-rested, waking up to the fog that embraced camp brought peaceful energy to the morning. As we got ready for another day in the field, we sat around the steps outside the kitchen to acknowledge the importance of our overall well-being especially for the next few rigorous yet exhilarating days of research.

We headed out on an approximately four kilometer hike to our first site and went straight to collecting data. Each day the group gets more efficient at setting up transects and putting together the necessary equipment. We’re also starting to see what our strengths are in our work, and becoming more confident in the research we do. Mistakes still happen, but it’s important that we keep moving forward and make efforts to overcome obstacles as such. An example from today would be that errors were made on the data collection sheets themselves, enough to make a very significant impact on the results. The group handled the issue well, and the mistakes were eventually fixed in the end. There wasn’t any shame in what happened as we immediately addressed the problem, which is key to pursuing a career in science as well as the social components that accompany it. We carried out nonetheless, and briefly returned to camp before going to our second site. Although most of us were tired, we remained focused on our research and were very enthusiastic about giving help to anyone who might need it.

On our way back from our first site, one of the most unbelievable things happened that we were all incredibly lucky to be here for. We passed by Jim and John who were also doing their research, and followed them to see at least seven foxes, six of which were pups. We approached them slowly, getting closer to their den but being extremely careful not to make loud or fast sudden movements to frighten them. Many students took pictures, and completely enjoyed seeing the wildlife whose home we were visiting. I must emphasize that we are the lucky few privileged enough to see something so unreal. Being so close to the foxes to a point where you can clearly see its facial features and hear little movements is a memory we will truly never forget.

For dinner, we had homemade and personalized pizzas, all of which were prepared by Jill, Julie, and Myriam. We ate together as a family in the kitchen, had lots of conversation and even played a game around the table. Once we finished, we sat down for a presentation from Myriam, another teacher from Winnipeg, who talked about her recent travels in the arctic as part of a voyage put together for Canada’s 150th anniversary. We finished up just in time to do dishes, settle out the plan for tomorrow, and still have enough time to wind down under some northern lights.

Chesca Espiritu

August 10th, 2017

Park ISAMR

Today was one of the craziest days of our summer ISAMR trip up to date. After our lightning speed last-minute packing for Nester 1, most of us got about five hours of sleep before the voyage to Wapusk National Park. However, we pulled through and managed to pack everything we needed into our bags for the next morning. Starting off the day, we met with our pilot for the day, Jaime, who gave us a safety run-down of the helicopter just to make sure nobody got any decapitations on his watch. Truthfully, every single person was completely amazed by the helicopter trip, which was filled with wondrous sights on the marshes, grasslands, and sometimes the wildlife of the Wapusk National Park.

Upon arrival, a host of students gathered together all of our field gear, which was both big, small, light, and heavy. However, our next task of setting up all the tents was prolonged a fair bit because of the lack of tent flys, and most of the ones we did find didn’t match up at all. The final landing of the helicopter was made at around 10:30 am, but the four tents we put up were finished at two in the afternoon, which was followed by lunch in the incredibly expansive kitchen.

Interesting experiences awaited us after lunch, as we now had to hike tirelessly to our sites without the CNSC vans that were at our disposal during the last few days. The transect that we worked on that afternoon was the only one that day, but it was fair to say that everyone immediately recognized the astonishing differences between the land of Wapusk National Park and the surrounding areas of the CSNC.

Later on that night, Jim Roth, the dynamic professor of mammology, enlightened us with the details of his research in the glorious Wapusk National Park. This wonderful day was concluded with a sunset worth remembering on the observation deck of Nestor One.

 

Signing off,

Aidan Pinsk

August 9th, 2017

Park ISAMR

 

Today was another exciting day out in the tundra as we continued collecting data; we went to two different fen sites. The walk to the first site was a 1.2-kilometer walk and was good preparation for the upcoming days at Nester One. This was our second full day of collecting data, and everyone, including myself, feels more confident in their data collection skills and plant ID. Even though this is only our second day in the field, it feels like we've been at it for weeks.

 

After the first two sights, the group split up. Some of us continued collecting data at the second sight while others went back to the CNSC to rest and create the Nester One music playlist, etc. During this time at the fen, one of the students created "a new method of probing." This particular fen sight is known to have a deep active layer with many roots and rocks in it, making it difficult to probe. The active layer was so thick that it reached over 200cm at some of the flags. 

 

After everyone got back from the field our day was far from over. Today is our last day at the CNSC and tomorrow morning we will make our helicopter trip to Nester One. We split up into groups to make sure all of our food and field gear is packed away and ready to travel. We were able to break in the mists of all the packing to take a trip to watch the sunset as a group which was absolutely breath taking. We ended the day by watching Northern Lights; it was the perfect way to end the busy day. 

-Lexi Mantilla and Sam Colenback

August 8th, 2017

Park ISAMR

 

Hey Guys! It’s us again and we are back with even more tidbits about
our day! Today we did a plethora of things on the field but they were
all for the same cause, to research and learn about the permafrost by
doing a series of tests on a transect.
We went to a few different sites, one was a fen, and two were bogs. A
fen is a wet area whereas the bog is a lot drier. The bog site that we
visited consisted of two parts, one being a regular, healthy bog and
the other was burned from a fire that occurred in the year of 1999.
Due to the fire, it is very easy to identify the different bogs
because of the difference in appearance from the burns caused by the
fire and the diversity of plant species. There were even several
spaces in the bog where we were able to reach our hands down into the
water and touch the permafrost, to no ones surprise our hands were
frozen.
        When we got back from the field, our day was far from being finished.
We had several things left on our agenda. While at the CNSC, we were
given an inspiring presentation by a Sayisi Dene Elder Caroline Yassie
who shared the history, ways, and struggles of her people. Yassie went
into detail by telling us how her people did what they thought was
necessary by not using no more or no less of their resources. She
explained how not a single piece of the caribou was wasted by her
people and every part had its purpose.
        After our presentation given by Caroline, we went into the town of
Churchill where we watched the sunset as a group and spotted a few
whales. While taking in the surreal sunset, we shared with each other
what we were grateful for and reflected what we did. It was a perfect
end to a magical day.

- Sam Colenback and Tomas Quintero

August 7th, 2017

Park ISAMR

“I know we’ve only been on this trip for a few hours but I feel like it’s been ten days.” An ISAMR researcher quipped, yet her words could be felt with several other students who were slumped in their chairs, reflected wondrously at their journey which spanned over a thousand kilometers in a matter of hours.

A true testament of ISAMR will and character could be seen numerous times throughout the first day. Due to the unfortunate setback with transportation, researchers and scientist had to fight for their right to continue their journey into the subarctic. Even when the day finally came, ISAMR students, parents, and teachers came together in comradery despite having been a group of strangers’ hours before. The bonds made were only strengthened by the addition of our Churchill group.

When the dust had been settled and introductions were made, we soon fell into regular ISAMR fashion and began our roles as researchers, refamiliarizing ourselves with arctostraphylos rubras and rhododendron lapponicums, among other things. The ISAMR spirit endured as we pinned and probed our first fen (site) as the rain pitted down on us and mosquitos took turns trying to pierce our bug hats.

The day quickly escaped us and soon we became entranced by the sun kissed bay, concluding our first night in Churchill with a late-night drive. As future photographers and budding scientists admired what the Hudson Bay had to offer, we were greeted with a surprise hello from a mother and her cubs, who had also stopped by to appreciate the view.

Our first day in Churchill had concluded with a picturesque like fashion.

-        Sarah Rauf