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Another Fabulous Tundra Adventure!
This summer, Kelvin students once again joined researcher Jim Roth from the University of Manitoba to explore the tundra and continue the scientific monitoring of the permafrost layer, tundra vegetation and arctic foxes. Kelvin has joined forces with the Churchill Junior Canadian Rangers and the Park School of Baltimore to form ISAMR—International Student-led Arctic Monitoring and Research. Take a look at a beautiful video of the trip made by Aidan Pinsk. Also follow the daily trip blogs or browse the research findings on our website: isamr.net
The following is a description of the trip by the students, Sarah Rauf and Golnar Mahmoodi:
What makes ISAMR one of a kind is the research we conduct in Churchill and the greater Wapusk area. In Churchill, our main focus is to collect data from various bogs & fens and compare the latest data to the figures we'd collected in previous years. We use various methods of ocular estimations, such as collecting data on a micro level (calculating the percentage of specific species in a 10m2 area) for 4 transects and collecting data on a macro level (calculating the percentage of vegetation in a 10m2 area) across all 24 transects. We also utilize probes to measure the active layer (a layer of soil that covers the permafrost, that thaws in the summer and freezes in the winter) and a "pinning method" by which we mark 40 points on a transect (10 on each side) and on a site, we "pin" the flag inside the transect in front of the marked point; tallying the amount of times we "pin" a specific plant. We then compare these 2 methods of data collection to ensure accuracy and precision in our work. In Wapusk we continue these methods of data collection but in addition this year the ISAMR group took part in an arctic study conducted by University of Manitoba professors Jim Roth and John Markham, and aided Parks Canada in their permafrost studies. Professors at the University of Manitoba are interested in the vegetation that grows on a fox den, and how factors such as layers of snow and fox excrement affect what species grow on fox dens, and how much grows. In collaboration with the University of Manitoba we set up fences and transects on what we called our "controlled" sites (areas similar to fox dens) and collected data on a micro level. With Parks Canada, we were flown out to permafrost wells and spent hours upon hours pouring heated water into a permafrost well to thaw the ice and replace the broken tube (interestingly, this needed to be replaced due to a polar bear who decided to snack on it).
I remember the first days being overwhelming with a lot to take in; but as we got to Churchill and did everything together, we all felt like a family at the end and I didn't want to leave the tundra or the Nester One Research Center in Wapusk National Park. I had the same type of feeling toward the nature and all the plants around us, confused, but as we explored it more, I felt inseparable. It was just a place that made me forget about all the things I worry about; it was so pure, even now thinking about the feeling of sleeping on the ground and just listening to the light arctic breeze makes my heart flutter. One of the most important things on the trip was meeting all these amazing people; each and every one of them taught me something. They are some of the best people I have ever met. Waking up knowing what an adventure I had for the day made me so happy and I cherished every moment I spent with them. The group of students was so welcoming and while I was struggling learning, they were there supporting. As a student, I learned things that are useful not just for my studies but also for my life in general.
When asked about their experience with the trip other students said:
Throughout the trip I gained a vast knowledge of vegetation, an in-depth understanding of the history of the Sayisi Dene as well as their prominent role in Canada. I also mastered the ability to differentiate between cladina stellaris and cladina mitis--a skill I hold dear.
I learned that what makes a researcher isn’t just having tens of thousands of data points and expensive lab equipment, but a dedication to your research, and a passion for what you do.