Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We're not in Kansas ( I mean Philly) anymore!

Posted by Caitlyn

After a long journey, we finally made it to Canada. The trip up was filled with extended flights, a long time in Minneapolis, and a large amount of Chick-fil-A. Movies were watched, work was completed, and a significant amount of naps were taken.  Canada was not as I remembered it in all my past memories. It had been on the chilly side during the summer, but right off the plane I could feel that this was going to be a colder experience. Our first  day was spent preparing for our wonderful Peatland adventures. We had a few hiccups on the way including holding back an old lady's car so it didn't roll into a very large truck.
Yev enjoying Athabasca
On our first field day, we brought Kristen out to experience her first outing in a bog. The Wagon Wheels were as glorious as I remembered. The weather may have been colder....A LOT COLDER.....many layers of clothing with hand warmers colder. Luckily for us, the sites warmed up after walking up a few arms. Yev and I had great fun taking down snow tubes. There were a few mess ups as the tube fell on my head at least one.  We had a cold but successful adventure.
Crow Lake

The following day, we traveled to the far off Red Earth Creek site. We had a possible caribou sighting down the path. The site was enjoyable. However, we did find an unsettling surprise in one of the snow tubes. A snow tube took another a casualty- a squirrel.

Red Earth Creek

The next day, we traveled to the infamous Crow Lake. Despite the few injuries and stuck boots, we were able to complete all of our work efficiently and still enjoy the bog. But, Crow Lake is still the worst.

We enjoyed a few days in Fort Mac. It was a great trip complete with great food, great company ( our new friend Danielle), and the always great Tim Hortons for breakfast. We were able to see all the WBEA sites. It may have been the coldest days of the trip, but it was also the best. Yev kept us laughing the entire trip. There were some hiccups here and there, cold hands, stubborn weather stations, crank wires,  and Yev's room locking her out, but we had fun nonetheless. Also, we saw wood buffalo!!!
Kim and Melanie reading crank wires

That's all folks.
Until next time.  

What We Learned - October 2017

Posted by Caitlyn

What We Learned This Trip

1. Canada is very cold, very very cold, but at least there is no bugs.
                    "Snow is cold" -Yev
2. The ghost in the Athabasca house is 100% there.
3. Crow Lake is the worst even without the bugs.
4. Canada is 100% better without its bloodsucking inhabits
5.  During a Canadian October, always wear pants when you leave your hotel room with layers on. Or you will freeze especially when you get locked out.
6. Apple pie fritter at Tim Hortons is AMAZING
7. The only thing worse than Canadian bloodsuckers is the McMurray Inn's wifi.
8. Dead squirrels smell real bad.
9. Canadian fall is my winter
10. There is a Tim Hortons in Athabasca
11. Kristen loves the bogs.
12. At the airport, we have the new wonderful title of bog people.
13. Snow tubes hurt. 

Friday, October 13, 2017


our deer family at the house
Posted by Kim
No bears.  No moose.  Instead, we saw two Bald Eagles, a Northern Harrier, a Rough Legged, countless un-ID-ed buteos, a handful of deer, assorted ducks, a fleet of snow geese, bevies upon bevies of Ruffed Grouse, one coyote, one coyote poop, one bear poop, one dead red squirrel, Wood Buffalo behind a fence, and conspiracies of Ravens.  It seemed a little slim on the wildlife this trip, but I suppose we shouldn’t complain  - we also didn’t have to leave a site because of wildlife, so that is good.

every step: deeper snow
We did, however, experienced our fingers go red and numb, our toes ache, and beautiful snow-covered landscapes.  For the second year in a row we have done fieldwork in the snow.  Now, I love snow; there is no denying that, but even I get a little nudgy when I have to read crank wires when there is snow.  First you have to find the crank wires – they are wires sticking up from the moss 4-8 cm and they were completely snow covered. Then you need to clear out the snow from them gently with your fingers in the 20 degree weather, put a ruler on them, and measure them at ground level.  We were lying down in the snow a lot and our hand-warmers got some good use.  It was cold, but it was also fun.  Challenges doing fieldwork are part of the gig and that’s part of what makes it so endearing.

the crew

We have a great crew this trip and everyone has been nothing but positive about pretty much everything.  And the things that get complained about are things like unnecessary use of hose clamps and such – not the cold, or the hours, or being squished in the truck.  I’m proud of us all –especially after we froze our bippies off yesterday.    We are all looking forward to heading home tomorrow, but we’ll also be a little sad to leave the snowy beautifulness here in Alberta.  Another year pulled from the calendar and we hope the next will be filled with even more field work.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Wood Buffalo

Monday, October 9, 2017

Our Endless and Proper Work

Posted by Kim

There is a deep grey to the gloam this morning and it is likely to rain today here for a bit.  Snow for tomorrow.  Snow yesterday. Snow likely today somewhere.  It has been cold.  But today is Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate it warmly even if first we venture out with toe-warmers at the ready.  Crow Lake is on the docket for today and it is full of treachery. 

We polled last night and it has won the Site-Least-Liked award.  Crow Lake burned around 2000 and so the trees that died then are akimbo, losing their vertical.  The peat has lost integrity producing pools in which many boots are lost: soakers, we call them and sometimes they come in quick succession pulling both boots off unsuspecting undergraduates.  You stop.  You pull your boot(s) out of the dark sodden hole.  You pour the water out, hope for the best, and move on.  The walk into the site from the road is also quite terrible and we’ve lost two folks up to their armpits.   We now are very aware of where that hole lives. 

In contrast, we have two beautifully green and vibrant sites near Wabasca, Alberta – a short drive from Athabasca where our base of operations remains for now.  I have grown to love them both.  The oldest of our sites, Wabasca old, is full of surprises and, as far as bogs go, is pretty diverse.  The trees are dense, which made plot layout a challenge, and this trickles down to me wandering around almost every time I’m there to make sure I’m at the right spot.  Mosses run roughshod over fallen trees and climb up living trees making the spruce throw out new roots in order to survive.  It is a silent battle out there that hardly anyone sees or understands, but we speak some of the language and we try to listen and learn. 

Field work is a comfort to me (even though I may grumble about the cold or the bugs or the snow or the rain) and I have missed it this summer.  It is good to be back in the field and among the mosses so plenty. I’m reminded of a ditty written by Mary Oliver.  This is but a bit of it:

The green mosses, being so many, are as good as brawny.

How important it is to walk along, not in haste but slowly,
looking at everything and calling out

Yes! No! The

swan, for all his pomp, his robes of grass and petals, wants
only to be allowed to live on the nameless pond. The catbrier
is without fault. The water thrushes, down among the sloppy
rocks, are going crazy with happiness. Imagination is better
than a sharp instrument. To pay attention, this is our endless
and proper work.

Happy Thanksgiving to especially our Canadian friends.