The start of our fieldwork adventure

Beautiful snow-capped mountains, many shrubs, bald eagles soaring (too far) over us and ground squirrels rushing back to their burrows as we walk over to our field sites – it’s fieldwork season!

We have started our exciting fieldwork adventure in the Canadian Arctic! Flying over from Edinburgh and Paris, part of our team met up at Vancouver airport to begin our journey north, where later we will be joined by Jeff and Isla. Our first stop was Whitehorse, where we picked up a new drone and everything we need to set up phenocams in the common garden… except the phenocams, which got delayed, so the rest of the field crew will bring them over later. We did manage to install one phenocam, graciously lent to us by a fellow researcher, which brings me to one of my first impressions of Kluane – there is a lovely sense of community and stunning views  all around – an inspiring place for ecologists!

It was my first time seeing the common garden – the garden was established in 2013 to test for local adaptation in growth form in tundra willows across climate and latitudinal gradients. Since 2013, the garden has seen many field assistants take care of it, and of course, there was the pump saga from last year! There were some impressive looking shrubs, which looked extra majestic with the beautiful mountains behind them. We measured plant traits (you can read more about the Tundra Trait Team here) – leaf length and stem elongation, in particular. While we were measuring away, some of the local wildlife visited us – the taller shrubs make a nice landing post for grey jays!

Afterwards, fieldwork got crafty – we set up posts for phenocams, which will take a photo every hour during the growing season, giving us a visual insight into shrub life over the summer. One phenocam is already taking photos, and the rest of the posts are ready, ribbons out of flagging tape and all, for the other phenocams once they arrive!

Our first week of fieldwork also included the first drone flight of the season, which gave us a lovely perspective of the common garden from above. We are now waiting for our flight up to Inuvik – Team Drone is moving northwards towards our final destination – Herschel Island. We have left Kluane with fond memories of beautiful landscapes, exciting wildlife encounters and last but certainly not least, memories of keen ecologists and kind and helpful research station managers!

By Gergana

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