Our favourite Team Shrub blog posts from 2017

In 2017, we wrote 54 blog posts (including this one!). We’ve shared tales of fieldwork adventures in the Arctic, conferences, workshops, discussion groups and more.

We hope that through our words and photos we’ve provided a glimpse into life as a scientist and what the research journey involves. Indeed, things don’t always go to plan. But sometimes expectations are surpassed, or what initially seemed bad doesn’t turn out that bad after all.

It’s been a great year for Team Shrub (stay tuned for our blog post on our highlights from the year!), and as 2017 comes to a close we would like to reflect on those 54 blog posts and share our very favourites.

The votes are in. Here are the results, in no particular order: our ten favourite blog post of 2017!

Changes on Qikiqtaruk: Perspectives from Ranger Ricky Joe

Yukon Parks ranger Ricky Joe shares his perspectives on life in the Arctic, working on the land, and the changes he has observed on Qikiqtaruk.


Qikiqtaruk perspectives by ranger Edward McLeod

Yukon Parks ranger Edward McLeod shares his perspectives on working as a park ranger and the collaboration between the rangers and researchers here on the island.

Monitoring plant phenology plots on Qikiqtaruk

The Power of Stories

Fieldwork and stories tend to go hand in hand – funny stories liven up those moments when no field plan seems to work, and evenings after a day’s work can quickly go from quiet to lively chatter. Stories are how we communicate both our daily lives and our science.

Sharing stories and a meal on Qikiqtaruk

Deep in the shrubs – birding the willows on Herschel Island-Qikiqtaruk

It was little more than a flash in the willows, just for an instant and then vanishing, but one that stopped me in my tracks. Could that have been a hummingbird?

Yukon Parks Conservation Biologist Cameron Eckert shares fantastic stories of bird sightings on Qikiqtaruk. Cameron has studied the birds, wildlife, and ecosystems of the Yukon’s North Slope and Herschel Island for the past 25 years, and he works with Yukon Parks Rangers to coordinate the island’s ecological monitoring programme.


The end of a chapter (and the drafting of many)

Perhaps it was when I was waving to someone with a rusty hammer across a dusty runway, dragging a sledge full of dead leaves. Or perhaps it was when digging sunflower seeds out of the snow at 6am, while listening out for birdcalls and watching for bears. Or maybe when burying teabags on a wet mountainside, hoping they didn’t blow away in the wind. Whenever it was, I came to the realisation that this mad adventure called a PhD is soon to be over.


Arctic Smellscapes

We have often asked you to imagine what it would be like to be here with us in the Arctic. Through words, photos and videos, we have tried to bring the Arctic closer to you. So close that if you just imagine, you may well see it. You could even hear it. If you ponder the many changes occurring on Qikiqtaruk Herschel Island, from changes in vegetation structure and community composition to changes in what our life is like here, and listen again, you could hear a change.

The Arctic – you can see it, you can hear it, and now, for a fuller experience, we present the Arctic smellscape of Qikiqtaruk, so you can smell it, too. 

We are crazy about the fragrant smell of Labrador tea

Who knew there is such a niche for describing how a place smells! The Team Shrub blog – an experience for all senses! It might have started off as a joke, but smellscapes are totally a thing now, and Arctic Smellscapes is one of the blog posts that most often comes up in our minds when we think about the summer of 2017!

Team Shrub at the Edinburgh Science Festival

The Edinburgh International Science Festival was the perfect occasion to bring together beautiful photos with cool artifacts from our fieldwork for an event under the theme of “Arctic from Above” – Team Shrub’s first exhibition!

New adventures in birding: Part 1 – Why shrubs are better than birds.

Shrubs are always there. They’re reliable little fellows, sitting quite peacefully on their little patch of soil. You can go up to a shrub, pat it on the head, give it a little hug… whatever floats your boat. Shrubs don’t care. You can come back the next day, the next day, the day after that, hey we come back year on year! Our favourite shrubs are still sticking around, stoically soaking up the sun and the storms and the deep snows of winter. Choose a shrub – they’re always there for you.


Arctic Soundscapes

If you close your eyes and imagine you are with us, the soundscape of Qikiqtaruk is as magical as the landscape! All the sounds here are so much more distinct because usually it is so quiet – even a gentle wing flap by the nearby pair of tundra swans resonates through the air. We have all enjoyed taking quiet walks after a day of fieldwork – a time to look, listen and take it all in.

Sea ice and fog along the Arctic coast with the British Mountains in the background.

Our final days on Qikiqtaruk for 2017

On the morning of our last day, everything came together.  Beautiful belugas accompanied us on our beach walk towards the data loggers on Collinson Head.  We had all the tools we required (well almost), we even managed to improvise a radiation shield out of wooden skewers and medical tape to fix the broken one on that pole.  And once we removed all the screws without dropping them in the pond below the logger box and plugged in the cable without getting it wet, the data were on our laptop in minutes! It is a great feeling to leave your field site knowing that you have accomplished all of your fieldwork goals.

A lovely meal in the sunshine on the last day before the rain and wind came!

Qikiqtaruk Book Club Part IV: Theory and high-level processes in the Arctic

Page after page, we have been pondering patterns and processes in community ecology under the sounds of gusting winds and heavy rain. From one storm to the next, when our field days were cut short, we could sit by the fire in the Community Building (the oldest building in the Yukon) and delve in deeper into Mark Vellend’s “The Theory of Ecological Communities”.

We thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Theory of Ecological Communities” whilst on fieldwork at our remote field site in the Canadian Arctic. There is particular charm in reading about a certain ecological process, be it high- or low-level, and then observing it in action moments later in the field.

The Theory of Ecological Communities
Isla’s copy of The Theory of Ecological Communities that looks like it has been eaten by a polar bear! But it was actually partially eaten by a dog. Clearly a book you can really chew on – some ecological theory you can bite into…

Highly commended (because there were a few ties in our top 10!):

Team Shrub’s Tips: CVs & Job Applications

And so we arrived, CV’s at the ready and slightly nervous, ready to discuss exactly what it takes to get your dream job. Here is a summary of our thoughts trying to encompass jobs from an undergraduate summer position, PhD or postdoc through to an academic job.


A fortune pastry for Team Shrub

What does the future hold for Team Shrub? Сладка баница (or sladka banitza) is a new year’s tradition in Bulgaria, it is a pastry that is both sweet and salty representing both the good and the bad in life and it contains pieces of paper cooked in with fortunes written on them! Sure, it isn’t quite the new year anymore, but it is a bit of a new beginning for Team Shrub with new students joining the lab for the summer’s field season or as dissertation students for next year.


Did our fortunes come true? Isla has certainly learned a few super efficient dplyr tricks along with some dplyr frustrations and there has been a tiny bit of deep machine learning on Team Shrub in 2017. Though perhaps we haven’t yet found our state of research zen nor has that big grant come through… We can tell you more in our Highlights of 2017 blog post! Until then, thank you for reading and engaging with our blog post, we have loved sharing our research and the journey towards it with you, and we look forward to another year of blogging!

By Gergana

One thought on “Our favourite Team Shrub blog posts from 2017

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s