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A Summer of Field Research in Boreal Peatlands

Silvia, Mikayla, and Kieran

This past summer in Conklin, Alberta was unexpectedly fun. The main purpose of going there was to collect field data of the understory vegetation that is present the boreal forest located there. Two summer students and I had the task of collecting this field data. There was a lot of logistics and planning involved in making this field trip happened, thankfully everything went well even after a few hiccups. The summer students and I all learned that bushwhacking while carrying a ton of equipment is so not fun, that we could not stop laughing at how tough it was at times. Being part of a great team of people is what truly got us through the challenges encountered in the field. Each of us collaborated and communicated with each other really well. We had some really awesome conversations in the middle of the bush and talked about random things while doing work. This is what made this experience so fun, and I am glad that we were such a great team. In due time, I realized that the Styrofoam spheres used for co-registering TLS scans made for great flyswatters. One of those times when I was attempting to “swat” away one such annoying fly, I swung it and it bounced against the rover pole and it ricocheted back to my face. I hadn’t seen the summer students laugh so much up until that point.

Another thing I learned, is that is that although there is less canopy in the wetlands and it’s more open, it is incredibly difficult to trek through. So many times we trampled over a plot because all the moss would get compacted with our steps. Another time, I called it quits because one of the randomly selected plots was in the middle of open water, and the water got in our boots. So in the boreal wetlands, rubber boots > hiking boots.

It was also really great to see so much wildlife. Over the 24 days that we spent in Conklin, we saw over 40 black bears. Some of them were on the main highway foraging near the road, and some others were right in the study area. Later in the summer, we started seeing quite a few cubs too. This made us all uneasy because of safety off course, but I was also so very excited to see these beautiful animals. On one of the days when we walked really far to a more remote area, we stumbled upon what looked like an animal den. It was an uprooted tree with a blanket of think green moss covering the roots, with a nice cozy interior. Thankfully, there were no signs of recent lodging!

Bear den!


MSc Student

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