Churchill fieldwork 6.

Bears and seals and belugas, oh my!

The days tend to blend together when one is doing fieldwork, so I won’t try to remember what happened on which day. Rather, here is an update on some of our activities over the past several days.

Tundra Buggy

One advantage of being here alongside the field course is that we get to tag along on their group activities, like riding on a Tundra Buggy. These are huge tourist vehicles built from old fire trucks that can travel along otherwise inaccessible roads built by the American military during the cold war (Russians may have come in via Hudson Bay, you see).

A day on a Tundra Buggy usually means some up close interaction with polar bears, though not so much this year (I have video from 2007 that I will post when we get home). We did see one somewhat farther away. This was easily the fattest, laziest looking polar bear I have ever seen. With the ice staying in the bay much later this year, the bears have been able to feed on seals later into the summer than is usual.

We also stopped at various spots to collect samples, including some intertidal zones. At one, we found a large number of jellyfish washed up on shore. A few were taken back to the lab.

Hudson Bay

We also joined the students on a tour/research boat on Hudson Bay.

From the boat, we saw a polar bear on a nearby shore, as well as a curious seal.

Some of the graduate students have been working on this boat in addition to the zodiacs, so the students got to see a dredge and a plankton tow in deeper water (85 feet). As you can see, dredging is rather demanding work.

Dredging gives a sample of the benthic invertebrates that reside at the bottom, but we are also sampling plankton.

While doing their plankton tows on the zodiac, the students came upon a large ice floe. As they circled around it, it split in half. The collapse itself wasn’t recorded, but you can see the aftermath and the reactions.


The students in the field course had an opportunity to go kayaking in Churchill River, where there are several pods of belugas. The whales aren’t shy, as you can see in the footage by Edward Liam below.

The one sunny day

We did finally get a sunny day, which we spent sampling various sites. One of them, Ramsay Lake, is near the station but requires driving on some interesting roads.

In the afternoon, we went to Landing Lake, so named (I think) because planes land on it. Lots of good samples there — spiders, dragonflies, mites, caddisflies, and huge horseflies that are now flying. The latter of these take a piece out of their victims, but at least one can easily hear them coming (not unlike the sound of an airplane coming in for a landing, as it happens).

This morning the fog is too thick for the sampling to be very productive, so we’re spending it in the station. We are hoping to get out on the kayaks, but the weather may not cooperate. We would like a few nicer days to collect at some target sites as well before we head back.


Click here for the Churchill fieldwork posts.

One thought on “Churchill fieldwork 6.

  1. Great videos!

    My labmates and I also did plank tows and dredged for inverts on the lakes on Vancouver island. Makes me miss being in the field!

    *goes back to thermocycler* :/

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