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Tag Archives: fieldwork

WADING FOR WATER LILIES: How a landlubber botanist learned to love collecting aquatic plants

I’m a landlubber I admit it. How could I not be? I’m from Saskatchewan. That’s the driest place in the country! Not only is it completely devoid of coastline, but its largest lake is practically in the arctic. Before I came here I did field work in Grasslands National Park, a place where the Frenchman “River” is shallow enough to wade across. Then I did field work in the Great Sand Hills, a place where there is no water at all, just sand. When I moved to Manitoba I noticed right away that something was wrong; the air was weird. I’m used to having all the moisture sucked out of…

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EXPLORING MANITOBA’S MOUNTAINS

Last week I spent some time looking for rare and under-collected plants in the “Turtle Mountains” of Manitoba. First off let me say that I think the term “Manitoba mountain” needs its own definition in the dictionary. To most people the word “mountain” conjures up images of snow-capped peaks and sure-footed Mountain Goats clambering up rocky screes. Climbing a mountain is to risk life itself due to treacherous terrain, exposure to harsh weather and utter physical exhaustion. In contrast, climbing a “Manitoba mountain” is to risk breaking out in a light sweat, if it’s a hot day-a really hot one.  Now please don’t get me wrong, I love the Turtle…

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The summer of ugly plants

For the last 13 years I have spent part of my summer studying beautiful plants; plants with big displays of nice-smelling flowers. The reason I was studying them was because I was interested in learning which insects like to visit them for their nectar and pollen. However, this year I realized that for too long I have been neglecting the ugly plants; you know the ones that we step on without a care. So what are these ugly plants and why are they so unattractive? Most of them are grasses, sedges and rushes but some are aquatic plants–the ones that tickle your legs when you go for a swim in…

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What a difference a year makes

One of the first papers on pollination I tried to publish got rejected because I had data from only one field season. So I withdrew the paper and did another year of research. But why is having two years of data so important? It is mainly because the world is a messy place. This year I conducted a second year of pollinator surveys at the Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve. One thing I learned was that the flowering season starts much earlier than I had anticipated. Initially I thought August would be the month with the most flowers blooming but now I know that May has more due to the abundance…

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I always feel like something is watching me

Usually when I do field work I’m by myself. But sometimes I get the feeling that I’m being watched. The main things that have been watching me this year are the cows. The Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, is sustainably grazed by a herd of cows. Aside from using some of my plot stakes as scratching posts and knocking them down, they generally leave me alone and I leave them alone. Sometimes, though, they get a little curious and stare at me with those slightly vacant eyes as if they are expecting me to do something spectacular, and that’s when I start to feel…

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Spring has sprung

Once again I am studying pollinators at the Nature Conservancy’s Yellow Quill Prairie Preserve (http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/manitoba/featured-projects/yellow_quill_prairie.html) just south of Canadian Forces Base Shilo. Last year I made the mistake of starting my field surveys too late and missed the blooming of a number of early flowering plants like prairie crocus (Anemone patens), three-flowered avens (Geum triflorum) and chickweed (Cerastium arvense). This year I did my first survey on May 11, which was already almost too late for the crocuses but just in time for the others. Spring is not the busiest time on the prairies as bee populations are not at their peak yet. However, it is a very important time…

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Pollination: A Comparison of Prairies

It was with some sadness that I finished my last field work of the season at the Nature Conservancy’s Yellow Quill Prairie. It will be many long, cold months before I get to go out again. However, I was eager to get back to the office to crunch some numbers and see how the pollinator community in mixed grass prairie differed from the fescue and tall grass prairies that I’ve studied previously. One thing that was quite obvious was that I started too late. Although flowering did not get underway in the fescue prairie until well into June, I had missed some of the earliest flowering plants by starting my…

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The mystery of the moving cow pie

Usually cow pies are extremely uninteresting features of a prairie landscape (and one to usually avoid) but this month something funny was happening with them at the Nature Conservancy’s Yellow Quill Prairie that made me look twice. For starters, one day I saw a cow pie moving. As it turns out though, it wasn’t really the cow pie that was moving: it was a toad, a Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys) to be specific. As I stepped next to a cow pie in one of my research plots, the aforementioned toad made a short hop. It took me a few seconds to actually find the toad as it blended in with…

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Left Behind in Airport Cove

If you think about how Museum paleontologists get fossils, you might guess that we go out and find where the fossils are, extract all of them from the rock and sediment, and return them to the Museum. Certainly that is what we do where fossils are scarce, but in many instances our job really consists of deciding what to leave behind. Our specialists at the Manitoba Museum are called curators, and a curator by definition has to be able to select what is needed for collections and exhibits. This fact was really brought home to me in the past couple of weeks, as we revisited sites in Airport Cove, the…

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Northern Exposure – Part 1

Summer fieldwork has begun, which means many of us Curators are out and about conducting our research.  My fieldwork has me working in Northern Manitoba, for the first time!  I spent some time in the evenings writing up blog posts so I could post when I returned from the field, here’s the first installment. My first trip north was mid-June with Kevin Brownlee (Curator of Archaeology) as we are working on a joint project that will have us partnering up with Parks Canada and heading out to York Factory National Historic Site this August.  We wanted to connect with communities that used to reside at York Factory to talk about…

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