Skills and laughter go a long way−meet the 2012 Arctic Botany Expedition team

Return to the Arctic with the Canadian Museum of Nature this summer! This week, Paul Sokoloff introduces the museum team now on Baffin Island, Nunavut for a month-long expedition along the Soper River.

One of the most important facets of extended, isolated fieldwork, after the location and the food (OK, that might just be my personal priority), is the team you assemble. This year’s expedition brings together people with a range of complementary and focussed skills, more fieldwork experience than you can pack into a Twin-Otter airplane, and a passion for working in the Arctic.

Since we’ll be spending at least two-and-a-half weeks with only each other for company, the fact that we get along well is extremely welcome. Here are the men and women of the 2012 Canadian Museum of Nature botany expedition.

Dr. Jeff Saarela

Man sitting in canoe with hill in the background.

Jeff Saarela takes a short break from paddling as he approaches camp at Tuktut Nogait National Park, Northwest Territories. Image: Lynn Gillespie © Canadian Museum of Nature

The leader of the 2012 expedition to the Soper River, Jeff is also the team’s monocot specialist. In other words, he identifies all the grasses, sedges and rushes that the team collects in the field. Fun fact−his favourite band is Rush (purely coincidental, I’m sure).

Back at the museum, Jeff is a lead researcher on our Arctic Flora and DNA barcoding projects, using herbarium specimens and DNA sequences to document the plant diversity of the Arctic.

Our resident technophile, Jeff had to hunt for enough dry bags to hold his e-reader, iPad, camcorder, camera, and other electronic gear. He’s also sending updates on the expedition through Twitter (#ArcticFlora).

Dr. Lynn Gillespie

A woman standing in a thicket of willows.

Lynn Gillespie collecting plants in a willow thicket on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories. Image: Jeffery Saarela © Canadian Museum of Nature

Lynn has travelled extensively throughout the Canadian Arctic, bringing a wealth of knowledge on the flora of every region to each trip. She is one of the authors of the Arctic Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago published in 2007, and a lead researcher on our current Arctic Flora project.

Lynn focuses on the dicots during fieldwork (think almost everything aside from grasses, sedges and lilies) and can often be found in our work tent examining problematic specimens with a hand lens.

When she isn’t hard at work, Lynn is probably off deciding which of the excellent teas she brought along will be tried next.

Roger Bull

A man standing among sand dunes.

Roger Bull inspects the sand dunes near Big Lake, Victoria Island, Northwest Territories. Image: Jeffery Saarela © Canadian Museum of Nature

Trained originally as an ornithologist and now coordinator of the DNA lab at the museum, Roger is a botanist-by-experience and our go-to-guy for his fieldwork skills. He’s the one to ask if you want to know the local bird species, or how to clean the regulator on a camp stove. His organizational skills help ensure all of our day-to-day activities out on the tundra run according to plan.

Thanks to his skill with a camera, we always return to Ottawa with hundreds of dazzling shots. Roger also keeps us plied with delicious dehydrated food that he prepares before each trip (my favourite is the dried pineapple!).

Paul Sokoloff

A man wearing a baseball cap, sitting on the tundra.

Paul Sokoloff on the tundra of Victoria Island, Northwest Territories. Image: Roger Bull © Canadian Museum of Nature

And that leaves me, the newest member of the team. This will be my second trip to the Arctic with the museum, the first being a very successful 2010 expedition to Victoria Island in the Northwest Territories.

Back at the museum, my work varies between specimen identification, DNA analysis, website programming and public outreach. In the field, my role is largely technical (e.g. specimen processing, camp work and collecting) and my botanical focus is the legume family Fabaceae.

This year, I’ll be behind the lens of a camcorder whenever possible, capturing video we can use to talk about our research in fun and exciting ways.

Follow the 2012 Arctic Botany Expedition live:

This entry was posted in Arctic, Fieldwork, Plants and Algae and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Skills and laughter go a long way−meet the 2012 Arctic Botany Expedition team

  1. tamara says:

    I look forward for some more expedition posts on your blog!
    All the best,

  2. Megan says:

    Good luck with the expedition! Sounds like you have a great team.

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