“How was the Arctic?” is often the first question I get after returning home from our annual summer expedition. My typical responses are “fun”, “buggy”, and “amazing”. While Arviat was all that and more, I’d have to add “flat” and “friendly” to give an accurate depiction of this amazing Arctic community located on the shores of Hudson Bay.
In fact, there’s a sign on the airport road into town proclaiming Arviat to be “Nunavut’s Friendliest Community”, and we certainly felt warmly welcomed! We connected with community members through trailside chats, shared meals on the tundra (made all the better with local bannock), and a workshop where Elders shared their knowledge about local plants. A teacher, once she heard the “plant experts” were walking past her house, came out to show us her own collection of pressed and dried plants.
As for “flat”, the tundra surrounding Arviat is, well, very much so…which gives rise to ferocious winds and spectacular long sunsets, and lets you spot polar bears a long way off.
Working out on the land with Ruth Kaviok, our local field assistant, and David Beamer, the regional parks coordinator for Nunavut Parks and Special Places, our team collected over 150 species of vascular plants in the proposed Nuvuk Territorial Park, and over 50 more in different habitat types from around the Arviat region.
Adding Troy McMullen’s lichens, and myriad moss and algae collections to the mix will give us a comprehensive overview of Arviat’s windswept (and therefore diminutive) flora.
While we didn’t find many plants new to Nunavut (though we haven’t finished determining them all yet), we did find many low Arctic plants that few on the team had collected before, including the small-flowered lousewort (Pedicularis parviflora), and Wettstein’s eyebright (Euphrasia wettsteinii).
Now that we’re back home in Ottawa and our plant presses are put away, we’ll work on finalizing the identifications of our 700+ plant collections, and preparing the specimens to be included in the museum’s National Herbarium of Canada. Each of these specimens is proof that that plant was found growing in Arviat in 2016 (useful data for future researchers); for me they’ll also be nice reminders of a month well spent.