The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Category Archives: Field work in the North


Since I’m on a roll with the aquatics…

Doing Science at Hill Creek, west of Yellowknife, NWT

We did more sampling in a number of creeks and streams today.  The weather was glorious and the dragonflies were out in serious numbers!  I’ve learned that the locals do not appreciate their mosquito-killers being captured, even if it is done In The Name Of Science.  Hopefully no one from Yellowknife will see these pics…

Large Dragonfly

Large dragonfly

Small dragonfly

Small dragonfly
Put me down!!! Yellowknifers will not stand for this!!!

I am sunburned and pooped but it was positively awesome to spend the day poking around the water…

Black flies (holy @#$%!!!)

The far north is definitely renowned for many things: cold temperatures, vast open landscapes, charismatic wildlife, and…biting flies.  Entomologists have been collecting and studying black flies, horse/deer flies (apparently they are called “bulldogs” here – awesome!), and mosquitoes in the north for decades; they were one of the primary taxa of interest during the Northern Insect Survey of the mid-1900s.

My research group is no exception: we are busily trapping adult forms of these insects as well as their aquatic juvenile stages.  There are many rivers, streams and beautiful waterfalls in this area, the moving waters of which are prime black fly territory.

Cameron Falls (photo: P. Schaefer)

Behold, black fly larvae:

Black fly larvae (photo: C. Buddle)

The hand of yours truly on a submerged bit of birch log we pulled out of Cameron Falls (photo: C. Buddle)

A colleague, covered in larvae (and very happy about it - he's one of those Dip guys) (photo: C. Buddle)

Seriously, the quantity of larvae here is just mental.  I pity the locals 2 or 3 weeks from now – eep! Yesterday we were pulling rocks out of the water that were entirely encrusted with fly pupae – we were actually watching some new flies emerge as we scraped other pupae of the rocks.

Other aquatic goodies are abundant too…dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies…the waters are incredibly productive.

Big ol' Odonate

Net-building caddisflies

Big critter!

Our team drove about 100 km west and then east of Yellowknife today, looking for (and eventually finding) suitable sampling sites. 

Big Red and the gang, contemplating the site.

On our way out of town this morning, we saw THIS:


We screeched to a halt and turned Big Red around in hopes of getting a closer look.  I honestly expected him to turn tail and flee into the trees, but he didn’t so much as glance our way (not even after we rolled down our windows and yelled “HEY BISON, OVER HERE!!!”).  It was like watching an extremely large and shaggy groundhog complacently chomping away at the side of an urban road:

I guess when you weigh many hundreds of pounds, a couple of puny southerners isn’t a major concern. We did another U-turn (we had science to do, after all), and then noticed this sign, directly across from where the bison was grazing:

Ironic sign.

Bison country indeed.

The weather was glorious today, which meant two things: the bugs were out in full force, and the bugs were out in full force.  This was both a good thing (when we were snagging nice butterflies and dragonflies and beetles) and not such a good thing (when the black flies and mosquito swarms found us) (although my biting-fly-researching-colleauge may not agree with my assessment of the latter being not-to-good).

See?  Look: beautiful.

In the ‘knife

It’s Day 2 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, known as “the ‘knife”. This city is pretty darn nice.  It’s small, but has a funky big-city feel with some amazing architecture.  A short drive takes you quickly outside of any sense of civilization; there are miles and miles of rolling hills of pinkish granite and stunted, skinny spruce, pine and birch trees, and lake after lake after lake of cold dark water.   It is very beautiful; I could easily fall in love with a place like this.

This year I’m working with some colleagues instead of flying solo; it’s awfully nice to have company.  We arrived in Yellowknife yesterday morning after a quick flight from Edmonton.  We spent most of the day driving around and outside of town in our huge rental truck, which has been dubbed “Big Red”, purchasing last-minute equipment and locating field sites.  We spotted a pair of Bald Eagles and two scruffy-looking Red Fox. We also found an assortment of arthropods (ants, wasps, flies, bees, butterflies, spiders), despite the chilly and dark weather.

Driving Big Red through the rolling rocky roads north of Yellowknife, looking for trap sites

Today the air is crisp but the skies are blue and clear, hinting at a really knockout day for field work.  My team members have been prepping our field gear for our first day of “real” work.  We’ll be setting our traps and starting to collect samples in earnest.  I’ll check in again soon with more pics and tales from the field!

Pew pew! (Or: Just call me “candidate”)

So here’s what I did to my comprehensive exam this morning:

TGIQ in Kugluktuk, shootin' stuff. (Photo by A. Pedersen)


Yeah, that’s right, I blew it outta the water.

Ok, maybe not quite.  The reality is, it was humbling and stressful and challenging and I’ve never been so nervous about anything in my entire life ever, but I heard the magic words at the end of it all (“You passed!”) so it’s all good. 

Even better, for the first time in many months, my brain is QUIET.  Like, all I have is a nice, dull ,background maintenance hum. It’s pretty darn pleasant actually.

I now have about a week left before I head back up north for my field season. This year I’m spending two weeks in Yellowknife before heading back to Kug for another two weeks.  In the meantime, I’m going to bask in the company of my favourite person (who is also, coincidentally, the most supportive and patient person ever…I’m quite certain that stressed-out grad students are the most obnoxious type of person to which one can be married) and enjoy what seems to be the end (dare I say it?) of the never-ending rainfall we’ve been experiencing for the past month or so. 

If anything super-interesting happens between now and this weekend, I’ll be sure to let you know, otherwise this geek will next be reporting live from the Great White North!

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