Walks around Oulanka

Although I didn’t walk as far as the GEO-CAICS team, I have walked quite far each day at Oulanka as it’s been much more difficult to find my study species here.  It wasn’t until the second afternoon that I found the first population about an hour’s walk from the station and (affects Victorian explorer’s accent) ‘whilst refreshing myself from a clear spring imagine my delight when I chanced upon the objects of my desire, those glistening carnivores’.

Thanks to Riku (station director) and Tiina from Metsähallitus, who provided me with some useful maps, I have since found four other small populations with about five km between the furthest apart.  The last one occupying a spectacular (=precarious) position by the Kiutaköngäs rapids.

Interestingly, the plants here seem to have caught far fewer insects on their leaves and I’ve caught less insects on my traps (but hopefully enough for analysis).  The more fertile soil compared to Kevo and the more shady conditions probably contribute to this as there’s less benefit to the plant of being carnivorous under these conditions.  Hopefully, the nitrogen isotope results will tally with my observations…

Tomorrow I will collect in all the insect traps first thing and then make my way homewards.

Butterworts and Mushrooms at Kevo

After a long journey (walk, tram, train to the airport, flight to Helsinki, overnight in Helsinki, another flight then a bus to Ivalo and a last bus to Kevo), I arrived just before midnight at Kevo research station.

The next day, I found two populations of Pinguicula, one very close to the research station on the shores of the lake and another a short boat ride away.  After looking at the leaves to see what insects they had been catching (mostly small flies), I collected a small sample of leaves from some of them.  I also took some soil from around each of the plants and then I put out my yellow sticky traps to collect the insects that might be caught by the leaves of the plant.  All the samples need to be taken back to the lab at the research station to be dried (this is the easiest way to preserve them) and then I can take all these back to Manchester for analysis.  I also did some soil chemistry (to explain it simply), using half the jam jars that I brought with me, to look at the nitrogen isotope values in the soil in more detail.

My clearest first impression is that there’s lots of forest.  It was a lovely bus ride through spruce, pine and birch forest slowly grading into the mountain birch forest found further north and driving past innumerable lakes and rivers.  It’s also great to be able to walk through the birch forest and see all the mushrooms coming up – many of which are really quite big.

After four days at Kevo, I left Tommi to look after the jam jars and continued on my travels to Oulanka…

Field trip preparation

Once I heard that I had been funded by Interact, I started to make preparations for my trip.  The first thing was to obtain permission to collect samples from certain areas; luckily this was quick and easy (much easier than the days, weeks and months of arranging paperwork that I am used to when working in the tropics).

The next thing to do was to work out the most appropriate dates to travel and, once my flights had been bought, I needed to book accommodation in Helsinki as I could not travel all the way to Kevo in one day.  Then I needed to arrange bus transport (much easier when you don’t have to keep referring to a map to work out where places are) to Kevo field station and then on to the next site at Oulanka.

Closer to the departure, I checked and prepared my equipment.  I have recently been in Malaysia doing similar work, so I had prepared all the equipment that just needed cleaning, and the chemicals and solutions refreshing.  Of course, I had all the standard pieces of equipment such as plastic bags, trowel and GPS that I needed, along with some more specific bits of equipment such as the yellow-sticky traps to trap insects and a set of jam jars along with materials to ‘trap’ nitrogen from the soil on a small piece of filter paper.  I also needed to phone the manufacturer of the sticky traps to ensure that they did not contain any nitrogen that might complicate any measure of the nitrogen isotope composition of the insects if they had glue still stuck to them when analysed.

Finally, a couple of days before leaving I started to pack my bags (only finishing just before I left the house).  One with clothes and some equipment, the other with eighteen jam jars in that all arrived safely (unbroken!) at Kevo.