Elevated Collecting

Hello to all the BIObus followers, we have some interesting things for everyone to read abut this week! We have been fortunate enough to spend over a week in the great light North, Kluane National Park.  It is quite the experience here to be walking around at 12 am and it is still light out, no need for flash lights here! We have had some great sampling opportunities from hiking up Kings Throne, which looks over the beautiful Kathleen Lake, to going off-roading with a Parks Canada employee to the frog ponds in the Alsek River Valley trail where we did by far the best and most diverse aquatic sampling yet. We also made some great friends at our campground. We got quite lucky and had some super friendly neighbours who invited us for a BBQ, it was great!

On top of King’s Throne with a beautiful view.
On top of King’s Throne with a beautiful view.

The hike up to what is known as Kings Throne, which is a plateau about ¾ up a mountain, was absolutely amazing. The view the entire hike was breathtaking, and as I mentioned before we had a great view of Kathleen Lake. We collected insects along the entire path leading to the Kings Throne which had an elevation of 1200m.  We even met a family at the top and got to talk to them about our project and they were very interested in some of our collection methods. They also had a good laugh once they saw us using our aspirators. We found a lot of spiders as we flipped rocks on the mountainside. We also found butterflies and a variety of bees and wasps the entire way up. Once we reached the “throne” we did some sweep netting and to our surprise we collected the largest mass of insects we have seen yet from this method of collection. I was amazed to see the biomass of flies and beetles when the landscape seemed to be so rocky and bare when compared to lower elevations where we had been doing most of our collecting. I seemed to have hit a sweet spot near the throne where I found a valley, which had a great variety of vegetation that I had commonly seen at lower elevations. With just about a minute of sweeping I had completely filled the container on my aspirator, giving us lots of work later on when it comes to sorting. After the hike we decided to go for a swim in Kathleen Lake, which is fed by glacier run off, so yes it was very cold. On my way out of the water I saw some little critters scuttling along the rocks. I took a closer look and noticed that there was little Sculpins all over the place. I was able to grab one with my hands and snap a few pictures before returning to back in to water. I was actually surprised I could catch these little fish with my hands; I am guessing the water is so cold they are just somewhat sluggish.

At the frog ponds with Parks Canada staff member Mat.
At the frog ponds with Parks Canada staff member Mat.

We also had some great outreach days at a rather remote visitor center, Tachal Dhal, but we still met a lot of people, over 45 people at each event. This visitor center had a great viewing pad where one can look to a nearby mountain side and try and spot out the elusive mountain dwelling Dall Sheep. We were lucky to see a rather large herd on one of the last days we visited Tachal Dhal.

Sculpin I found in Kathleen Lake.
Sculpin I found in Kathleen Lake.

Lastly I wanted to touch on our glacier flight. For our day off we decided to go for a flight with our friends from Icefield Discovery Flightseeing. I can’t put what I have seen into words, it was breathtaking. We had plans to make a glacier landing to take some pictures, even do a little collecting with the nets and take a snow sample to see what critters may be lurking within. However Mother Nature would not allow this, as the glacier landing site was completely under cloud cover, which results in unsafe landing conditions. So alternatively we still did a glacier flight minus the landing, but it was still awesome. There was just so much to see it was hard to take it all in on our hour flight, it only felt like ten minutes.

I would just also like to thank all the friendly Kluane park staff that made us feel very welcome and kept us company, on these long bright northern nights.

-Nate

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