Saskatchewan… less flat than we thought!

Hello! My name is Danielle and I am one of the students deployed on the BIOBus for the first half of the summer, and am now writing about my first visit to Saskatchewan and Grasslands National Park. We arrived at the park today, though you couldn’t spot it from afar, the whole area is full of hills. The landscape around us is an amazing blend of rolling farmlands and green-brown grassy hills, along with beautifully winding creeks, red and brown earth and the hint of badlands in the distance. It is surprising how much landscape can be hidden away within the flatness of our surroundings. It is so beautiful here, so alien to anything we have ever seen in Ontario, and the distances are very deceptive; what might seem only a hundred meters can be triple that distance easily.

Overlooking the expanse of Grasslands National Park; an unexpected landscape from flat Saskatchewan.
Overlooking the expanse of Grasslands National Park; an unexpected landscape from flat Saskatchewan.

When we first arrived we stopped by the Visitor Center for some directions and some souvenirs, and then headed off to a place called Poverty Ridge, which turned out to be a beautiful house and barn where our Research Coordinator Laura resided. Laura and the Fire Marshall (Mark) helped us fill up our water supply and set up beside their barn where we have an outlet that we can plug the BIOBus into, so we can run appliances like indoor lights and microscopes for sorting out bugs. Around the lawn we are parked on there are dozens of baby Richardson’s Ground Squirrels that are absolutely adorable.

We had an informative safety briefing, where we learned the dangers of quickly approaching storms, the distances that lightning can travel across the grasslands (if you can hear thunder within 30 seconds of the flash you are too close) and the dangers grassland fires can pose. Fortunately we have no major predators or dangerous animals to worry about within this section of the park; even the bison that this park is famous for are on the west side of the park, not near to our location.

A Richardson's Ground Squirrel; we see lots of these around our camp site.
A Richardson’s Ground Squirrel; we see lots of these around our camp site.

After cuddles with Mark’s two kittens Finn and Princess Bugglegum, our new team members took us on a quick park tour, to show us their existing Malaise traps as well as one of the best lookout points in the area. The view was incredible. We had a bright blue sky above us, and dainty yellow flowers dotted the rich green grass of the lookout point, but beneath us was a seemingly endless expanse of eroded hills, badlands, valleys and streams. It was breathtaking. The wind was almost continuous as well, constantly dragging at our clothing and hair.

Laura and Mark helped us choose three distinct habitats and potential sites for our bug collecting while we are here; riparian, grasslands and badlands, in areas away from visitor trails and quicksand. Cannot wait to see the diversity of bugs we will be able to collect here!

–          Danielle

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