Monday, June 11, 2018

A couple of days of exploration

This is our second full day at Kilpisjärvi Biological Station. Here we are, excited to be in the Arctic at the main building of the research station!

Over the past couple of days, we've taken a couple of field trips to local ecosystems. Yesterday, we visited the Pikku-Malla strict nature reserve (which is a highly protected type of reserve in Finland).
Pikku-Malla strict nature reserve
We had a very leisurely walk, stopping quite frequently because the theme of the walk was "observation". And there was quite a lot to observe! There were a lot of midges swarming. One landed on Tiff's coat, so Stephanie got a closer look using a miniature field microscope:
The rocks also host quite a lot of diversity. There are also a lot of very interesting lichens of all shapes and colors to capture our attention. We see shades of green, but also yellow, orange, and black.

Today we climbed Saana, which is a mountain fell in the Scandinavian Mountains. We observed the change in plant communities as you increase in elevation. At the bottom, there are stands of short silver birch:
Then, we were above the tree line, looking down at the lake, Kilpisjärvi. There are no more birch at this elevation, only plants that live close to the ground, like moss and crowberry, with the occasional willow shrub.
By the time we got to the top, at about 1,000 meters in elevation, we had true Arctic weather! It was chilly, windy, and snowing! Lichen and grass (and crazy ASU students) are the only ones who flourish at this elevation. The lichen were great to observe again, since the theme for today's lecture and hike was "color", and they come in so many fabulous colors.
Ezra, Stephanie, and Diego... so bundled up that you can hardly recognize them!
Because the weather was turning bad, we returned to the station. On the way down, these Sonoran Desert dweller ASU students got to play in some snow. (And how DARE they take aim at their professor?!?!)
Manny, Guillermo, Brooke, Gina, and Diego throwing snowballs
The hike wore everyone out, so they have the evening off. Tomorrow morning we continue with our coursework and field work.