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Research in the field

Our scientists at work

Jordan Mallon © Canadian Museum of Nature.

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During fieldwork in 2013, Jordan Mallon found this tibia in a hadrosaur bonebed along the South Saskatchewan River.

Hunting for fossils, diving for mussels, tracking the lynx and scouting for rare species are some of the research adventures awaiting Canadian Museum of Nature scientists this summer. Their sleuthing in the field, boosted by long days and generally warm weather, often leads to new discoveries and treasures for our national collections.  

The Arctic botany team, led by Dr. Jeff Saarela and Dr. Lynn Gillespie, is prepping for another month-long field expedition in the North. In July, they will explore the terrain and collect plants along the Coppermine River in western Nunavut. This adventure will cover a 40-km stretch that starts at the treeline, where forest transitions to tundra, and ends at the coastal community of Kugluktuk.

Their effort is part of the museum’s ongoing Arctic Flora project. And while swarms of mosquitoes may make for some tough slogging, they can always count on the comfort of some delicious food—camping-style—at the end of a long day. You can follow their adventures through Twitter (@museumofnature, #naturescience).

Roger Bull © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Botanist Jeff Saarela collecting along the Soper River on Baffin Island.

Another member of the museum’s botany team, Curator Jennifer Doubt, is applying her expertise in mosses on two expeditions this summer. In June, she joined Environment Canada scientists in Yukon and northern BC on a quest to survey mosses and locate habitats for Porsild’s Bryum. This rare and threatened species is found around waterfall environments and is known only from a few disparate locations in Canada. In July, with experts from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Doubt will also document mosses in a remote area of northern Ontario for environmental monitoring.  

Dr. Jordan Mallon, the museum’s new dinosaur expert, took his summer fieldwork to drier climes—in fossil-rich Alberta, where he resumed work begun in 2013. Two weeks of prospecting at large bonebeds along the South Saskatchewan River—with help from museum assistants Margaret Currie and Dr. Scott Rufolo—proved fruitful with some new fossil discoveries. Mallon also spent four days scrambling through the foothills of western Alberta near the Rockies. While the pickings for fossils were slim, the treks allowed him to pinpoint some future prospecting sites.

New Brunswick will offer some prime habitats for two of the museum’s zoologists this August. Dr. Andre Martel, an expert on Canadian mussels, will dive in the Saint John River to survey and record populations of these important invertebrates, which are bioindicators of aquatic health. Meanwhile, Curator of Vertebrates Dr. Kamal Khidas will join colleagues with the New Brunswick Museum to track lynx and study their mixed-wood habitats. His fieldwork is aimed at verifying computer modelling of lynx habitats based on specimens in museum collections.

Jackie Madill © Canadian Museum of Nature

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Malacologist André Martel collecting mussels from the Ottawa River.

Finally, all systems are go for the museum’s annual participation with the summer Students on Ice Arctic expedition. For two weeks in July, mineralogist Dr. Paula Piilonen and ichthyologist Noel Alfonso will join an esteemed team of experts that enrich the journey for the teenage participants. Alfonso hopes to collect some deep-sea fish for study as they cross the Davis Strait. In Greenland, Piilonen will grab a rare chance to collect minerals at an area known for its alkaline rocks—her scientific specialty.