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  6. Museum survey aims to document lichen and plant biodiversity in Nunavut’s Sylvia Grinnell Park

Museum survey aims to document lichen and plant biodiversity in Nunavut’s Sylvia Grinnell Park

Ottawa, July 16, 2018– A team of biologists from the Canadian Museum of Nature will be continuing their survey of Arctic plant and lichen diversity this July as they explore one of Nunavut’s most visited territorial parks.

The three scientists will spend two weeks from July 9 to 23 at multiple sites in the Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park (Iqaluit Kuunga), which is located near Iqaluit. The goal for the last week of July is to travel by boat and to explore some deeper inlets along Frobisher Bay.

Along the way, the lichen and plant specialists will have their eyes close to the ground, as they span out to record, document and collect species of vascular plants including ferns, sedges, grasses, willows and saxifrages, as well as mosses and lichens, which are small and often overlooked.

Despite its proximity to Iqaluit, the plant biodiversity of most of Sylvia Grinnell Park has not been well documented, and lichen diversity in the park is essentially unknown.

“We add new records and range extensions every time we set foot in the Arctic, and we anticipate similar discoveries during our exploration of the park,” says Senior Research Assistant Paul Sokoloff. He is joined by Dr. Jeff Saarela, an expert on grasses and sedges, and Dr. Troy McMullin, the museum’s expert on lichens. Saarela and Sokoloff bring a decade of experience in Arctic fieldwork, while McMullin will be on his third expedition with the museum, adding to a wealth of previous Arctic exploration.

Since 2008, botanists from the museum have targeted remote or poorly documented areas of Canada’s Arctic as part of the ongoing Arctic Flora Project. Regions explored have included the Hornaday River and Tuktut Nogait National Park in western Northwest Territories, Victoria Island, the Coppermine River and Arviat regions on mainland Nunavut, the Soper River on Baffin Island, and Ellesmere Island.

The goal of this international project is to collect, map and identify the more than 800 species of vascular plants (as well as mosses and lichens) that are thought to populate the Canadian Arctic and northern Alaska.

Thousands of specimens from these expeditions have been added to the museum's National Herbarium, which houses the best collection of Canadian Arctic plants in the world. Samples for DNA analysis are also prepared as part of the scientific mix, to be added to the museum’s forthcoming National Cryogenic Collection.

Logistics support for this expedition is provided by Nunavut Parks and Special Places.

Information for media:

Dan Smythe
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613-566-4781; 613-698-9253 (cell)

Laura Sutin
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613-698-7142 (cell)