Lapland again: summer 2012 fieldwork

This summer I had two trips up to Kilpisjärvi in north-western Finland for fieldwork again (you can read about my 2011 fieldwork here and here).

Such a perfect day… looking out over Kilpisjärvi

In late June a small team (Miska, Juha and myself) headed up to Lapland to set up a new study site and to take some early season measurements. We left a green and warm Helsinki, but arrived to a very grey and brown Kilpisjärvi – due to a late spring, most of the smaller plants hadn’t yet produced any new leaves. Indeed, the leafless birch trees and the almost complete ice cover on lake Kilpisjärvi gave the impression that winter had only just left the day before we arrived. Because of all the melting snow many spots that I’d visited the previous summer were much wetter than I’d imagined they could be – it was good to help me understand how very strong seasonality is in Lapland. It was a short and successful trip… but only the warm-up for the season’s real work.

A five-star view for this lunch spot

We returned two and a half weeks later to much greener and warmer conditions, with a team of nine (although not everyone was there at the same time) – and we quickly got started mapping out plots of vegetation on the Saana Massif. We had some very long days and some very good weather, and wrapped up almost all of our work within three and a half weeks (fortunately a small group was returning in August and could handle the last things then). I’m glad to say that this year the midnight sun wasn’t a problem for my internal clock – last season I took a few days to get used to going to sleep while the sun was shining, but none of that this time!

Up and down the mountain

To remind myself of how big the difference in conditions between my early- and mid-summer trips was, I paired five sets of photographs taken from approximately the same position… I’m still amazed at the transformation in less than three weeks!

A comparison of the area around the Saana massif in late June (top) and mid-July (bottom). In June the lake was still frozen over!

This summer we saw only a few lemmings –  but spotted a few kärppä (Mustela erminea; stoat) again, including seeing a  stoat was pillaging the nest of a pair of Blue-throats. We also spotted a White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicillamerikotka) gliding past our study site, and I enjoyed hearing the Bramblings calling each morning as we walked through the forest towards our site. It was also interesting to spot a few cold and very inactive Common Lizards (Zootoca vivipara; sisilisko) during our early season trip – I didn’t see them again later in the season… maybe in the summer warmth they are so quick that they are more difficult to spot?

Dryas octopetala

It was a really good field season again – some highlights would have to be cooking pancakes and enjoying an excellent supper in the research station’s kota with almost the whole team, watching the reindeer walk by during a lunch break, enjoying continuous the sunlight – and of course spending time with the excellent people I have the privileged to work with!

Hard at work

Many thanks to Juha and Susanne for sharing their excellent photographs! My camera was in London and Bath while I was at Kilpisjärvi…

 

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