This site has been a relatively quiet for a few weeks now… mostly because Brigitte and I have been quite busy with lots of things that aren’t really interesting enough for blogging! But there have been some really cool highlights that are worth mentioning…

Sauna, forest and frozen lakes... and a good place for some ice fishing

Sauna, forest and frozen lakes…

I had a short hiitoloma (=”ski holiday”) with Miska in central Finland. In addition to a ski trip through one of the national parks), we did a variety of other winter activities:

  • We skied some of the cross-country trail around Nilsiä and Tahkovuori (and the associated Tahkomäki resort; you can find an online map of the local ski routes here) – the trails were very well maintained and good fun to ski… although I have to say that I wasn’t up to some of the steeper slopes. Tahkomäki is famous for its downhill skiing routes, so it was interesting to see how fast those skiers and snowboarders cruised down the rather steep slopes.
  • I also got to try my hand at ice fishing (“pilkkiminen“) – sitting on the lake ice on a beautiful, sunny, wind-still day was a lovely experience. We didn’t catch any fish, but it was relaxing and a good way to spend a few hours, especially after a long ski.
  • One of the highlights of the trip was heading out for a pöölöretki (an owl-watching trip) with some of the locals and having excellent views of Great Grey Owls – but more about that in an up-coming blog post…

 

Brigitte recently visited the very popular Bulevardi Social restaurant with colleagues. The place has generally been getting good reviews (as one would expect for a restaurant when the staff include a Top Chef contender, a Top Chef winner and a Masterchef winner – pointed out by Passion For Food) – and Brigitte agreed. As always, for a large number of reviews and opinions, you can check out Eat.fi’s page for Bulelvardi Social.

Viikki in spring - the view of Lammassaari from Kuusiluoto

Viikki in spring – the view of Lammassaari from Kuusiluoto

I’ve been off to Viikki for my first concerted effort at bird-watching this season – while the reserve was still brown and fairly dead, it was a good opportunity to get familar with many of the common birds again. The highlight though was seeing 24 Cranes calling and soaring overhead. I’ve also enjoyed watching Goosanders in Töölölahti and Bullfinches at Kaisaniemi botanical gardens. I’ve learnt that it is a lot easier to spot many of the species now while the trees are leafless…

Not much snow left, but not much green yet either!

Not much snow left, but not much green yet either!

I’ve had a productive start to the year in terms of publications coming out – although since the scientific publication process is generally quite slow this rather reflects hard work throughout last year and not some amazing inspiration during the last four months. For those who are maybe interested in the details of what I’ve been up to… one of the research questions that we’ve been focusing on is determining whether we can improve predictions of where species occur by including information about physical disturbances. At our research site in Lapland (Kilpisjärvi) these disturbances are all related to earth surface processes – including wind and water-driven soil erosion, small-scale soil movement by frost, and large movements of soil on slopes due to the soil freezing. Our results clearly show that these processes are very important in determining where some plants grow, and for predicting where different vegetation types occur. You can find our two recent papers documenting this research in Ecography (“Geomorphological disturbance is necessary for predicting fine-scale species distributions“) and the Journal of Vegetation Science (“Earth surface processes drive the richness, composition and occurrence of plant species in an arctic–alpine environment“).

Hard at work mapping plants. Guolasjärvi and our campsite are in the background

One of the biggest things that’s kept us busy over the last few weeks has been planning for our summer holiday… we’ll be visiting Prague, Vienna, Venice and Rome. If you have any hints or tips about what to see and where to eat in these cities, please share them with us (leave a comment below!). Anyhow, we’ll blog about the trip once we’re back…