Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Solstice 2007!

The darkest days of the year, and the promise of light to come. Once again I am not at home in Ontario or frollicking in snow, but instead celebrating with the bounty of the red sea, a gorillia of dane dive buddy, a town of festive russian tourists, cordial egyptians and a santa on a camel. 

I've already 5 dives, and 2 more tomorrow. The peaceful chaos of mulling coral reef fish is quite different from jittery kelp forests of the pacific or kattegat; not better, just a different splendour. Otherwise, the whole scene is actually quite rediculously fun. In Canada, you might end a dive with a chummy "Nice dive, eh?" "Yes, quite nice", while here, the Egyptians bust out the vodka, dance and clap, and conclude with an immature game of tag ("you're it!")

Jacks, parrotfish, triggerfish, a giant 2m moray eel, a shark, flying eagle rays, an octopus, peaceful beaked sea turtle munching on encrusting algae... Wreck diving was also cool: following the slimy anchor line running into the blue abyss, until at 30m below, the ghostly mass of a sunken russian vessel slowly materializes, a derelict from the war when Israel stole the Sinai desert, now home to avaricious Jacks and many-tentacled lionfish. Night diving was also great... I panicked a bit, I must admit, when I was the first to entire, alone, and suddenly had to clear mask and maintain bouyancy in the dark, 2m underwater, the pressure building on my ears... Coral polyps actually come out at night, so you can really see how they've mostly died here.

Birding is poor, but I did see two Boobies (red sea species?), and lots of plovers of some sort.

Ahh. Awe. Jesus walked over the Red Sea; Moses parted the damn thing; now, at the end of the twenty-first century, we finally know where the divine of creation really resides.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Egypt Escape

I found a last minute week long cheap ticket to Hurdgada, Egypt, a bombed out resort town on the Red Sea, where I hope to do some diving. Yep, this will be my Jultid... I literally had 12 hours to pack from purchase to flight, lubricated with an unhealthy dose of corridor partying, a farewell to all the students as they go home for a couple weeks. Having not known if I'd have to scramble to find accomodations on the first of January, Hurdgada is a nice compromise, if a bit stress out.

Diving is grand! Though, I'm still thinking about the environmental and other ethics of such imperial-tourism... I'm not here to learn or "experience", just enjoy.

Monday, 3 December 2007

How to befriend the dark wet winter?

The darkness and my sprained arm is making me an anxious hopping ball of unspent energy. No nature, climbing, general exercise, ahhh! It happened last week during a head on collision with another cyclist. Yes, I was slightly inebriated. We were doing a "tura", ferrying back and forth several times between Helsingborg and nearby Danmark drinking, basically because the beer is cheaper than terrestrial bars, and who wouldn't prefer a bar that literally rocks back and forth (from wave action). I loved watching people trying both to look cool and maintain their balance. I imagine one could also "accidentally" bump into someone attractive and work it from there... Speaking of slimy, I'm a dancing machine in Sweden! Its neigh expected that guys go all out and be their own mock music video! Girls are more sedate and boring. So many opposites to Canada.

I can't stop whining about the darkness.... my plans for christmas consist of waiting for a last minute cheap ticket to egypt to do some diving. It might all get screwed if I actually lose my housing.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Banding Golden Plovers

Yet again, some observations about swedish culture: swedes absolutely never give "the look" ;-) to people they find attractive. They pretend they are not interested. Anything else is seen as being too desperate. The swedish word for desperate is "desperat", and may as well be synonymous with "kanadensisk".

Speaking of which, there are tons of canadians in Lund. Much more than Americans, which is significant, considering that there are 10 x as many yanks as canucks, so you'd expect a similar proportion of exchange students here. On the contrary, we outnumber them around 5 times. Why? Sweden is held in very high regards in Canada, a socialist beckon in a nightmarish capitalist world. Canada could be like Sweden, have its sort of economy and generous welfare state, if only the continent could split along the 49th parallel, and leave the USA Axis of Evil behind (and yes, screw you southern ontario).

Anyway, for the last couple of weekends, I've been going out banding European golden plovers just north of Lund. Its great to handle shorebirds again, reminds me of the similar species in Alaska that I worked with.

Tonight, I'm going indoor climbing.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

First snow and electrofishing

And now, some observations about swedish culture: Swedes like to dress up and have theme party's. "Welcome to the eighties". Men like to touch each other.

Yesterday was the first snow fall.
But we'd be so lucky in Skåne to actually have a snowy winter. Usually it rains. I love snow: I love the sonic-texture of the wind blowing over a snowy forest flow; "crisp"; I love the trails of animals since passed, and bloody remains of predation in action; I love skiing.

Snow also helps to brighten the dark winter landscape. Speaking of which, its sundown at 4:00pm here in southern sweden. And it only gets worse. So, imagine how funny it is to get a call: "we set up mist nets tonight, just before sundown" and that means 3:30 pm.

Check this out: fish can be induced to have a electrical potential difference, and be "attracted" to an Anode. Its called electrofishing--highly efficient and highly illegal, aside from biological surveys of swedish waterways. Last week, I got to try my skills at it. Its non-lethal, so doesn't pique my vegatarian principles. This week, I also get to do some illegal trawling, and gill netting, which means messily dismembering dead fish to free them from nets. But at least I know where and how fish are caught. If most people knew how our oceans are being systematically raped...

Fisheries Ecology

2nd Course in my MSc of Marine Biology

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Flounders experiments and singing swedes

A marathon run of flounder happenings: Fanny and I do an experiment on flounder cryptic colouration and patchiness to finish marine biology. It always fun to work with animals: trying to sight their freakish eyes peaking through the sand, catch them as they wiggle n' splash about, watch them change colour...and release them! Not publishable research, but always good to have experience designing and analyzing an experiment, as I hope this is what I'll do for the rest of my life. Not on flatfish of course.

To top off the conclusion of the course, there was a marine biologist "sättning". No equivalent in Canada, basically a bunch of dollied up swedes getting hammered in a heavily regimented manner consisting of a good meal and obligatory hymn list. The swedes like to sing and I like it!

Now, I'll begin Fisheries ecology. Not looking forward to it too much as I'm not too into teleosts (or cartilaginous creatures).

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Ontarioans are idiots

Ontarios recently voted down a proposal to modernize their archiac first-past-the-post sham electoral system to proportional representation. You'd think that slogans like "your vote = my vote" or "each person, one vote!" would get them thinking about just how people come to power in Canada. But the political commentators have spoken, they just didn't get it, they didn't know what  "mixed member" meant, so instead of investigating their voting rights, they conservatively did away with the nusance notion that something is deadly wrong with their democracy.

Canada will not be able to deal with a changing world. So long as a party can only enter parliament by scoring a majority in any one riding, smaller movements with broad national support, but who are fatally diffused, like the Greens (10%) or Feminists, will never contribute to the progressive coalition parliaments that the rest of the democratic world enjoys (except the UK and USA, the two other hold-outs on the question of proportional representation). We will have to wait until the old-farts in the old-parties retire, until new good ideas and unconventional threats can be dealt with by the new blood of the much saner younger generations.

Ontario, you suck.

All you need is politcal will, from a small, but power-tipping party. In Sweden, the Greens, hovering between 5 - 8 % of seats, and were pinnacle in the once ruling Social Democracts centre-left coalition.  So, Sweden greened, not because people here are ecological messiahs, but because there was a green party with teeth.

To me, this is the most important issue in Canada.

Anyway, I bought a guitar this weekend! Now come the dark days of the Nordic winter, and the vit. D deficiency induced ballads of darkness and dejection. The leaves yellow, the shadows chill the bone, and its dark by six o'clock.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find a nice project in the southern hemisphere for two months come January.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

September 2007: one down 23 to go!

Happy Birthday Mom. Grand 57!

I’ve been busy since I arrived in Sweden, and therefore silent. Sorry! I'm now
studying marine biology in Helsingborg, and trying to be outdoors as much as possible. We have just one course at a time here, so its really intense, which is one of the reasons I came for graduate studies (unlike the psychophrenic canadian timetable). A consequence of being expected in only one place all day long is that the school can haul you away for week long field studies. We were just at a luxurious field station on the swedish west coast, 400 km north of helsingborg and its baltic influx. It was a relief to b
e by the sea everyday, its harsh granite outcroppings, wind scoured shorepines, and the explosion of alien colours, strange creatures and abyssmal depths beneath the water. Nearly everyday we were out boating, snorkeling, sweeting in saunas, and late night bleary-eyed socializing. Such a course would run up to perhaps $500 in Canada.  

Besides school, I’ve got a nice situation. Nice apartment with good people. Slowly meeting people, new and from my 2005 time. Lund is Lund, full of students, old looking, and loud. I don’t really have any hobbies yet, I’m basically outside as much as possible, enjoying unlimited transportation around the entire southern county called Skåne, and trying to catch the autumn bird migration. Some notable and beautiful places I’ve been recently are Kullen, Falsterbo, and the Bjarre pennisula (the infamous wildnerness where I was nearly harpooned by a wild boar -- I have pictures of the cave that I had to hide and sleep in, back in 2005 -- this time, I actually finished the hike!) 

At the moment I'm frantically trying to find something to do jan/feb, like a tropical internship. And I'm filling in forms to try and get some social assistance from the swedish government (i.e., money!), made possible by my generous visa. If I get it, I swear I'll stop importing cheap goods from north america, and buy more organic food.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Marine Biology

The flounder doesn't change yellow, but alters its saturation and patchiness

Marine Biology course was the first course in my masters. Here are some pictures from an excursion collecting softbottom samples and an experiment on Flounder

Swedish hikes

From hikes at Bjare, Kullen, and Varberg mushroom hunting

Random Euro pics

The town where I study

Random stuff

Saturday, 18 August 2007

I've never seen her do that before...

Det Regnar. It rains. Sweden is crap with climate change that increases the percipitation on the west coast, while drying out the Mediterranian. So, I can't enjoy my brief vacation.

At least ''our'' old cat still recognizes me! The normally aloof Steena returned to a couch-hiding, hand-nipping, stealthy playful kitten who I helped raise, a couple years before.

Swedish Cats (Steena)

me and steena

steena warrior princess

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Damn you!!

I made it. I'm in Sweden, Gothenburg in particular (no thanks to Sterling airline).
The unexpected has happened! I'm culture shocked! The Swedes seem so alien. I remember feeling so at home, but I've changed and I'm no longer in a relationship, so what was supposed to me a sort of ''home-coming'' is actually quite like being a stranger in a strange land. Is it that I'm just being older, less adaptable, malleable, too cozy in the nearly two years living safely within Canada/USA.

Its a time to learn, though. How to deal with ambiguous situations? How to extend myself, now retract into comfortable escapes...

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Ontario Interregnum

In Washago I’m mixing old pastimes with new interests. Bridge jumping, climbing hand over hand up 20 m high steal scaffolding, to plunge into the limey lake Couchiching. We did this all the time as kids, it was the local summer hang out. Now, the highlight of the jump is the lone Caspian tern that skims a small fish from the river surface. It’s the same while canoeing down the rapids of the Black River: for 20 years I canoed that pathetically overdeveloped stream in Muskoka, and only now do I notice a Solitary Sandpiper on the rocky banks, fleeing downstream as I try to get an id. An American Woodcock similarly greets me in the woodlot behind my parent’s house, the only such “shorebird” bird to live its life totally in the coarse forest undergrowth. Was it always there, mistaken for some frantic grouse?

Suddenly, familiar places assume an adventurous allure. I’ve picked up the bird bug and it helps me transition from Alaska/Fish and Wildlife Service to humble Ontario. I see a molting American Golden-Plover, an old friend, stopping over in Prequ’ile Park, as well as what look like Spotted sandpipers, and a host of other new shorebirds. It’s the first time in 4 years since I’ve been in Ontario for the Summer, and in only two weeks I realize I know very little about its natural history.

And so it goes. Sweden, here I come!


Richard bridge jumps Washago

Ontario interregnum

Richard bridge jumping Washago

Bridge jumping and bird watching in Ontario

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Ontario? what the...

Flying into Seattle I saw the sun dip below the horizon for the first time in two months. Strangely, it wasn't strange. I anticipated that my time in the 24 hour sunlight of Barrow would have served me a serious reentry shock. On the contrary, I never really acclimatized to the tundra and the arctic: I loved its eerie terrain and flashy fauna, but it changed so much so rapidly, and our work was always changing, that my parents home in Ontario is like falling back to normality.

I'm bored. The canoe blew away. Shorkeling on riverine systems is nothing to compare with the Pacific northwest. I haven't met up with any friends yet. I read obsessively about birds, watch bird programs, to ease the transition I suppose. Really, I should be studying swedish and planning for that whole new life.

Perhaps I'll hitchhike to Lake Ontario and catch some arctic familiars on their migration south.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Chicks to Juveniles and gone

The shorebirds fly from South America, China, and other exotic places, then quickly rebuild fat reserves, court mates and find suitable breeding territories, mate, lay eggs, incubate for about 20 days, brood their young, fledge their young, and then both independent young and parents restock fat supplies to head south, all in less than two months. So, its the end of July, and all the nests have hatched. The chicks have grown to juveniles, and can now fly. The plots are empty of the familiar displays and sounds of pissed-off birds, and even the staging areas are rapidly dwindling in numbers. Out over the ocean, we can see flocks of grey juvenile phalaropes head west, and out of the Arctic.

And so too are the shorebird biologists migrating. Our maximum crew of 11 has dwindled to only 3, and we leave in a couple days. Not much to do, just pack up the station, and wait for the flights.

I'm incredibly sensitive to life now: to its sounds, behaviour, plumage, the threats and boons of weather. Its a wholesome experience, being a biologist, being with life at its most honest and simple. I'll miss the birds and chicks.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Polar bear swim

We haven't yet a confirmation about the temperature of the water, but there is still some sea ice out on the Barrow spit. For a precious Corona in a “dry” town (i.e., no booze on sale), Nathan managed to swim in the Arctic ocean for 11 and half minutes. This canuck whimped out at about 4 minutes. Damn cold! Nonetheless, it was great to finally discard our fleece and rain pants for some shorts and play some chilly beach football and frisby. Our next project is erect a tarp sauna, for our future polar bear swims.

The brief warmth is terrible though (high of 22 degrees): mosquitos, sweating while hiking, then freezing when sticking a needle in a baby chicks' jugular... the arctic is a harsh mistress.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Chick banding has begun!

For the last couple of weeks, work has consisted of ninja-style nest finding, 8 hours daily on the cold tundra. Now, the shorebird eggs are hatching, so we’re on a race to band the birds, measuring them, sampling blood, etc. Its unbelievably cool! Same plots, same flat wet scenary, but now we’re handling cute little chicks, puff balls with giant legs, sneaking around the tussocks from swooping jaegers and gulls. We do it round the clock, returning to nests in the evenings, checking the hatching progress to nab ‘em before they run to far from the nests.

Otherwise, life goes on pleasantly among the crew. We’re a good group, no major dramas, quarrels (minus one broken heart). Lets you forget all about the fall, and whatever the heck I’ll do.

 Today is also Canada Day. Among the Americans, I’m instead looking forward instead to the 4th of July and their wacky North Slope festivities: races, nailing competitions, beauty pagents, and perhaps our first polar bear swim! The ice broke up, but it’s the cold wind that’ll burn the most. If there were trees in the tundra, we might make a beach bonfire.

 And now for an interesting shorebird fact: shorebirds spend 70% of their life migrating! 15% of there time they are on the breeding grounds, finding their mate, building a suitable nest and finding a territory, incubating eggs, and protecting the hatchlings for a couple weeks until they themselves can make the 5000 km journey to the wintering grounds, wherever in the world that might be

Friday, 22 June 2007

Happy Solstice!

If you hop over seven hedges and put seven flowers under your pillow on the Solstice, then you will have prophetic dreams... or so say the swedes. Well, there are not exactly seven species of wild flowers out on the tundra right now.

The Inupiat people don't celebrate the Solstice per se, but it is coincident with the main Nalukataq, the Whaling festival here the captains and crew of successful spring whaling expeditions distribute whale blubber (muktuq) and fermented whale meat to the community (now if you're wondering how they can they hunt whales, there are quotas for subsistence communities, and these people do have about 50% of their food subsistence). Plus, there are some neat festivities, like a... rope toss thingie, like a trampoline, apparently traditionally used to through whale watchers up into the air to sight blows for hunting.

Anyway, feeling a bit down as I was just blown off on a date with a cute shore bird researcher. Oh well, short time anyway.

Sweat dreams!

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Chick banding

About to have a needle is his jugglar

More pictures from Barrow Alaska, banding and sampling shorebirds for the fish and wildlife service

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Tundra swim

I saw a bearded seal! On the ice by the whale carcasses!

The photo is of a king eider.

And in case whoever you are who's actually reading this is getting bored of lists of arctic fauna, something exciting happened to me today: I feel in an arctic river, well actually a melt water vernal stream, but by golly I was upto my navel, waders filled with zero degree water. So, that was inevitable I guess. Dammit, the tundra is ever changing, melting in dangerous random patches that consume unwarry tundra monkeys. Jimbo had his radio off so I had to tough it out in the windy chill, sopping wet for another 4 hours. Yeah, I'm a tough mutha, I know.

Oh, and I successfully found my first nest today too! Two dunlin nests. Whew, I was afraid I had some sort of birder's impediment, but it looks like I can outwit these groundnesting birds after all.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

to the spit for polar bears

what do we do on our day off? Why, the same thing we do on our working days: walk the tundra, looking for birds! And for treasure burried under the snow, like Caribou racks. Tonight we'll drive out to the spit, Point Barrow, which divides the Chukchi Sea and the Beaufort Sea, to look for polar bears.

And, here's a bird list:
Dunlins, Bairds Sandpiper, Semi-Palminated Sandpiper, White-Rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Rednecked Phalarope, Red Phalarope, Ruddy Turnstone, American Golden Plover, Semi-Palminated Plover.

Ducks, Geese, Eiders and Seaducks:
Northern Pintail, Snow Goose, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Brant, Tundra Swan, Stellar Eider, Spectacled Eider, Common Eider, Long-Tailed Duck (Old Squaw), Pacific Loon.

Gulls, Terns, Jaegers:
Glaucous Gull, Herring Gull (vagrant), Pomarine Jaeger, Long-Tailed Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Arctic Tern.

Lapland Longspurs, Snow Bunting, Redpoll sp., Varied Thrush, Robin, Wilson's Warbler, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, American Tree Sparrow, White-Crown Sparrow.

Snowy Owl, Shorteared Owl

Saturday, 9 June 2007

out-witting thousands of years of evolution

So, tundra birds can't hide up in trees, or on cliff faces, nope, they're stuck with having their defenseless eggs and chicks on the exposed flat tundra, prey to Arctic Fox, Jaegers and humans. So, the adults have developed clever behaviours to distract, confuse and entice potential predators (and benevolent nest-searching scientists too) away from their nests: broken-wing acting; scurrying along trenches and popping on another ridge as if to say, "oh, look, we're over here!"; noisy fly-bys. It works, dammit. I'm having a hell of a time finding nests.

Once we find them, we monitoring them until they hatch, then band the bastards, getting site fidelity and population density estimates.

The Tundra is one of the few ecosystems that theorectically cannot "move" with climate change, squeezed out by the boreal forest and the eroding ocean coastline. Shorebirds, who migrate from literally around the world, are one of its victims.

Not much more to say: we bird, then we bird, bird, sleep, eat, bird, then talk about birding. You might think its boring, but somehow I have no time for anything else!

Barrow Alaska

Snowy Owl

2 months surveying and banding shorebirds on the North Slope of Alaska

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

No Polar Bears yet

On the flight to Barrow, over the frozen moonscape of lakes, I would get different stories related to the Polar Bears: “you'll be on the Tundra? You need a gun!” to “they're afraid of the Eskimos” (which is apparently not a derogatory word in the Alaska). But on my third night here, our cast and crew of birders are out a hours with scopes and binoculars, staring out into the jagged mountains of cracked sea ice, hoping for a bear or a bearded seal... and I mean literally all hours of the day. The sun never sets, of course, at 71 degrees, and with the crazy birder enthusiasm of some of these people is always itching at them. But it is a birders paradise here, full of birds you'd rarely see inland, now breading in the Tundra, like Arctic Terns, Red and Red-Necked Phalaropes, Pomaine Jaegers (which are really cool, well all birds in the breading mode are generally doing something cool), Gyrfalcons, Ruddy Turnstones,etc.

Its really fun though, driving around on ATVs, armed to the teeth with winter and birder gear, looking for nests of birds. The people are great too. I'm out of my league in terms of bird skills, but I'm learning, so I get the most of it.

Its cold. The arctic wind doesn't stop, always 15 – 30 nauts. And if it stops, the sky will darken will flies.

We're all dudes. And there are no bars in Barrow. Its a “dry” town: prohibition is a reality, by municipal bylaw. Guess I'll get really into birds.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Stuck in Anchorage

A flight cancellation has me stuck in anchorage for the night.
Anyway, an odd thing happens when you fly north from Seattle this time a year at midnight: a couple hours into the flight you notice a blue and red glowing blob on the black horizon, North-west. You think, could it be northern lights? But then it grows and entually envelopes you: its the sun, rising in the north, at midnight.

stuck in anchorage

Ahh! Flight cancelled. Check out the photos with the sunrise at midnight from the airplane

Monday, 28 May 2007

Farwell BC tour

Well I made it back, thanks to the generosity of the lovely American Christy who saw me all the way from Port Hardy to Vancouver. We took the inside passage down from Prince Rupert, a stunning ferry, like a cruise (boo). Saw lots of Dolphins, included some seabirds like Kitiwakes, Common Murres, lots of Rhino Auklets, and others. Check out the video of the Dolphins riding the bow wave in the video section.

It was thanks to the Greyhound strike that I was able to take the ferrie down from prince rupert instead of heading back on the bus. All in all, it made my iternery more interesting, so I made a little map of the  routes I took. Kinda aesthetically pleasing, dubbed my "Farwell BC tour", though the only significantly lengthly portions of my trip were, of course, with Laskeek Bay Conservation Society on Limestone Island, the Rose Spit hike, and being stuck in prince rupert.

And now that I'm back, I fill my time buying stuff for alaska, like toques and gloves and vests and crap. I'm really excited, and can't wait to be outta here. I always said I wanted to live in Vancouver "when I settle down", but in the frame of mind I'm in now, three weeks among the sea, islands and mountains, the crowded dirty city makes me predictably sick.

Crossing my fingers that'll I'll be accepted to Gothenburg University!

a poem: rose spit hike

From my Rose Spit hike, comes a quick poem:

Rose Spit Hike

Why did I North Beach?
by it blew away my struggling soul gales
over the mud ephemeral
whose footprints ever flee
to the sea, ever changing
and leaves no trace of my passing

The birds, expanse, and spit wale
but not for my mind gales
I'm not the worst they'll storm
By it blew away my mind
full of you, full of shame
and hurt no longer mine
but to the shameless sea.


Watch pacific white-sided dolphins ride the bow wave of the inside passage ferrie


3 whales. Turn up the sound to hear one vocalize (whooom!)


humpback whale slapping fluke


its need to listen to the sea lions on skidans point


Jack chaising an ancient murrelet adult at night to check if banded

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Stuck in Prince Rupert

One of the unions for greyhound workers is on a strike, so I'm stuck in Prince Rupert for a couple days. Actually, its not a bad thing, as my alternative will be the Inside Passage ferrie ride down the central coast of BC. All pumped about sea birds from my stint with Laskeek Bay, I'll enjoy the opportunity for some chance glances at pelagic birds and inshore birds. Petrels.

So, what am I doing in PR? Watching movies, getting rediculously tanked with the other backpackers, enjoying the nice little town. If I had money I'd kayak around, alas, I've got some gumboots so I think I'll go clump around in the intertidal tomorrow.

Monday, 21 May 2007

sea lions swimming Laskeek Bay

stellar sea lions swimming

sea surface temperature in laskeek bay

sea surface temperature in laskeek bay

Laskeek Bay Conservation Society

May 18th

Its the silence more than anything else that typifies the end of my time with the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society: no trills of the Townsends Warbler, no shimmering droplets from Ravens, no panicked cackling of the Black Oyster Catchers, no bellows from Humpbacks whales to wake you in the morning, no more omnipresent crash of the surf on the craggy limestone shores to orient your body. Most of all, I will miss the Ancient Murrlets, those peculiar Auks whose colony is the raison d'etre of the LBCS. They fly in from the sea at night to trade incubating duties with their mate, down in shallow burrows scattered in the forest and around our camp. Breee-tri-ti-ti-brimp! A party of non-breeders in the branches erupts in calls and helicopter-loud wing beets, sometimes crashing into your tent (they can't see so well in the dark, but neither can raptors and ravens, so thats the trade-off). Now, just dropped off by the cesna in Queen Charelotte Village, its like I'm searching for these familiar sounds that were always in the background of my time on Limestone Island.

I think I finally get the “cult” of seabird biologists— under the tutelage of Jen and Jake, two young and very competent project biologists, I learned about the evolution and ecology of seabirds, and the pleasure of working with them. In short, seabirds are big, loud, generally social, oddly married to the terrestrial system for giving birth, and forage far and wide over the patchy and transient resources of the sea. The Ancient Murrelets are amusing in that the hatchlings are precocial and make a long tracherous march from their hillside burrows over jagged and cliffy terrains to the sea, only two days after they've hatched, then boogie it out over huge swells, gale force winds, and the darkness of night, paddling with little feet to feeding areas in the Hecate Straight. Plastic-sheet “funnels” lining the colony would corral the tiny chicks into predictable outflows where waiting volunteers could snatch the chicks to count and weigh them. All this happens between 12:00 – 3:00 am, everyone's generally sleep deprived, but the miracle of life bouncing down cliffs keeps you going and happy.

There is a decline in the Murrelet numbers.

I also helped do sea transects for birds and marine mammals surveys, monitor wildlife trees (snags), and other odds and ends. Some highlights include Stellar Sea Lion haul outs, booming humpbacks, two tufted Puffins! and good times with cool nature-buffs.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Laskeek Bay Conservation Society

2 weeks volunteering with the Laskeek Bay Conservation Society in the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Ancient Murrelets.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

rainiest city in Canada

It takes 26 hours by greyhound to get from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, the lauchpoint for Alaskan ferrie rides and the Haida Gwaii. I've another 8 hour ferrie ahead of me, and find myself waiting for another 5 hours or so in the "rainiest city in Canada". Not bad here, old enough to have a real downtown, and popular enough to not be gutted by superstores. The best part of the trip was along the Skeena river from Terrace to PR. Collasal water falls dive from mossy granite cliffs capped by misty gaciers, down into the wide muddy waters of the Skeena. There's actually old growth here, as you can see with all the dead standing trees, unlike the logged disgrace that was the rest of BC.

What's with the Scandinavian flags in Prince Rupert? Well, apparently they built this city... coincidence! Everywhere I go in Canada, the swedes manifest themselves in one way or another

Monday, 30 April 2007

I'm going to a wasteland

Two days until I set out to Prince Rupert. A little stressed about getting rid of my sewning table, when I had the weather statistics of Barrow Alaska to brighten my day. Dispite the fact that there is 24 sunlight....
Normal June high temperature: 4 Celcius
Normal June low: - 1
so the average is something like -1 to 4 Celius.

Speachless. Typeless.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Goodbye Environment Canada

The thai tie a string around their
wrist to bond their guides/spirits to them while they undergo huge
transitions. Well, from a downtown highrise, to living out of my
backpack on the Haida Gwaii, I wonder how long my spirits will linger
at 401 Burrard St. Vancouver, the Environment Canada office where I
worked for the last 8 months.

Being stripped of your security
card is like turning in your apartment key, somehow... homeless,
normal citizen, or just rearranged a bit.

I said goodbye to my
boss, Risa, who is one of the smartest persons I've met. I said
goodbye to the other student and my colleagues. I'll miss them, and
other things too: 8 months in government office culture and the
grandiose issues of the environment becomes addictive - the self
importance, the wide network of professions, the opportunities for
growth, mentoring. Oh, and the dark insights into the
anti-environmental crusade of the Harpers.

Hard to imagine
myself without having worked at EC, without this knowledge I'm
accumulated. A gathering of a thousand scientists at the Georgia
Basin Puget Sound Science Conference, and I placed 3rd of 37 students
for my presentation of my time at Environment Canada, a testiment to
what I learned and the importance of my job - measuring the status of
our ecosystems.


Scoil Rince De Danaan Irish Dance

In irish dance, your whole body becomes
a percusive instrument. Like a military drum role, rata tat tat with
the hard shoes. Though I'm ungangly and disproportionately weak and
strong, I flare with energy and enjoy bouncing around the hall for
over two hours. Plus, perhaps call it theraputic or spiritual, there
is something to dance. Like singing, dancing has a deep root in the
history of our species.

I was lucky to have a great class,
great dynamics and a great instructor, a lot better than my last
stint in Alberta. I wonder if I invest more time into it, if I can
make a semi-career out of it... hmmm, like a fatter version of
Riverdance... nah, I'll waste thousands of dollars in lessons and
physiotherapy bills.

The beginning of the ends. This is the
last class of Irish Dance at the Scoil Rince DeDanann. Will I be able
to dance in Alaska? Sweden? Will my body remember the movements when
I return to vancouver in a god knows how many years?


Aug 20th 2006

The Great Bear rainforest is spiky like
a porcupine. It has old old grey snags like spires, more numerous
than the Helmlock or pine. I look at the shores of Vancouver and miss
the old growth, the standing dead, and my god the beautiful
intertidal! Anenomes, mussels, crabs, stars, herring fish. We found
the most northern occurrence of the endangered red-legged frog, while
beach in swells and trudging up steep mainland thickets. Why would I
ever leave BC, when we have the forests, the sea, and the marriage of
the two?

Now, we'll analyze the data, for
Klara's masters. This could be a good break for me too, doing a real
study, helping from start to the end.

Stina the Cat

Perhaps Klara and I will do up to Linköpping to get a
cat--oh, the heartache, that such a relationship milestone, the pet,
occurs at the end of my time in Gothenburg. Well, it had to end sooner or later. Sweden has become
something of a second home to me... I always say that, but every year
the pain is greater each time I move.

Seal Rehabilitation

Aug 16.05
Back from Zeehonden Creche in
the Netherlands. What to say, you can look in my photos section for
the pictures for the cute baby seals, whom we feed, cleaned, and
assisted nurses with other care. Seeing the personalities of the
seals, their curousity, sociability and playfulness, I was haunted by
the grim Canadian inheritance of 350000 dead seals annually in the
maritimes, in fact the largest slaughter of wild mammals on the face
of the planet, period.
Must stop the killing, must devote my
energies to saving our bludgeoned marine friends. Most Canadians
don't know about it, thinking we are civilized a people, in
comparison to the monsters down south: a ignorant assumption, and
begets our collective inertia to take responsibility for the
industries that rape the planet under our name.

The Epic Norwegian Hitchhike

Just back from an epic hitchhike in Northern Norway. I
loved the midnight sun especially, such a convience for two weary
tenters seeking places to sleep. Thanks to Jenny, friend from Lund
and whale watcher guide, we got cheap tickets to see some diving
sperm whales. They go down a 1000m with phosphorlescent bacteria in
there mouths, eating 18m´beaked squid! Amazing. Hitching in
Napp, on the slate and shale rocks in the Jotenheimen, the Home of
the giants, and many great people.
Soon, I'll head to Netherlands
to volunteer at a seal rehabiliation centre. Sad to leave my friend
Klara here in Göteborg.

June 3.05
I was the top of
the class for both courses that I took here in Lund. The only other
canadian chick did as well in her courses. Must be the canadian
inferiority complex.
So, now i'm off to the artic circle, northern
Norway. I feel a bit sad always moving around. 5 months here. 8
months there, for the past three years non-stop. Christ. My heart
can't take it anymore.

May 14.05
I am contributing once
again to this page because Klara Jansson, this pretty swede from
Gothenburg has been reading my webpage, so here it goes...
We just
returned from a week long field trip in Småland, a pine and
spruce region of southern sweden, studying three small lakes. My partner, being the typical ultra-modern swede, was quick to skinny dip with professors and TAs, though I am more bashful.
I love this countries eduction: chilling with Camerooni cats and benthic invetebrates, while it
hailed, rained, and shone warm spring sun down on us. Very nice!

Jan 13.05
I'm in Sweden now, Lund University.
Lots of bikes and geothermally heated homes, oh ya!


07 04
Just returned from a week hitchhike of alberta, and dispite
the warnings of my rasist housemates and work friends, I wasn't
mugged and rapped by angry Indians and Rednecks. I've returned with a
sad understanding of this Albertan economy: oil and gas, indirectly,
directly, these people are embedded in it. Talking with so many
workers with such vested interests in the industry, I now realize
that this place will tolerate the most noxious denial of global
warming, least the cognitive dissonance drive them insane. Aren't we
all though, as bad as Albertans? Though our values are different from
these oil-barrons, in the end, our behaviour is the same: "keep
on truckin'." I made it as high as High Level, but the muskeg
coolness was making me wary tenting it. Heading down to the peace
Rive country (land of the 12 foot davis), the temperature was as high
as 20, beatiful. Grande Prairie sucked (ugly sprawling oil
boom-town), as it was the longest I had to wait to catch a ride down
to Grande Cache, and it seemed like everyone who passed me by was
also given me the look like "what a fuckin scum bag, as if i'd
pick him up!" Camping by Grande Cache was great, in the
footfills of the Rockies, given the lord's blessing from a driver. Of
course, the route from Jasper to Banff was stunning, and I camped by
the most idyllic lake, with violent spirally mist over purple
twilight water, with the brooding grey fortress of the rockies in the
background. I even got a pretty girls number (there always seems to
be at least one chick who picks me up on these silly

Perhaps the best was meeting my 2nd Cousin, David
Rankin, and his family, in Ghost Lake. Ah, I thought I a freak of
nature in my family; at last, someone who shares my moral
disposition! A fellow lefty, post-modern optimist and social justice
activist. I was a little anxious at first, David being a minister,
but, of course, what other profession is a better vehicle for helping
those in need. His family was also great. Meeting my Godmother was
great too: another aware and conscientious individual, living in
Calgary, home to 20000 Amreekans, and has lapsed into a level of
rightwing acquiecence approaching 1935 Nazi Germany (they call
Edmonton Redmonton! Us, communists! Us!)

Hitchhiking is
great. I do it because a) it is the most intimate form of
transportation with total strangers, b) you really see Karma in
action, c) cheap d) frivilous travel in gasoline cars is spit in the
face of our grandchildren, but sharing rides lessens the burden.

SEP 19 04
I ran the terry fox run today, on a gorgeous
fall day. I enjoy the change of the seasons the anticipation of
change, however good or bad. Tomorrow is my birthday. 22. And I feel?
What will I do, Irish dancing, oh yeah.

SEP 5 04
received my 4-season tent, and I am scheming a chilly hitchhike up to
yellowknife. Hopefully. Though, I must admit I am a bit anxious. All
my racist albertan coworkers warm me that i will get hurt from the
natives and hicks up there. I can't say, but, knowing the provincial
worldview of albertans I hope that peace and compassion will see me
safely up there, or perhaps i am naive.

I also have my guitar
now, and, alas, i barely leave my basement room, wanting only to fill
lonely place with beautiful creations.

AUG 21 04
got bored and actually added another section: biography.

20 04
The mornings are cooler, the evenings darken quickly, and
the last summer festival is wrapping up. I must endure another 4
months in edmonton, at my Laboratory. It is like an assemby line of
chemical tests. Look around you, North Americans, and know that the
high standard of living, as economists define, brought about by high
productivity, that is, less resources for more national output, and ,
therefore, lower costs, has been possible because of dehumanising
jobs. I guess too, a clean environment, by my creative vacuum of a

JUN 05 04
Some introspection: what is the purpose in
life? I used to be such a driven person. I delved into the
intellectual mysteries of physics, psychology, and religions;
deliberately subjecting myself to any and all stranges circumstances,
bizarre experiences like a koan to attack the comfortable norms and
mental heuristics that blinded me from that nascent Truth of
I think i looked into the heart of one of the
shallower stages of enlightenment once, while meditating But i was
scared, and chose not to. It would make me peaceful, yes, but I
needed the unconscious rage to fuel ambition. I am an intellectual,
not a sensitive yogi, not a nurturer, and I have much need of
ambition. For what??
Im not too sure. But from my endeavours in
religion, i picked up a lot of compassion.
"from the clouds
of wisdom, let compassion rain down indescriminantly upon all

MAY 30 04. Go OPEC go!! Oh, I love high gas
prices. And I hate cars. More people in ontario die from poor air
quality than breast cancer, and most of that is more private
Ventured out into some of the edmonton meat
markets last night, though im hardly a wooer. Now im tired as hell
and have to go to work today, sunday. At least i can listen to the
cbc there, and not be bothered by all the weekday staff. Go OPEC go.
Fuck car culture.

MAY 12 04
Zen at work in a lab coat.
Boring coworkers. Sigh, and I need to find someone to belay with!!

MAY 05 04.
I want to bike across Canada and give
environmental workshops along the way. I need funding though. If you
want to join me, send me an email.
Anyway, I had my third day at
EnviroTest Laboratories in Edmonton Alberta, as a BOD analyst, which
is a really mindless position, actually. I am oddly surrounded by
asian and polish women, one or two of them who are cute. I wonder how
I will manage to survive this silly job, how I think back so fondly
about my time in Niagara-on-the-lake, living with Mexicans, teaching
ESL, being outside all the time, and loving my friend Sophie.

01 04.
About a week now in Edmonton. Truly a land for cars, and
very anti-pedestrian. I finally landed a place to live, a rickety old
store-converted into a college house. The housemates seem nice,
though I always wonder how i'll relate to them in the long run.
was afraid that I how have to eat industrail-feed, but met a girl
Emma at the local farmer's market who told me all about all the cheap
organic spots. Now, I will go eat an organic orange, yee-haw! I LOVE
ALBERTA BEEF---> prominent bumper sticker, must destroy!

16 04. Well, just finished my first year at SFU. Now, Im off to the
island, and then onto Alberta!

APR 3 04.
Added some more

MAR 29 04.
I am wrapping up here at SFU. I am
changed, but not for the better.

OCT 17 03.
the photo
section is up.

SEPT 21 03.
The summer is over and I miss
all my friends back on the peach farm in Niagara-on-the-lake. I had a
great time living and working with mexican migrant workers, and doing
ESL lessons in the evening. Now, i am on my way out west to study
environmental science at SFU.

Friday, 27 April 2007

SEPT 21 03.

21 03.

The summer is over and I miss all my friends back on the
peach farm in Niagara-on-the-lake. I had a great time living and
working with mexican migrant workers, and doing ESL lessons in the
evening. Now, i am on my way out west to study environmental science
at SFU.