The Joys of Winter Fieldwork

Over the past couple weeks a number of students in the Bayne lab have headed out to deploy some autonomous recording units as part of bioacoustic monitoring for several projects this year in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Although it really feels like spring has arrived in Edmonton, it is still very wintery further north. For many of them it was their first experience with winter field work, and there were some pretty challenging snow and weather conditions. I’ve done several years of winter field work myself, first with the Kluane Red Squirrel project for my master’s, and most recently conducting acoustic surveys for owls for my PhD work. Winter field work can be extremely challenging, but can also be really enjoyable, so here are some of my favourite joys of winter field work:

 

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The incredible stillness of walking through a forest in the winter.

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That wonderful feeling of floating on top of the snow when there’s a solid crust.

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Hoarfrost coating everything on a chilly morning.

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Eerie winter sunlight straining through the clouds.

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Seeing exactly where an animal walked: coyote tracks in the snow.

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When the local residents follow you around, gray jays will often do this.

Photos and text by Julia Shonfield.