Today, I explored freshwater on eastern Baffin Island, on the hunt for diatoms. I was wearing my chest-waders and had my field equipment with me: a flow meter, graduated cylinder, small filter apparatus, bottles for water analysis, plankton net, scraping tools, plastic bags and two high-tech sampling tools—a toothbrush and a turkey-baster. The toothbrush is perfect for collecting microscopic life off of rocks. The turkey-baster proved to be excellent for collecting the mud at the bottom of the pond.
Today, with the help of some students, we collected microscopic diatoms. The students asked me why I study diatoms and I told them that next to bacteria, they are the most common microscopic life forms in Arctic marine and freshwaters. I told them in order to study diatoms we first need to understand the quality of the water.
Collecting samples for diatoms included taking measures for water quality. Water samples were first collected in clean plastic and glass bottles. Then a net sample was collected to look for diatoms floating in the lake water. Finally, using the toothbrush and turkey-baster we collected samples from rocks and mud and placed them in plastic bags. This was done at a few sites. Back on the ship, we measured the water samples for things like temperature, oxygen levels and pH.
On this expedition, I did not take any water samples back to the Canadian Museum of Nature but just having the ability to study the water was very helpful. Using this information I was able to predict what types of diatoms I would be able to find in certain water samples I had collected. One at a time, I placed small samples under the microscope and saw countless diatoms moving around! There are always hidden treasures to find in the Arctic.