Merino under the Microscope

Paul Sokoloff, a botany research assistant at the Canadian Museum of Nature, recently took part in a four-week expedition in the Canadian Arctic. Paul sent us this recap of his adventures:

When you spend a month conducting fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic, your priorities get a bit re-ordered. For instance: are you being stalked by a polar bear? No? Good. How about getting enough calories for the day’s hike, sparing little thought for your slim scientific figure (ha, I wish). Are you dressed for daily weather fluctuations that range from snowing to scorching? Most importantly, how do you smell – are you repelling even your hardiest co-worker?

Fortunately for us here at the Canadian Museum of Nature, our good friends at Icebreaker stepped in to cover those last two points by providing fantastic base layers, hoodies, and socks for our 2014 Botany Expedition to the Coppermine River in western Nunavut.

Photo credit: Roger Bull

Our team of three intrepid explorers – Dr. Jeff Saarela, Roger Bull, and myself, traveled along the Coppermine River Valley, sampling and recording all of the plants we encountered as we journeyed from the treeline to the shores of the Northwest Passage. Very little botanical exploration had taken place here previously; the vast expanses of shrubby tundra, windswept granite mountains and glistening meadows were truly a botanical terra incognita. All our poking around yielded hundreds of recorded species for the area – data that will serve as a useful baseline for monitoring climate change at the treeline, and serve as a solid foundation for Arctic science and exploration for a century to come.

As you might imagine, when you’re pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, there’s little time for bathing or laundry. Fortunately for us, our Icebreaker gear saved the day! Even when our socks were stiff from accumulated grime (gross…), they hardly smelled. 2014 was a particularly hot and dry summer in the Arctic, and our merino wool base layers handled us three sweaty biologists like a champ. Even better, after a month without so much as a rinse, one wash of my T-shirt got out all the accumulated DEET and sweat, and I was clean enough to travel south – sparing my fellow passengers from the smells of adventure. Without a doubt, Icebreaker merino is definitely our new go-to gear for Arctic fieldwork. Thanks Icebreaker for keeping us cool and scent-free (and please let us know when the technology for bear-proof sweaters becomes available.

To learn more about the Canadian Museum of Nature’s work in the Arctic, check out their website Extraordinary Arctic and follow them on Twitter.

Cheers, Paul Sokoloff


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