Father of Boreal ecology passes away

Earlier this month Dr. Bill Pruitt passed away. He was called the father of North American boreal ecology, and one of the world’s leading experts on snow ecology. I had the fortune to work at his Taiga Biological Station near Walace Lake, Manitoba during a winter, helping his student Jim Schaefer track woodland caribou. We were out skiing transects every day in -30C weather, looking for caribou tracks. Never saw many tracks, let alone caribou. But it was great experience nevertheless. Pruitt recruited me at a conference with his famous line: “we can house you, we can feed you, but we can’t pay you.”  That sounded good enough to me, and the field station was sufficiently remote, so jumped aboard a train for Winnipeg as soon as I could.

As mentioned in his obituary, Pruitt was a firm believer in true, old-fashioned fieldwork, spending as much time outside as possible. His motto was: “the quality of one’s data is inversely related to the amount of glass and metal in one’s surroundings”.

He was, however, a strong supporter of everything Finnish, including saunas. No field station was complete without one, and ideally it should be built first, so it was available during construction of other buildings.

My time at Taiga station and Pruitt’s work on snow helped to inspire me to pursue a Masters in winter ecology, observing ptarmigan in the Yukon/BC for two winters. My accommodations in Chilkat Pass the first year were simple at best – Pruitt would have approved.


This video on icefishing is so classically Canadian! It totally reinforces stereotypes, but it’s great.

Volcano climbing in Indonesia

Mouint Bromo and Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Mouint Bromo and Semeru, Java, Indonesia

Indonesia is blessed with some of the world’s most beautiful volcanoes (they have also created some of the world’s most fertile soils, although the frequent eruptions have caused countless hardships for those living on their slopes). One of my favourite hobbies while I lived in Indonesia was to climb these peaks. The views from the tops are amazing, it is nice and cool up there, and it’s great exercise. Until now there was no single source of information on all volcanoes and other mountains in the country, but a couple of expats have recently launched Gunung Bagging – a website that details all the mountains in Indonesia over 1000m. Very inspiring!

Thanks to besthike.com for the tip-off.

Kayaking around South Georgia to save the albatross

in 2007 I reported on my friend Hayley Shepard’s plan to kayak around South Georgia islands – solo – to raise awareness for the plight of the albatross, a critically endangered species. After several years of planning she is finally on her way in January. You can follow her South Georgia journey on her blog, or donate at her main South Georgia expedition website.

Alexander Keith Brewery

A local institution: Alexander Keith Brewery in Halifax. And enjoy the International Busker Festival on Halifax’s waterfront!


Kayaking the Slave River rapids

We gathered some great action video on the Slave River rapids near Fort Smith NWT this summer. They run a great kayaking paddlefest. Who knew?