Three Weekiversary – it takes a whole team

It is our three weekiversary on the island today*.  It is hard to believe, but we have been living on our remote Arctic Island for three whole weeks now.  So much has happened since our Twin Otter flights dropped us off on these shores.
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1. We set up and explored our little island home seeing wildlife, beautiful flowers and epic vistas.
 Here is a video of Otto the Walrus – the first walrus spotted on Qikiqtarȓuk since 1991:
 
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The beginning and end of what was once a 4-foot-high and 20-foot-long snow patch beside our cabin.

 

Spring flowers on Qikiqtarȓuk
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2. We started to collect our data as the season started to change.  Check out the video of one of the phenocams as the flowers bloom over the past three weeks and the drone videos and imagery below.
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The timelapse video of phenocam 2 from the phenology transects.  Watch the opening of all the Dryas (avens) and lupine flowers:
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shrubs_from_air

An aerial photo of Bjørn (right) – the tallest shrub on Qikiqtarȓuk from the air collected by Andy and Droney MacDroneface the drone.

Our new and fancy Sequoia sensor is working out really well so far collecting us awesome spectrally precise data on the greenness of the tundra taking into account the incoming solar radiation.
air_control_points

“Air control points” as we like to call them, which are like ground control points, but in the air that will be used to test whether our structure-for-motion data can capture tennis ball-sized objects – actual tennis balls – when suspended in space.

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3. We setup, have flown and then have had to rebuild our drones.  Though, at points we have been foiled by technical difficulties, we faced the technical challenges head-on, and we hope we have come out victorious!
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drone_flying.jpg

Jakob flying the drone Shrubcopter – a successful test flight!

Setting up for the test flight – the funky music was not actually playing in the field.  Look closely for Santo’s time-lapse dance in the middle at second 11 – that took about a minute or more in reality to film even if if it only lasts for milliseconds in the video:
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Jakob_GCPs

Setting up ground control points in the drone plots. Those black and white crosses will mark where precise coordinates will be collected with our differential GPS system which will allow us to compute our orthomosaic and structure-for-motion reconstructions – the 3D models – with our imagery.

So here is to more successful drone flying in future and to fewer technical difficulties!  May the data roll in and the science roll on smoothly.
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At the end of this blog post, I would like to take this time to give a shout out to the logistical team supporting all of our efforts:
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On the island:
The Rangers Edward, Ricky, Paden and Sam help make this research possible by supporting our day-to-day lives on the island maintaining our fieldwork safety, collecting key phenology data that our project will use, providing drinking and washing water, wood for the stoves, giving us sage advice on why our generator isn’t running smoothly for example (it wasn’t level), bringing us delicious fresh vegetables and fruits – thanks for the resupply of freshies Ricky!, saving the day by bringing in a missing driver for our telemetry and also showing us the sights of the island – thanks for the file and boat ride Edward!
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The freshies feast provided by Ricky from Inuvik.  The best tasting fruit and veggies available (except for those harvested off of the land of course!).  Check out the time-lapse video that Santo made of the feast:
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In the North:
Richard Gordon head Ranger with Herschel Island – Qikiqtaruk Territorial Park and Cameron Eckert Yukon Parks Biologist help support our research efforts by supporting the permitting process, providing key logistical support and by running the ecological monitoring program that provides key data on which our project depends.  It will be exciting to team up with the rangers and Ecological monitoring team to put together the manuscript of the changes that we have been observing over the last 15 years of ecological monitoring.
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In Edinburgh:
Tom – head of AirBorne GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh, pilot and drone research coordinator extraordinaire has been the main point person for all of our drone logistics and the main point of contact for all of our drone troubles.  Thanks Tom for your calm, cool, collected and very informative emails and extremely efficient spare parts ordering.  We feel in such good hands out here with you keeping us on track.
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Simon – PhD student at Scotland’s Rural College, drone expert and key facilitator of all our drone efforts.  When things go wrong a brief chime in to the sat phone email thread from Simon can set you right.  Your contributions Simon to our work out here in the Arctic have been immense and we look forward to showing all the imagery and data with you on our return.
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Callum – Our trusty robotics intern who developed and 3D printed our amazing gimbal camera mounts and who sends us daily weather updates!  Your gimbal mounts and set up have worked great so far and seeing those e-mails from you with the marine weather reports along the coast here helps to add more certainty into the uncertainty of weather prediction in this part of the world.  Today your weather forecasts forecasted cloud, fog, sprinkles and moderate wind – and outside that is the exact weather!  Here is hoping the improved weather conditions predicted for tomorrow hold true.
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In Kluane and Elsewhere:
The rest of TeamShrub has been supporting us too while doing their own fieldwork.  The Kluane Crew and visiting researcher Jeff Kerby will be joining us on the 18th of July for two and a bit weeks and are now working away on our detailed and demanding resupply list: we want spare drone parts – some of which are quite difficult to source, practical things like tools and electrical tape, delicious fresh foods and news from the outside world.  Thanks guys for agreeing to cater to our somewhat demanding desires.  We can’t wait to see you all again very soon – and your guys’ presences on the island is the most important thing on the resupply list.
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Then there is postdoc Anne who is working away on the non-fieldwork side of science running tundra trait Bayesian models on a high-powered computing cluster in Germany and progressing away towards big discoveries on our behalf as we work away on getting the raw data for the next set of fancy hierarchical models down the road and helping with blog post updates.
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And Meagan working on boreal shrub-related manuscripts and helping with our Yukon logistics and questions like where do you find aluminum plant tags in Whitehorse…
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And of course there is the rest of team shrub and our supporters including family, friends and you guys reading this blog who cheer us on from afar!
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Thanks guys!  They say it takes a whole village to raise one child – and that may be true, but it is definitely true that it takes a whole team to raise one or two drones into the sky to collect some data, we wouldn’t be able to be doing what we are without you!!!
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P.S. And we need to make a final shout out to Allen the pilot from Aklak Air for bringing us the latest version of the firmware for our Pixhawk flight controllers.  You have saved the day with the drones – and all for a cup of coffee!
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P.P.S. Another thanks to Ed for taking this blog post, the photos and all of the video off of the island and to the internet for posting to the team shrub blog.  We owe you yet again!
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By Isla
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*Sorry everyone, this blog post got a bit lost. They’ve been on the Island over a month now!
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