Plucking is hard work! It requires attention to detail and long hours. Today is day eight of the work. We have worked nonstop since last Monday, somedays even until 10:30-11:00 at night. Plant identification is harder if the plants are dried out, so once we start a quadrat, it has to be finished the same day. There is champagne to celebrate tonight after our last inventory and the lab is clean.

Throughout the week I was in charge of the group that went into the field to harvest the earth. Dr. Bret-Harte fell on Monday night and sprained her ankle, so she was unable to get to the tussock site. The work meant going out in the Arctic weather. One day is was almost 70, sweltering under the mosquito shirt and the rain pants we wear to collect samples. The weather then turned. This last week it has been raining, windy, and with a high of 45 degrees. Although this may sound very wimpy, I have been chilled to my core out in the field.

When you harvest the quadrat, after the cut, you dig your hands down into the earth to bring the plot up. At first you are in the organic growing layer where the plants are. You then have to scoop down under the earth to the roots and try to pry the plot up without destroying any plants. Your hands are digging down into the earth, all the way to the mineral level which lays right above the permafrost. The permafrost is frozen earth so when you reach that, your hands feel it. The only way I can think to describe is to have a bowl with a layer of ice on the bottom and ice water on the top and very carefully putting you hand in and trying to remove very important 12 year old scientific data.

Harvesting the Plot
Mineral soil which lays right above the permafrost in the tundra.

Our team is collecting two plots within one quadrat, leaving a middle section for another team who is studying the soil and roots.

Harvested plots
Harvested quadrat plots in the tundra. There has been a lot of rain this week so the tundra is saturated.

I have never participated in this type of plant inventory. It has been an incredible learning experience. I am familiar with the different types of deciduous shrubs, the little green plants, and the moss and lichen that all survive the harsh Arctic conditions. These little plants are survivors, some being many years old. In these conditions, that is incredibly impressive.

Being part of the whole process, from being in the field cutting the earth, to the pluck itself, has made me feel connected and inspired.


Svea Anderson

Toolik is like a giant camp. There is an amazing chef here who makes yummy meals. On Fridays we have pizza. :)
My friend Wendy who is another PolarTREC educator here in Alaska has eaten minke whale and walrus on her expedition. I have not.

Svea Anderson

I have never seen any of the plants that I am seeing here in the Arctic. The plants differ in different parts of the tundra as well- so I still have plants to discover! I do have a favorite little plant now though- Vaccinium uliginosum or the Arctic blueberry. It is adorable.

Svea Anderson

Mineral soil is the soil (like mud) right above the permafrost layer. It isn't like what we would consider a mineral (like a stone) but more what makes up the composition of the layer. I had never seen it either and it was super cool for me as well. It is really cold to touch!

Svea Anderson

It is currently snowing! It is chilly! My favorite plant is the Vaccinium uliginosum or Arctic blueberry. It is really sweet looking. You should google it to see how cute the plant is! :)


I see a mosquito themed costume party in your future.


Hi its Bd, when do u plan on coming back to Tucson Mrs. Maxwell would like to know and so would the rest on my period 5 challenge science class. Hope u come back with great memories. Safe travels. From,


whats the coldest its got


what kind of plants have you seen

what type of c…

what type of clothes did you have to were

Hadley Moore

What type of animals have you seen?

Madeline McCabe

Hello! I was wondering how you are preventing against the mosquitoes?

Svea Anderson

Hi Ava- Good question! I have seen lots of interesting things. It is hard to pick out just one. As far as wildlife, I was super happy to see a herd of 25-30 musk ox. They are adorable. (Google them if you don't know what they look like!)

Svea Anderson

Hi Jon. Yes. I am cold. I just got out of the field where it was windy and snowing. I have hand warmers in my pockets and lots of layers on!

Svea Anderson

Hi Madeline,
Great question! I wear a bug shirt when I am out in the field and gloves.

Anna Harris

What do you guys to eat in the Arctic?

Ava Cheney

Mrs.Anderson What is the most interesting thing that you have see?


is it hard to pluck?


do you miss your class?


Was there 1 plant that you couldnt pull out or a plant that you never saw before?


What's your favorite thing you've done in Alaska?

Anna Harris

Is there any thing you wish you could have brought with you to the Arctic?


Have you ever saw a mineral that you thought was only supposed to be in a cave or did you see a mineral that you have never seen before because i have never seen mineral soil so that is pretty cool to me! =)


Wow! 45 degrees is cold! What is your favorite plant you have seen?