Experiencing a new landscape

Experiencing a new landscape

By Allison Herreid

After arriving in Abisko, we had the opportunity to explore the new landscape we’ll be studying first from the air and then on foot. The plan for the day was to take a short helicopter tour above Abisko to view the arctic landscapes from above, and be dropped off at Lapporten, an iconic U-shaped valley just outside of the national park.

View of Lapporten from the hike back to Abisko

I’d never been in a helicopter before, and to be honest was a bit nervous about it, but the views were breathtaking and it was incredible to have an aerial perspective of the landscape. We flew near Abisko National Park, seeing the Kungsleden (a 440km hiking trail) and Abiskojaure below, moved towards the mountains, and eventually made our way over to Lapporten.

View of Abiskojaure from the helicopter
Aerial view of the mountains

As we started making our way towards Lapporten, the Miellajokka watershed, where I’ll be doing my field work, came into view. I started geeking out. I was thinking, what?! This is crazy! Who gets the chance to see their study watershed from above?! After seeing maps of the watershed, it was so cool to be able to identify the lakes at the top of the watershed, and see how the watershed transitions from a tundra landscape at the headwaters to birch forest towards the bottom of the catchment.

Aerial view of the Miellajokka catchment

Upon landing, Dr. Reiner Giesler provided us with information about the catchment, tundra vegetation, and history of the landscape.

Reiner teaching us about the tundra vegetation

We then started making our way back to the field station, stopping to explore streams, taking photos of the tundra plants and flowers that were new to most of us, and talking about our projects.

Hiking back to the field station
Tundra Stream
Tundra Stream

It’s one thing to discuss study sites with collaborators, but it’s another to finally get to explore them for yourself. Viewing the watershed above and then being able to walk through a good portion of it on the way back to the field station was an amazing way to get acquainted with the landscape. It was a unique and valuable opportunity and I left feeling excited to start field work after gaining two very different perspectives of the landscape.

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