2015 Jul 17

Botanist Dr. Jeff Saarela with his Arctic plant samples

(Post 4 of 5)

A man and his plants. Jeff Saarela shows off the Oxitropus maydelliana he collected in Cape Dorset. It’s also called locoweed: “Don’t eat it,” Jeff says.

Jeff and Roger came north from the Canadian Museum of Nature on a mission to collect, sample, map, press and dry plants. They have 2000 sheets of newsprint and 1000 baggies for DNA collection, not to mention cardboard, plant presses, reference books and the highest quality camp food prepared by Roger. The foot of my bed, where I’m staying with them, is a tangle of roots and shoots.

For Jeff, it’s about the natural heritage of this country. “We want to understand what’s out here. We still don’t know that.” Jeff is young, but he’s part of a dying breed. Whole organism biologists, like him, are losing ground against molecular science. Scientists who work in the field and know their taxonomy are getting harder to find.

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