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  6. Canadian Museum of Nature leads plant-collecting expedition to Arviat in Nunavut

Canadian Museum of Nature leads plant-collecting expedition to Arviat in Nunavut

Roger Bull © Canadian Museum of Nature.


Dr. Lynn Gillespie along the Soper River, Baffin Island in 2012. 

OTTAWA, June 29, 2016—A team of botanists from the Canadian Museum of Nature are again heading north this summer to document plant diversity, this time around the Hudson Bay coastal community of Arviat, Nunavut.

The four-week field expedition is part of the ongoing Arctic Flora Project. The goal of this international scientific effort is to collect, map and identify the more than 800 species of vascular plants (as well as mosses and lichens) that are thought to populate the Canadian Arctic and northern Alaska.

The botanists will also collaborate with Nunavut Parks and Special Places for an inventory of plants in an area just east of Arviat, which is designated to become a new territorial park. Arviat, population 2,800, is the southernmost community in Nunavut and has special geographic interest because it includes a coastal tundra environment that is close to the treeline.  

“The Arctic covers such a large area, and since we can only visit one region a year we want to explore where the plants have not been well studied,” explains project leader Dr. Lynn Gillespie, who has more than 20 Arctic field trips to her credit. “Few scientific collections of plants are known from the Arviat area, and its proximity to the treeline makes it even more interesting as a place for scientific study.”

Gillespie will be joined by museum scientist and lichen expert Dr. Troy McMullinResearch Associate Dr. Geoffrey Levin, Senior Research Assistant Paul Sokoloff, and Sam Godfrey, a graduate student from the University of Ottawa. 

Since 2009, the museum’s botanists have canoed, camped and trekked through some of the Arctic’s remotest areas, acquiring thousands of plant specimens for study and documentation. Regions explored have included the Hornaday River and Tuktut Nogait National Park in western Northwest Territories, Victoria Island (one of the larger islands in the Arctic Archipelago), the Coppermine River region in mainland Nunavut, and the Soper River on Baffin Island.

Thousands of specimens from these expeditions— covering a range of diversity including willows, orchids, poppies, grasses and sedges—have been added to the museum's National Herbarium, which houses the best collection of North American Arctic plants in the world. Samples for DNA analysis are also prepared as part of the scientific mix.

During the Arviat expedition, the team will be based out of a research station of the Nunavut Research Institute, where they can take daily forays to the tundra, both around Arviat and up to 20 km farther.

“We will aim to do an inventory of everything we come across, with a focus on rare and interesting plants that may not be known from the area,” explains Gillespie.


The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature's past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 10.5 million specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca. 

Images and interviews are available upon request. Information for media:

Dan Smythe
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613.566.4781; 613.698.9253 (cell)