I leave Guelph bound to travel the “Lands”


I end my undergraduate experience with a whirlwind of amazing opportunities ahead of me.

No I didn’t win the lottery.

Rather, I am traveling to quite a few remote places, which is good enough for me.

I thought like 1000s of other students wrapping up their education, I’d either be left jobless with my Zoology degree or working in a random service industry. Let’s face it, with a background that specific I need more education to get a decent paying job.

But lucky for me, I got employed, as a student in St. John’s Newfoundland! Looks like I’m not leaving University for the “real world” for another 2 years. That’s fine because I’m moving beside an actual ocean so that I can study marine critters from depths of 2000 meters!

Tentatively, I will be studying the effects of ocean acidification/temperature on the reproductive aspect of sea anemones and scallops in the lab of Dr. Annie Mercier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJustine Ammendolia, view outside the Marine Science Center at Memorial University of Newfoundland in March.


Thinking about packing is the most surreal part of this summer. I’ll just worry about putting my things together for the next 2 years the night before leaving…

Anyways, I’m not stressing because I have way more interesting things in store for the summer.

The other 2 lands I will be visiting include:

Greenland and Iceland.

Yes, Greenland, population 56,840. The world’s largest island, ¾ of its land mass covered with ice.

The exciting part is that this trip is not for leisure. I will be participating in a series of long term monitoring projects with 3 other researchers as well as carrying out an independent project I developed with my adviser, Dr. Shoshanah Jacobs.

And the fantastic news is that the expedition was funded by the National Geographic Society (Washington, D.C) and the Explorers Club (N.Y.C)!

The Youth Activity Grant I was awarded by the Explorers Club was given to about 20 students from a pool of over 400 applicants. Furthermore, the National Geographic Society awarded me with the highest financial award. I will soon be featured on their website along with 20 other adventure seeking students in disciplines ranging from filmmaking to tropical biology!

Needless, to say, I screamed at full volume when I read both emails. This was definitely the biggest highlight of my undergraduate degree. Being recognized by 2 worldwide renowned organizations that have supported scientific research for over 80 years!

So, you’re probably asking what could a Guelph student have suggested that is worth 1000s of dollars to go study in Greenland?

Well, let me introduce you to these little fellows here, the Little Auks (Alle alle). Just picture a pygmy penguin…..                                                                                                                                                                                                          Auks Phil Wickens/Quark Expeditions http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/12/29/witnessing-change-and-searching-for-wilderness-circumnavigating-the-svalbard-archipelago-in-the-arctic-circle/phil-wickens/


At a whopping 150 grams, these birds come together by the 1000s to breed in colonies on the East Coast of Greenland. Specifically, they nest in crevices and burrows along the cliff. I will be investigating the foraging patterns of these little guys at different parts of the colony in order to determine if they forage at different locations?

So basically, is the colony divided into little neighborhoods that have specific feeding areas for its residents?

Below is an example of the foraging patterns from another marine shorebird within the same colony (represented by the star). As evident, not all residents of the colony forage in the same area. Each line represents a different bird that was sampled by attaching a tracker that recorded the traveling data. This is season of sampling, so tons of work!

map GPS tracking of Gannets by Dr Steve Votier http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/getinvolved/wales/b/wales-blog/archive/2014/03/19/grassholm-39-s-gannets-amp-extending-protection-areas-special-blog-by-ramsey-island-warden-greg-morgan.aspx


We will be studying the birds by attaching electronic trackers to birds. After watching the birds for hours and hours, so we don’t lose track of the tags. After we will remove them. The information from the devices is mind blowing! We can find out information about specific feeding locations, distances traveled and times spent at the sites. Yeah, super high tech!


Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 2.42.59 PM Trackers are used for a variety of different ornithological field studies http://ecotone-telemetry.com/index.php/en/products/gps-uhf-gsm


I will be conducting this fieldwork from July 9th to August 13th where I will be joining the other researchers at a small airport in Greenland.

I will be heading to East Greenland at the field site Kap Hoegh (78.26, 15.05). With a permanent population 0 and a temporary summer population 4! After spending the summer in Toronto I can’t wait to get out to an isolated location with more polar bears than people!

The other land I will be visiting is Iceland, the greener and more populace land. With about 320,137 folks I plan on getting my dose of culture, cuisine, customs and national parks. I will be spending time in the capital Reykjavik while getting out to enjoy some camping as well

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 2.58.00 PM Image of field site, Kap Hoegh from Google Maps. http://mapcarta.com/19192626

With a little over 20 days to go before I depart I am trying to get everything in order. Easier said then done. Arranging flights, helicopters, field equipment, project planning, confirming grant paperwork, emailing…

I am definitely getting a reality check for what field research entails. Months of planning but having the expedition come closer into view completely makes it all worth it!

I’ll keep you posted for more updates!



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