J. Rebecca Gould Calabro
August 5, 2005
I was so excited! Today we were going to venture into the Alpine Tundra surrounding Abisko. Finally I would see actual tundra!
We went up a chair lift (Abisko has some downhill skiing during the winter --- the ski season in Sweden starts in February when the sun reappears and ends in late May when the snow has mostly melted away) to the Alpine Tundra. I was amazed as I watched the scenery below. As we passed through the taiga, I noticed that it looked like a miniature New Hampshire. I could see the birch trees but they were tiny! They were the skinniest trees I'd ever seen. I emerged out of tree line to view mountain summits but these mountains were not that high above sea level. I believe we were only a little over 1000 meters (about 3200 feet). This was the tundra characterized by a mountain peak with tiny flowers scattered among the short shrubs.
Inga, the instructor, preferred Swedish as the primary language in the course. Despite my limited ability to understand the content, I was able to collaborate with my peers and enlist their help. I discovered a very valuable lesson for scientists. Collaboration and using peers are extremely valuable skills. This certainly reaffirms my desire to insist upon my students working in groups. I had a Mountain Alpine Book that had a Latin index and an English index. I relied upon my fellow students to help me convert the Swedish name (that Inga gave to us) into Latin and then I was able to convert that into English so I could tell what I was looking at. This process made me realize how challenging it must be to have research expeditions that involve scientists from multiple countries. If you do not speak the language, then you are dependent upon your colleagues. If it had not been for the willingness of my fellow participants to help translate the Swedish into Latin, I would not have been able to participate in the excursion.
One thing that I remember happening was that many of the flowers that we saw were not supposed to be in bloom in August! These flowers have adapted to be able to grow when the snow and ice melt off the tundra. If the winter is longer than usual then the growing season of these flowers is prolonged.
Some of the flowers that we saw are shown below. Can you use the Internet and the same Mountain Flower book that I used to match the flower to its proper name on the right?