Phase one over

Firstly I would like to voice my disagreement with Facebook’s decision to prevent services like wordpress from being able to share directly to a profile’s timeline. It is stupid and adds extra complications to me being able to keep people up to date. Hear our complaints and reverse this please Mr Zuckerberg- no one asked for this.

Anyway, I took a bit of a break from writing about what I’ve been doing because I’ve made it to the end of phase one of my trip. I have finished my lab work, I actually feel sadder about that than I thought I would. Though the work itself has been quite, okay really, tedious, when I spent about 5-7 days working on the bear project I got to know the guys working on that and they’re really nice and actually near my age which made conversations easier to navigate 😛 I made some nice friends I hope to meet again someday, people who made my time working at the MNR a great experience for me- hopefully they enjoyed my company too 😀 There were a few quirks of working at MNR like there are at any workplace, there’s a little table outside one of the labs (no food inside); at the start of one week, someone left a bowl of sweets on the table, no explanation, just a bowl of sweets. Gradually over the week, sweets began disappearing until the bowl was empty, I’m still trying to decide if someone just put them there to be nice or if they were running their own little behavioural experiment, laughing evilly as people struggled to restrain themselves with less and less success as the week went on.

A bit of background on the bear project: there are barbed wire hair traps set across Ontario that pull hairs off bears as they walk through the area (it doesn’t hurt), these all get packaged up in groups and sent here. Each package gets put on someone’s desk, we open each individually and put about 20 hairs into a tray well with lysis buffer in to prep them for DNA sequencing. It was described to me like this “you know how if you have long hair, in the shower you get it all together and twirl it into a ball?”- an interesting description, I personally prefer likening it to eating spaghetti. They estimate they’ll have over 26000 hair samples this year, each one needs to be sequenced so we can get an estimate of the Ontario bear population- it’s nice to feel like you’re part of something big.


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A food update should come next methinks. As you should know, Canada is a British-French country, it has some cultural acquisitions from both places. One of the French foodie items I was nagged to try is Poutine- first off, it’s pronounced Poo-tin not Poo-teen, you’ll rub French Canadians the wrong way if you say the “e”. Poutine is chips topped in gravy and cheese curd which raised a couple of issues for me 1. that sounds a little bit gross, 2. I can’t eat dairy and am a pescatarian. No.1 I got round rather easily by just sucking up and accepting that things often taste nicer than they sound, no.2 was trickier so Catherine and I made our way to the Copper Branch, a new vegan fast-ish food restaurant. I have to admit, this vegan poutine can’t taste exactly like the “real” thing but it was yum!  Next up, I tried yet another butter tart on my quest for the yummiest one- this one was a prize winner and did not disappoint, the right amount of runniness in the centre and a good crust. But, I must say that the buttertart Leslie made for me when Catherine and I went round the other night was better….. I guess her standards have slipped in the past few years. Finally….. what the hell is wrong with those cherries?!


Then there’s a mixture of random things from the week that may or may not be interesting. I have to admit that, despite having a First class Zoology degree I thought that Groundhogs were made up for the movie Groundhog day. Okay, guys, you can stop laughing at me now. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a big brown blob walk across the road and, upon my squealing “what is that?!”, I received the reply “it’s a groundhog, don’t you have those either?”. No, we do not have groundhogs but yes…. apparently they are a real thing with the funky scientific name Marmota monax.  They look a bit podge and are mega cute! I know this must be a thing elsewhere but I haven’t encountered it properly before; on the buses they don’t have loads of stop buttons, instead they have pull cords that reach the length of the bus so anyone can pull them- I personally prefer this, I feel pretty cool reaching up and pulling the cord down 😛

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I shared some pictures from my trip to the lake with Catherine on Instagram so I’ll keep it brief here. Leslie and her husband Mal live in Keene on the side of the Trent waterways near Rice lake with their 6-year-old Goldendoodle Stella. After being supplied with a glass of water and a butter tart, I took off for a kayak in the swamp (bringing back memories of the Shrek impressions at hide and soc). Despite the fact I nearly fell in as I stepped into the boat, I managed very well in the water- I’m going to blame my near miss on the kayak being significantly lighter than the boats I’ve previously been out in. As I paddled, I occasionally stopped and let myself float with the current, watching the birds swoop low and snatch insects from the air and the occasional fish tail emerge from the water. As I returned to the shore, Leslie shouted to ask me if I fancied a trip out in the motor boat…….hell yeah! Speeding along the river was an absolute blast, the only issues were stopping Stella jumping onto the back of the boat in case a bump sent her flying into the water (not that she’d mind, she loves the water) and trying to get a good selfie as my hair decided it was time to run away from me. When we got back the sun was starting to set…. too beautiful. One of the best bits about travelling is seeing the same sun that we can see at home, in a completely different setting, different colours, different clouds, different feelings.

The only other thing I’ve really done this week is a room escape with a meetup group. It was an end of the world “what if Trump and North Korea didn’t sort it out” kind of set up- not sure how relevant the set up is given the world didn’t end with the Rocketman tweet.  Anyhow, we managed to escape the room and prevent the apocalypse despite a tense moment when we were all separated and another person couldn’t do something where they were (come on shelly!)

Oh, and I guess my absolute MSci panic was also of note! My deadline got moved to the 10th of August and I was finding really conflicting literature so my stress levels reached critical and I was just about ready to call it quits and just move here to live in the woods when I finally pulled myself together to sort it out. I think everything is okay now, have to wait for my supervisor to respond before I can send it off.

I have the weekend to pack before I head off into Algonquin national park to try to trap a wolf. I may or may not write again before I leave and whether or not I come back for a break in the middle of trapping is dependent on whether or not I actually manage to see a wolf or not. I’m not going to come back here if I haven’t trapped one as my luck means one will get caught while I’m on break! I’d rather trap for 3 weeks straight and know I’d done everything I could to trap a wolf than take a break and miss my chance. Hopefully, I’ll be able to trap and handle one during my stay but there is the real possibility that I won’t- fingers crossed……. :p  My log will probably go something like:

Day 1: no wolf

Day 2 : no wolf



Be prepared 😀






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