CNST Scholarship $5,000
PhD Candidate, Quaternary geology and geochemistry
University of Alberta
Title: Geochronology and paleoenvironments of Middle Pleistocene interglacials in eastern Beringia
During the middle Pleistocene (780-125ka) the Earth’s climate system settled into a pattern that shaped our modern landscape, flora and fauna. Scientists study climate dynamics of this time to better understand climate-forcing mechanisms and gain insight into projected climate change, relying largely on ice and marine cores. However, to gain a thorough grasp of middle Pleistocene paleoenvironments, these data need to be supplemented by well-dated, continuous terrestrial records. Unfortunately, the middle Pleistocene is poorly represented in paleoclimate records in the circumpolar North. Greenland ice cores do not extend beyond ~125ka, and terrestrial middle Pleistocene stratigraphic records are rare due to repeated glaciations and difficulties in dating older sediments; e.g. radiocarbon (~50ka limit).
Eastern Beringia (non-glaciated Yukon/Alaska) may contain complete middle Pleistocene stratigraphic records that can be dated and correlated by volcanic ash (tephra). My objective is to develop a middle Pleistocene chronostratigraphic framework for eastern Beringia by collecting tephra beds from sites of known or suspected middle Pleistocene age, using geochemical signatures of the beds to correlate sites, and combining the chronologic control at dated sites with newly dated tephra beds.
Faced with climate change, northern species have three options: dispersal to higher latitudes, adaptation, or extinction. The movement of animals will be a key component of the first two, more favorable, outcomes. My research focuses on Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus), the most harvested species of wildlife in Nunavut. My main objective is to better our understanding of the dispersal behavior of this species in order to predict its response to climate change. To do so, I use molecular tools that allow us to track past and present movement of animals by the traces it leaves in their genes.
My research aims at describing patterns of movement of char on different temporal and spatial scales. At broader scales, my work uses archived tissue samples of char that cover the entire North American distribution of the species. This work asks two questions. First, how did Arctic char re-colonize the Arctic following the last great climatic disturbance: the Pleistocene glaciation? Second, how do oceanic features like temperature and salinity influence the movement of char, and how will changes in these environmental features affect the species? At smaller scales, I am interested in movement of fish between different rivers around the Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island. I conducted extensive fieldwork for this project, which is done in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. We will also use the results of this project to inform management of Arctic char, which is fished commercially and for subsistence by the community of Pangnirtung.
Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship $10,000
Inuit villages in Nunavik (the Arctic region of the province of Quebec) are currently facing complex social challenges as well as food security issues related to the availability, quality, and cost of fresh fruit and vegetables.
The general objective of this work is to develop a community-based northern agricultural model—inspired and informed by the rich traditional relationship that Inuit have with food—that addresses the food security needs, social challenges and environmental issues of Arctic communities in a sustainable, culturally appropriate manner. The specific objective of this work is to facilitate and document the development of a greenhouse pilot project in Kuujjuaq (the administrative capital of Nunavik and the largest of the regions’ 14 villages). It is thought that a project that is based upon principles of ecological design and informed by Inuit praxis can not only produce high quality fresh food, but can also help build-up the community capacity of this dynamic, rapidly growing, northern village.
This original research is very relevant within the current political context of Arctic sustainable development and will contribute significantly to the field of ecological design as well as to the community development and food security strategies of northern villages.
The W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (PhD) $40,000
PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution
University of Calgary
Title: Evolutionary genetics of adaptive divergence in the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
Understanding how organisms adapt to new environments remains a central goal in evolutionary biology. The process by which organisms become better suited to their environment is called adaptation. My PhD project addresses the process of adaptation in two ways. First, I will address how genetic history may affect an organism’s ability to adapt, and second I will address how genomic regions involved in adaptation evolve over time. For my project, I am using a small fish called the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), that has diverged to new fresh water lake environments from the sea after the last ice-age, but it also still exists in its ancestral marine form. I have study sites from Alaska down to Baja, Mexico. My sites in Alaska focus on lakes of different ages, while along the latitudinal gradient I will address the question about genetic history. This project has applications to understanding how all organisms adapt, and potentially for understanding how organisms will adapt to a rapidly warming world.
Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman *
PhD Candidate, Environmental and Life Sciences
Title: Integrated Investigation of Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) Habitat Ecology Through Aerial Surveys and Nunavimmiut Knowledge in Nunavik
Unprecedented rates of climate change may be altering Arctic marine ecology. Understanding impacts to and changes in beluga whale populations are of particular interest because of the species’ importance to the subsistence and culture of Inuit and for the insights the study of this species can provide into ecosystem health. My research focuses on the study of two beluga populations, which are listed as ‘endangered’ and have been slow to recover following commercial whaling a century ago. There is a need to increase our knowledge of factors influencing habitat selection and behavioural ecology of this species in order to be able to better understand and manage these populations. My overall research objective is to develop a comprehensive understanding of beluga habitat ecology in north-eastern Canada. Through the analysis and integration of different survey and observational techniques/methods including Nunavimmiut (Inuit) Knowledge and aerial surveys of beluga whales the project will identify critical factors that influence habitat use and preference as well as ecological factors associated with these areas of importance. Increased knowledge and understanding of beluga ecology and habitat selection is essential in promoting conservation and recovery of these populations and informing broader conservation strategies for Arctic marine species.
*K. Breton-Honeyman was awarded one year of funding ($20,000) due to a change in registration from MSc to PhD candidate.
Sympatric trophic polymorphism, in which different forms of the same species coexist by using different resources, is common among fishes in the Canadian Arctic. Lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush, is no exception but sympatric polymorphism has mainly been described in larger southern lakes, where one shallow- plus one or two deep-water morphs is a common pattern. Little is known of the extent to which lake trout polymorphism occurs in large northern Canadian lakes, such as Great Bear Lake, NT.
Great Bear is the largest lake within Canada and the most northerly lake of its size. In contrast to other large lakes, the pristine environment and largely non-impacted communities of Great Bear Lake should facilitate my investigation of intra-specific variation in a natural setting. The overall objective of my research is to determine differences and understand the basis for variation of up to four shallow-water lake trout morphs. Specifically, I will combine ecological and morphological approaches to quantify variations in: morphology, feeding ecology, life-history, and behaviour. Although studies in more southerly and impacted lakes have shown lake trout morphs to be generally segregated by depth, the reported occurrence of multiple shallow water morphotypes of lake trout in Great Bear Lake provides an exceptional system to investigate and further our knowledge on the origin and the maintenance of sympatric phenotypic diversity in lake trout.
I have always been inspired by Canada`s North. When I was eight, a poster of Prince Leopold Island hung above my bed. Fourteen years later, I was standing on those cliffs watching the ice and narwhal move in miniature far below, and listening to the cacophony of almost a million seabirds. 2011 will mark my tenth consecutive summer in the North, during which time I have visited over a dozen islands in the Canadian Archipelago, as well as many sites on the mainland. My passion is birds, and I have written dozens of papers on shorebirds that migrate from Tierra del Fuego to Ellesmere Island and on seabirds that somehow find food in the icy grips of Arctic springtime. I am continuing my quest for understanding of Arctic biology through a Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba on senescence in Arctic birds. Despite high energy costs, many Arctic animals live exceptionally long. Longevity for animals high in the food web leads to a high level of toxic contamination. My research will focus on the causes and consequences of longevity in akpa, an Arctic seabird with a long life and high energy costs. As a W. Garfield Weston Awardee for Northern Research, I look forward to researching more of the harsh and beautiful wildlife of Northern Canada and sharing my newfound knowledge with the many Northerners I encounter along the way.
PhD Candidate, Environmental Fluid Mechanics
University of British Columbia
Title: Diving under the big ice: Investigating the role of ocean dynamics on the fate of Ellesmere Island’s ice shelves and epishelf lakes
Ice shelves are floating platforms of ice up to 100 m thick that have been a prominent feature of the northern coastline of Ellesmere Island for at least the past 3000 years. Meltwater runoff dammed in a fjord behind an ice shelf can form a highly stratified freshwater layer overlying denser seawater, a feature called an epishelf lake. Recent atmospheric warming in this region has contributed to the collapse of many of the remaining ice shelves and the loss of associated epishelf lakes, yet little is known about the role of the ocean in determining the stability and fate of these unique systems. The project will involve deploying oceanographic instruments to measure variations in stratification, heat flow and circulation in Milne Fjord, Ellesmere Island, where the Milne Ice Shelf dams the largest known epishelf lake in the Arctic, a perennially ice-covered 16 m deep freshwater layer overlying 350 m of seawater. In order to survey a larger area under ice a portable Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), a mini robotic submersible, will be deployed. This innovative technology will help determine the oceanographic processes shaping a rare cryospheric ecosystem that is vulnerable to complete disappearance as a result of ongoing climate change.
There are several large tracts of land in northern Canada that have seen little geological study. Cumberland Peninsula, on eastern Baffin Island, Nunavut is such an example of a 58 000 km2 gap in Canadian geoscience knowledge; therefore, Cumberland Peninsula was selected by the Geological Survey of Canada for regional-scale mapping as a part of the Government of Canada’s Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals (GEM) program. In collaboration with this project, I am researching the metamorphic geology of Cumberland Peninsula.
My overarching research motivation is to contribute to our rapidly evolving understanding of tectonic events that occurred 1.9-1.8 billion years ago in present-day northern Canada. I am addressing the region’s tectonic history through a primary study of regional metamorphism with four objectives: (1) produce a map of mineral assemblages to show the extent of metamorphic events; (2) use thermodynamic models of mineral growth and chemical diffusion to constrain the temperature, depth, and duration of metamorphism; (3) determine the relation between metamorphism and deformation induced by tectonic episodes; and (4) establish the absolute timing of metamorphism and the cooling history using isotopic geochronology. Aside from a 1:3,500,000-scale map, my research will produce the first published work on Cumberland Peninsula’s metamorphic geology.
PhD Candidate, Biological Sciences
University of Manitoba
Title: Determining seasonal diet and movement patterns of eastern Canadian Arctic whales (beluga, bowhead, and killer whales) using satellite telemetry and stable isotopes analysis
The Arctic is a region of seasonal extremes where habitat and resource abundance (i.e., prey availability) vary greatly throughout the year. My research focuses on diet and habitat use of bowhead (Balaena mysticetus), beluga (Delphinapterus leucas), and killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Research objectives include defining seasonal and interannual variation in diet and habitat use, as well as assessing variation in diet and habitat use with life history (e.g. whale age, sex).
Research objectives are being addressed using fieldwork (satellite telemetry) and labwork (stable isotopes [SI] and trace element analysis of baleen and teeth). The chemical composition of these tissues reflects that of the animal’s prey and habitat, and can be used to infer diet and movements between geographic regions. Teeth and baleen can be sampled such that chronological SI and trace element profiles can be matched to season and year of deposition, providing significant potential for diet and habitat reconstructions in relation to season, life history, and past environmental conditions such as sea ice.
Results will help to define seasonal diet and habitat requirements of these Arctic marine mammals, and identify how these populations may be vulnerable to changes in habitat and prey availability as Arctic ecosystems respond to climate change.
My research is focused on the geologic conditions required to generate rare earth-element (REE) deposits. The demand for REE has dramatically increased in recent years due to their incorporation into ‘green’ technologies, such as hybrid cars, and the solar and wind power industries. China, which currently controls over 95% of the world’s REE production, has recently begun to limit their exports, leaving the rest of the world scrambling for additional resources. In order to locate new deposits within North America, we must develop a better understanding of the processes/mechanisms responsible for the formation of REE mineralization.
To gain insight into these processes my research focuses on a known REE deposit in the NT. This specific deposit is hosted in a very geologically unique granite complex, whose intrusion is also related to the break-up of a pre-historic supercontinent. The multifaceted approach of this study (geological mapping, detailed geochemistry, isotopic studies, and geochronology) will address fundamental questions with global significance, concerning both continental breakup and the mineralization of REE deposits.
W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (Masters) $15,000
Masters Candidate, Environmental and Life Sciences
Title: Understanding bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) ecology in the Eastern Arctic using the complementary approaches of stable isotope, trace metal and traditional ecological knowledge analyses
Bowhead whales have been important to Inuit culture and subsistence for thousands of years. They were the target of significant hunting pressure during the commercial whaling period at the end of the 19th century. Despite this previous attention, gaps in the knowledge of the ecology of this species still exist. My project aims to understand the seasonal ecology of bowhead whales in Nunavik marine waters (northern Quebec) through a complementary use of Inuit knowledge (interviews with Inuit hunters and Elders) and an analysis of stable isotopes and other chemicals present in baleen plates of this species. This combination of both Inuit knowledge and western scientific approaches to understanding ecology of this species will represent a significant contribution to our knowledge on bowhead whale ecology in this region and will hopes to provide an original perspective on the approach used to gather and understanding cetacean ecology in the circumpolar Arctic region.
Masters Candidate, Botany
University of British Columbia
Title: The effects of increased soil nutrients on the morphology and reproductive strategy of understory plant species in the Boreal forest
Higher temperatures associated with global climate change are predicted to cause an increase in soil nutrients, such as nitrogen, at northern latitudes. Understanding how increased levels of such nutrients will affect northern ecosystems is essential as it will allow us to predict which species may become at risk under current climate change trajectories.
For my research I am using experimental plots near Kluane Lake, Yukon that have been fertilized for the past 22 years to investigate the effects of increased soil nutrients on the growth of Boreal understory plants. It has been shown that some species increase in abundance when fertilized, while others decline to local extinction. Based on this knowledge, I am asking two questions: (1) do plants invest more energy into reproduction when fertilized? and (2) when more nutrients are available, do plants change their shape, size, or both? To answer these questions I am comparing traits such as size of different parts (flowers, leaves, stems) and seed germinability for five common Boreal forest understory species in fertilized and unfertilized plots. This will allow me to relate fertilizer response at the individual plant level to larger-scale changes in the plant community.
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) depend on sea ice for foraging, travelling, and some aspects of reproduction. The sea ice in Hudson Bay (HB) has been melting earlier than normal in recent years in response to climate warming and declines have been seen in the condition, survival, and population size of polar bears. The objectives of this study are to 1) analyze temporal variation in polar bear distribution in HB, and 2) quantify patterns of polar bear habitat selection on the sea ice in this region, to determine if and how polar bears have responded to changing sea ice conditions.
Our research will examine seasonal distributions of polar bears using GPS satellite-linked telemetry collar data from 1994 to 2011 and the corresponding sea ice data. We will examine the movements of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population across seasons and years using utilization distributions and will look for habitat selection patterns using resource selection functions.
This research will allow improved understanding of habitat use by polar bears and the energetic implications in their movement patterns. Monitoring space-use patterns over time will allow us to understand how changes in sea ice in HB alter habitat selection by polar bears.
Since wood bison were reintroduced to the Nisling River area in the southwest Yukon in the late 1980’s, their population has jumped from 34 to over 1,100. Biologists and members of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are concerned that the bison may compete with caribou, moose and sheep for forage or physically displace them.
There are also concerns that wood bison (listed as threatened under SARA) may be altering grasslands that contain rare, endemic plant species such as Koeleria asiatica. The Aishihik and Kluane areas are interspersed with small grasslands that are considered to be relicts of steppe communities and are home to many rare plant species. Seasonal habitat selection analyses have shown that bison use these areas throughout the year.
My study will examine bison impacts on plant communities through the use of exclosures, collared bison data, scat analysis, orthophotos, consultation with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and plant inventory data from 1981.
I will be joining a multidisciplinary team on a northern arthropod biodiversity initiative sampling twelve sites in northern Canada over two years. It is a large scale collection effort to quantify arthropod biodiversity and understand how it is adapting to environmental change. My research focuses on using molecular techniques to study the population genetics of Arctic and boreal forest wolf spiders. Molecular techniques can help elucidate species boundaries, occasionally identifying morphologically cryptic species complexes, and phylogeographic patterns beyond what can be determined by morphology alone. My work will indirectly measure interpopulation dispersal and genetic relatedness of spiders, in the boreal forest vs the Arctic, by studying the genetic variation between populations. Interpopulation dispersal is influenced by changes in the environment; therefore, my research will provide a baseline for future studies looking at the ecological effects of environmental change. Changes in dispersal patterns due to the changing environment may cause the extinction or establishment of populations in some areas. In addition, I will be comparing the genetic diversity and morphological variation of contemporary and historical spider populations at Hazen Lake to determine how the populations have changed over the past 50 years.
My research aims to determine the adaptability of pond zooplankton communities to environmental change. Environmental disturbances, including climate change and increased populations of snow geese, are expected to have large impacts on nutrient loading and salinity in tundra ponds in the Subarctic. Studies have suggested that dispersal of individuals from nearby ponds may enable aquatic communities to adapt to environmental change. My research aims to assess the potential for community adaptation to increased nutrient and ion loading to tundra ponds in the Churchill region.
I will be conducting an experiment to measure the ability of dispersing species to establish in existing pond zooplankton communities. I will also be looking at how the establishment of dispersers changes throughout the ice-free season and with different environmental disturbances. The results from this study will enable us to assess community response to environmental change and the role that dispersers play in that response.
Masters Candidate, Biology
University of Prince Edward Island
Title: Challenges in Northern Aquatic Insect Sampling: An investigation into protocols for a sustainable sampling program in the Sahtu, Northwest Territories
Community-based environmental monitoring, particularly projects that involve local youth, has gained popularity over recent years in northern Canada. Within the Sahtu Settlement Area of the NWT, the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board has been working with students and researchers for many years to investigate and monitor wildlife in the region. One of the on-going projects in the Norman Wells area has been to monitor the water chemistry and aquatic insects, both of which are indicators of water quality in streams. My MSc. project aims to integrate and build upon these existing projects by developing a community-based stream biomonitoring program for the Sahtu region. Two main challenges to address are the remoteness of the communities and the fact that sampling protocols have not been tested in the subarctic for their accuracy. Therefore, my project aims to assess the suitability of standard protocols for subarctic streams by testing various aspects of commonly-used protocols for their level of accuracy and to develop a program that will enhance the capacity of remote northern communities to conduct annual stream assessments in the Sahtu. The biomonitoring program will be designed for high school students and will include modules, picture identification keys and a field demonstration video.
My research will investigate the historical climatic sensitivity of glaciers located in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador, where there are 59 small glaciers (<2 km2) covering an area of 16.7 km2. Although the occurrence of glaciers in northern Labrador is largely unknown to Canadians and their contribution to Canadian terrestrial ice volume is negligible, their geographic importance as the only glaciers on mainland North America east of the Rocky Mountains, and as the southernmost glaciers along the highland rim of the Eastern Canadian Arctic, make them of particular interest for scientific study. To address the climatic sensitivity of Torngat Mountain glaciers, this research will conduct short- (historical photographs) and long-term (late Holocene) analysis of past glacier activity.
This research will: (i) map former ice marginal positions, marked by abandoned frontal moraines, for current and recently melted glaciers; (ii) date moraine sequences in front of selected glaciers using established lichenometric techniques; and (iii) reconstruct ice cover using in situ cosmogenic radionuclide inventories in bedrock surfaces exposed by receding glaciers. This research will contribute to our knowledge of past responses of glaciers to climate change in northern Labrador and provide the basis for understanding the significance of the current glacier recession.
The objective of my study is to complete the first comprehensive survey of the Petersen Ice Shelf, one of the last remaining ice shelves in Nunavut, Canada. The survey will include ice thickness and mass balance measurements, while quantifying recent changes in surface area (1950s to 2011). This is motivated by the fact that since 2000 there has been a loss totalling >23% of the remaining ice shelves in Canada, including the complete calving of the Ayles and Markham Ice Shelves in 2005 and 2008, respectively. My study will also examine changes in adjacent features including the composition of the epishelf lake and the extent of multiyear landfast sea ice, which may provide further insight into the past and current stability of the ice shelf. My research uses a variety of approaches including ground-penetrating radar (GPR), differential GPS and specialized remote sensing techniques such as speckle tracking and interferometry. In accomplishing this study, I aim to improve our understanding of ice shelf dynamics and the conditions leading to ice shelf collapse along the northern coast of Ellesmere Island.
Northern Resident Scholarship $10,000
My thesis will examine how Residential School settlement monies have been used by Yukon First Nations people to revitalize and foster traditional ways. These may include: stronger connections to the land such as hunting and gathering activities; rejuvenating language, customs, rituals and art; and sharing with family, friends and the community. Secondly, I am interested in knowing how these monies have revitalized the First Nations in other ways including education, economic development and sports. This research addresses an existing knowledge gap, i.e., the focus is on “the good” arising from the Residential School settlement dollars.
A different understanding of Canada’s reconciliation process will be explored in the Yukon Territory. Moreover, a better examination of how reconciliation processes can be effective will be added to the knowledge base. Finally, the proposed study will give voice to Yukon First Nations people who have used the Residential School monies for beneficial outcomes.
I am interested in the history of gender, family, and intimacy among the Gwich’in people in the Northwest Territories and Yukon. I examine the ways in which intimate practices and relationships changed over a century. By identifying key catalysts of change, such as missionization and residential schools, a new emphasis on mineral and resource extraction, the signing of Treaty 11, and the introduction of wage labour, new light will be shed on the history of intimacy and greater social relations in the north.
Over the last two decades, Aboriginal resource rights in Canada have benefitted from growing socio-legal recognition. In conjunction, there has been a growing disillusionment with contemporary marine resource management approaches applied by the state as a result of increasing environmental degradation and the collapse of several fisheries. Gradually, more biologists, social scientists, and resource policy managers in Canada are looking towards traditional ecological knowledge for alternative methods in the management of natural resources. Traditional ecological knowledge is embedded within a unique milieu of particular traditions, history, and political processes. Today, the highly politicized context of traditional ecological knowledge complicates the effectiveness and cultural relevance of its application in resource management contexts. It is critical that the way in which traditional ecological knowledge is presented and implemented in contemporary resource rights and management realms, both by Indigenous and by non-Indigenous peoples, be examined. Moreover, it is vital that the research on natural resources be decolonized and examined based on community and researcher collaboration that builds on community goals and furthers aspirations.
My research explores the integration of Gitxaala traditional ecological knowledge into a joint management plan of marine resources between the Gitxaala First Nation and various stakeholders through the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (PNCIMA) planning process. Using collaborative ethnographic techniques, this project will assess the complex process of amalgamating western scientific management epistemologies and Gitxaala epistemologies in the process of producing a key management document. How is cultural identity, traditional ecological knowledge, and power negotiated both within Indigenous communities and within contemporary management policies dealing with marine resources? Furthermore, how are Gitxaala beliefs and knowledge being represented in the socio-political context of marine planning?
Karen Whonnock is a member of the Moricetown Band, Wet’suwet’en First Nation. Karen is in the second year of her doctoral program, the Doctor of Social Sciences, at Royal Roads University. Karen’s research will focus on Aboriginal Courts in Canada, and in particular the New Westminster First Nations Court, the only Aboriginal Court in BC. One of the fascinating aspects of her research is the foundation of indigenous laws for Aboriginal Courts. Karen worked previously for four years as a tribal court judge for the Colville Tribal Court in Nespelem, Washington State, USA and brings that experience to her studies. Findings from her evaluation of the New Westminster First Nations Court will aid expansion of Aboriginal Courts to northern BC.
Laakkuluk is studying how Inuit parents of preschooler children in Iqaluit, Nunavut can best provide locally harvested, culturally pertinent food – inussiutit – for their children in the context of food scarcity and increasing industrial development. She wants to find out what exactly aids or hinders the distribution of inussiutit by examining the social, cultural, identity and mental health processes involved in its distribution.
Current statistics on Inuit in Nunavut paint a picture of poverty, violence, disease, malnutrition, suicide, under-employment and under-education. Within these numbers, however, are individuals, families and cultural institutions that are finding safety and vitality in practises that have always existed in Inuit culture as well as in new, innovative ways that make the best out of current situations. The distribution of inussiutit is a prime example of people using local sources of basic nutrition as socio-cultural tools of self-determination. It is important to find out where exactly these points of strength exist and how to emphasize them so that more Inuit and especially Inuit children can benefit from emic practices of good health.
Northern Resident Award $5,000
BSc, Environmental and Conservations Sciences
University of Alberta
Title: A study of vehicle emissions from commuter traffic into Whitehorse, Yukon via the north and south access routes along the Alaska Highway
My research will be focusing on the total carbon emissions of commuter traffic travelling into and out of the City of Whitehorse. I would like to assess the number of vehicles, the size of vehicles, the peak commuting times, distances travelled, as well as average number of times that commuters travel into town. This research project will also include a survey to determine interest in a public transit service for rural commuters. After researching the topic and speaking to community members, I would like to propose a bus route that would be enticing for commuters and that will encourage the drivers to use public transit. This will include optimal timings (pick-ups) for commuters and minimal stops to ensure that a commuter bus will not take hours out of a person’s day.
The gap between Inuit youth, their parents, and Elders has created many personal and social problems for youth, including young Inuit suicide. Dr. Frank Tester, from the University of British Columbia’s School of Social Work, acknowledges these problems by using a case study approach to examine the period during which Inuit relocated from land-based camps to the settlement of Arviat, Nunavut. This project, the Nanisiniq: Arviat History Project, involves qualitative research and participatory action to train five Inuit youth from Arviat as researchers in the discovery of Inuit history. Through acquiring new insights into this historical period, the purpose of this project is to bring Elders and youth together, and to empower Inuit youth.
To equip youth with the skills and knowledge required to do historical research, youth have participated in research workshops and have started to interview Inuit Elders and Qablunaat (non-Inuit); examine archival photographs and texts; and film and blog about their experiences to construct a multifaceted understanding of Inuit social history. The Inuit youth and UBC researchers will use these findings to create a documentary film, educational resources for the Nunavut Department of Education and publish academic reports on cross-cultural group work. Arviat has the highest birth rate in Canada and 75% of the population is under 25 years old, making youth focused research a practical way to explore Inuit history and address the social well-being of Inuit youth. Visit the project’s blogsite to learn more: Nanisiniq.tumblr.com.
This study seeks to examine the effectiveness of healthcare training in the North. By interviewing healthcare professionals who have undergone at least a part of their training in a northern environment, as well as their employers, the study will document the current perceptions of northern health education and will aid in identifying its current strengths and weaknesses. By identifying common perceptions and experiences of working as a healthcare provider in a northern setting, this study hopes to enrich the quality and experience of northern healthcare training. Studies such as this may be used to present a case for future and/or increased funding to healthcare programs in the North.
The Aim of this project is to gather baseline water quality data for Chapman Lake and Two Moose Lake, Jaeger Lake, and two un-named lakes near the headwaters of the East Fork and Blackstone Rivers, Yukon Territory, including the rivers at key confluences.
Baseline water quality data collected will include: pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand, and turbidity/conductivity. Samples will also be tested for metals and anthropological waste.
Sampling of invertebrates, fish, sub-mergent and emergent vegetation species will be conducted. Wildlife and weather observations, e.g. birds/mammals, and ambient temperatures will also be recorded. Dempster Highway data will include tourist numbers at Chapman Lake and Two Moose Lake vs. pass by statistics, and anthropomorphological effects along the highway.
This data will meet some of Yukon Park’s Tombstone Park Management plan objective.
Warming in the Canadian Arctic leading to glacial retreat, has exposed subglacial sediments. Microorganisms are the dominant players in nutrient dynamics and carbon flow in these depauperate soils; they increase in both abundance and diversity with increasing distance downstream of the glacial terminus- a successional process that may contribute to preparing the soil for plant colonization. This leads to my hypothesis that soil nutrient quality and microbial community complexity increase with increasing soil age moving along a chronosequence.
My research focuses on two distinct glacial valleys in the Yukon Ice Field Ranges. These locations are ideal for this study as they a) represent the largest Canadian area undergoing current deglaciation of glacial forelands; b) are readily accessible from the Kluane Lake Research Station; and c) have extensive historical research and aerial photography starting in the 1940’s, which will help determine time of exposure.
The microbial and chemical soil samples will be collected in a chronosequence. I will be sampling the uppermost active layer of the soil (0-10 cm) outside of the reworked stream bed and will be analyzing the samples to determine pH, water content, organic carbon content, conductivity, nutrients, and major anion and cation composition, by standard methods. The microbial community composition will be determined by analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences of isolated DNA in order to identify phylogenetic relationships. Correlations between chemical and biological parameters will be examined to determine the role of microbes in glacial forelands.
Planning for the management of Aga Mene Territorial Park requires a series of periodic and repeatable monitoring surveys so that park management can measure and track the health of ecological processes. My contribution to northern research will be to work with Yukon Park planning staff and Carcross-Tagish First Nation staff in the designing of monitoring protocols, as well as in the training of local students to carry out the field work. We will be testing the feasibility of protocols, designing data storage procedures, and we will be producing written protocols for the conducting of repeatable and meaningful monitoring surveys.
I am both happy and grateful to have the opportunity to become involved in the planning for Aga Mene Territorial Park, even if it is in a small way.
Research Support Opportunity in Arctic Environmental Sciences
The focus of my research is the effect of climate change on ice-wedge polygon systems with an emphasis on thaw processes and its subsequent influence on the surrounding ecosystem. The overall question is to what extent the overlaying ecosystem regulates its own development and environment by mediating the effects of changing ground ice. The two geocryogenic processes of interest are active layer dynamics of permafrost and the formation/degradation of ice wedges. Ice wedges are likely an early indicator for changing permafrost. Since ice wedge tops are usually in equilibrium with current active layer dynamics, any change in active layer depth should cause a measurable change at the ground surface along the ice wedge trough. In turn, this should change several aspects of the surface hydrologic systems and available moisture for tundra vegetation and soil micro-organisms.
My thesis will describe “why” a given vegetation abundance and diversity is found as a function of the background ground ice dynamics at a range of sites on Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands. By looking at different states of ground ice the changing conditions of corresponding vegetation, my work will describe both direct impacts of thawing and the indirect interactions related to changing surface conditions.