2012-2013 CNST Award Recipients

CNST Scholarship $5,000

Maara Packalen
PhD Candidate, Geography
University of Toronto
Title: Northern peatland expansion, paleoenvironmental change, and carbon cycle dynamics in Canada’s Hudson Bay Lowland

Northern peatlands have effected a net cooling on global climate during the Holocene, as a consequence of complex ecohydroclimatic interactions and the accrual of globally significant reservoirs of carbon (C). Accordingly, northern peatlands account for one third of the global soil C pool, equivalent to approximately 500 Gt C. However, examination of Holocene peat initiation and lateral expansion reveal periods of variable C accumulation and significant methane (CH4) emissions. These findings suggest (1) variability in the strength of peatlands as C sinks and (2) a biosphere-atmosphere coupling between northern peatlands and Holocene atmospheric CH4 concentrations. As global circulation models predict enhanced hydroclimatic variability at northern latitudes, understanding the mechanisms driving northern peatland C dynamics and climate system feedbacks is of great importance. Using Canada’s Hudson Bay Lowland (HBL) as a model ecosystem, the objective of my dissertation research is to investigate the biosphere-atmosphere coupling between HBL peatland initiation/expansion mechanisms and Holocene climate forcing using a multi-proxy paleoenvironmental and modeling approach.

Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship $10,000

Craig Emmerton
PhD Candidate, Ecology
University of Alberta
Title: Greenhouse gases exchange on remote semi-desert soils and wetlands on northern Ellesmere Island, Canada

Almost half of the world’s below-ground organic carbon (OC) is trapped in frozen northern soils and there is considerable interest in how it is responding to a warming climate. However, there are sharp contrasts in carbon stores across Arctic soils. In the low Arctic, plant growth is modest but OC storage is high because soil decomposition rates have historically been low. In the high Arctic, which represents a considerable portion of northern soils, plant growth and OC accumulation in soils is very low resulting in sparse landscapes which may not be responding the same way as low Arctic soils in a warming world. I am investigating the net ecosystem exchange of carbon dioxide (balance of plant growth and soil decomposition) on high Arctic soils of northern Ellesmere Island using eddy covariance flux towers. I am using similar approaches to measure ecosystem exchange of the potent greenhouse gas methane. This critical new dataset will improve forecasts of Arctic climate. This research will also be valuable for Northerners when developing climate change adaptation strategies, especially for understanding the viability of their country food resources that are dependent on vegetation productivity.

The W. Garfield Weston Postdoctoral Fellowship in Northern Research $50,000

Dr. Thomas Lakeman
Postdoctoral Fellow, Earth Sciences
Dalhousie University/Bedford Institute of Oceanography
Title: Geological evolution of the Beaufort Sea Shelf during the last 3 million years: integrating marine and terrestrial archives into a comprehensive understanding of past environmental change

Approximately 3-5 million years ago when the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was still connected to the mainland as a contiguous landmass, global sea level was tens of metres higher than today and average global temperatures were 3-4°C warmer than preindustrial levels. The evolution of the Canadian Arctic from this forested landscape to the modern, tundra-dominated archipelago involved major environmental and geological changes that remain enigmatic. This research characterizes numerous geological archives in the Beaufort Sea region in order to identify past changes in climate, sea ice, sea level, ice sheets, and tectonics, which help explain the origin of the modern Canadian Arctic Archipelago. For example, the research: i) clarifies the geological origin of the modern Beaufort Sea by determining the age and provenance of the Beaufort Formation on Prince Patrick and Banks islands, which coincides with the development of the inter-island channels and widespread tundra, and ii) constrains subsequent sedimentary dynamics in the Beaufort Sea by collecting and analyzing new sediment cores and seafloor geophysical data, using the CCGS Amundsen. The study uses a synergistic (i.e. land-ocean) approach to identify past environmental variability in the Beaufort Sea region, and aims to instigate complementary numerical modeling studies that can more-accurately forecast future environmental changes. 

LehnherrDr. Igor Lehnherr
Postdoctoral Fellow, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Waterloo
Title: Impacts of climate change on productivity of freshwater ecosystems along a latitudinal gradient

Freshwater lakes, wetlands and streams can be very productive systems on the northern landscape, providing valuable resources – such as habitat, food and drinking water – to wildlife and people. The objective of my research is to examine how environmental and climate change is impacting freshwater ecosystems in the Arctic and how essential processes that allow these ecosystems to function are changing. These processes are broadly categorized as “ecosystem metabolism” and include the production of organic matter through photosynthesis and the subsequent decomposition of this organic matter that allows animals further up the foodchain to survive. Rates of ecosystem productivity dictate how much energy flows through foodwebs, impacting the abundance of higher-level organisms (e.g., fish). By studying water chemistry and sediments of Arctic lakes, I aim to provide both short- and long-term perspectives on environmental change. For example, I am looking at sediments (mud deposited in chronological order at the bottom of lakes, therefore allowing us to look back in time) to reconstruct lake productivity over the past few hundred years, and water samples to investigate current metabolic rates. By understanding the past, I hope to better predict how the fragile Arctic will respond to various environmental stressors and how this will affect its valuable water resources. 

MedeirosDr. Andrew Medeiros
Postdoctoral Fellow, Geography and Environmental Studies
Wilfrid Laurier University
Title: Using geochemistry and chironomids to assess nutrient and trophic responses of Arctic lakes to recent environmental change

Arctic freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are particularly vulnerable to the myriad effects of climate change, but predicting responses is challenging due to lack of fundamental baseline knowledge over space and time. My research utilizes the Chironomidae, aquatic invertebrates preserved in lake sediment records, to identify environmental gradients that influence their distribution in the Canadian Arctic. My post-doctoral research focuses on differentiating between climate responses and potential bioavailable reactive nitrogen effects on Arctic biota. In order to identify the source and pathway of nitrogen inputs to aquatic systems, as well as identify the response of chironomid assemblages to altered nitrogen cycling, sediment cores will be examined from lakes at the tree-line transition zone north-west of Churchill, Manitoba. This is an area expected to have increased terrestrial inputs to aquatic ecosystems as a result of a longer ice-free season and increased thawing of permafrost. Analyses of organic carbon and nitrogen elemental and stable isotope composition on radiometrically-dated sediment cores will identify temporal changes in nutrient cycling. The parallel analysis of both nutrient gradients and the response of aquatic invertebrates will provide important information for predicting the future response of these ecosystems to ongoing environmental change.

The W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (PhD) $40,000

BrammerJeremy Brammer*
PhD Candidate, Renewable Resource Science (Wildlife Biology)
McGill University
Title: Integrating Local and Scientific Knowledge in Practice: Community-based Ecological Research and Environmental Monitoring

Canada’s north is changing, and adapting to these changes will be an ever present dilemma for northern communities. In particular, conducting the long-term ecological monitoring that is necessary to inform local adaptations is logistically challenging and generally uncommon. However, community-based environmental monitoring, also known as local knowledge, has existed in these regions for generations. Increasingly, efforts are being made to integrate this local knowledge with scientific monitoring efforts, a task that has been dubbed the “Integration Project”. My objective is to develop a pragmatic approach to knowledge integration through monitoring tools and research techniques that facilitate communication between northern communities and institutionalized science. This will involve (1) community-based ecological research into the population ecology of muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) in the Old Crow Flats, Yukon, a species of both cultural and economic importance to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in a landscape undergoing rapid environmental change; and (2) formalizing ongoing community-based environmental monitoring using customizable touch-screen GPS devices. In so doing, I hope to demonstrate the benefits of applying multiple knowledge sources to northern wildlife research and management decisions while building the capacity of our partner communities to monitor and adapt to ongoing environmental change in the process.

*J. Brammer was awarded one year of funding ($20,000) due to a change in registration from MSc to PhD candidate

GodinÉtienne Godin*
PhD Candidate, Geography
Université de Montréal
Title: The process of thermo-erosion of permafrost in the continuous permafrost zone

My research concerns the process of thermo-erosion of ice wedges, which leads to the rapid degradation of the permafrost as well as the impact of gullies on the local drainage network in wetlands. The objectives are: to quantify the exchanges of convective heat which act between water and permafrost; to characterize the geomorphology of the thermo-erosion gullies from their initiation to their stabilization; to determine the hydrographic changes induced by the development of thermo-erosion gullies in the permafrost; and to model the physics of the process of thermo-erosion within different geomorphologic  contexts favorable to the development of gullies. A heat transfer equation will be obtained from experimentation in the field and in the laboratory by calculating rates of ice ablation in relation to time. A drilling campaign in stabilized and active gullies will provide samples which will be characterized and which will allow us to specify and compare their respective stratigraphies. The analysis of aerial and satellite imagery will allow us to estimate the rate of development of the gullies and to evaluate the evolution of the streams close to the gullied areas. The water flow transiting through the gully will be measured in situ. The integration of the thermal transfer equation, climatic data measured in the valley since 1995 by the Centre d’études Nordiques, along with the properties of the deposits mapped and analyzed since the drilling will allow us to develop a model of gullying and of the hazards inherent to gullies. The ubiquity of ice wedges, the sensitivity of northern ecosystems and the economic development of the High Arctic make it necessary to improve our understanding of the inherent hazards for infrastructure and environment connected to the gullying of the permafrost.

*E. Godin was awarded one year of funding ($20,000) due to a change in registration from MSc to PhD candidate

HarmsNaomi Harms
PhD Candidate, Wildlife Disease Ecology
University of Saskatchewan
Title: Dynamics of Disease: The Origins and Ecology of Avian Cholera in Northern Canada

Avian cholera, a bacterial disease caused by Pasteurella multocida, has recently emerged in Canada’s eastern Arctic, causing large-scale annual mortality at the largest Canadian common eider breeding colony (East Bay Island, NU). Although avian cholera has been studied in waterfowl since it first emerged in North America in the 1940s, factors precipitating disease outbreaks remain unclear. My research project combines sample collections at multiple eastern Canadian Arctic field sites (focusing on eiders at East Bay Island), with cutting-edge molecular techniques. The project objectives are to identify proximate and ultimate sources of avian cholera outbreaks, document occurrence and spread of disease outbreaks, and examine the effect of the disease on eiders in relation to measures of health. Samples from apparently healthy eiders, other avian species, and ponds near eider colonies will be screened for P. multocida using molecular techniques, and P. multocida isolates will be compared using several genotyping techniques to evaluate sources of the pathogen and explore transmission dynamics. The role of infection and stress will be examined in relation to eider condition, reproductive success and survival. The high annual mortality of eiders caused by avian cholera highlights the importance of understanding effects of disease on avian populations.

IversonSamuel Iverson
PhD Candidate, Biology
Carleton University
Title: Conservation ecology of northern common eiders: emerging risks associated with disease and changing predation patterns

My research applies population viability analysis to the conservation of Arctic wildlife. My study species is the northern common eider, which is an important subsistence resource for Inuit in Canada. In recent years, avian cholera outbreaks have caused severe mortality at several eider breeding colonies. The disease is newly emerged in the population and it appears to be spreading. Predation of eider nests by polar bears is also on the rise in my study area. Polar bears are adapted to use sea ice as a platform to hunt seals and other marine mammals. The earlier break-up of sea ice is forcing bears to seek ancillary prey and bears are capable of consuming large numbers of eider eggs. For my dissertation, I am using data collected at a long-term research station administered by Environment Canada, combined with information gathered with the help of Inuit partners in community-based surveys from across Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay.  My objectives are to quantify the demographic effects that disease and increased predation are having on eiders, assess the potential for these pressures to intensify with further climatic warming, and identify management interventions to mitigate local and regional population declines. 

MacDonaldLauren MacDonald
PhD Candidate, Biology
University of Waterloo
Title: Characterizing present and past hydroecological conditions of shallow ponds in Wapusk National Park (Manitoba, Canada)

Small ponds and lakes are a dominant feature of northern landscapes and are highly productive ‘oases’ that provide important habitat and resources for abundant wildlife (including waterfowl) and support the traditional lifestyles of many indigenous cultures. Northern wetlands also play an important role biogeochemically in the global carbon budget. However, these shallow lakes, which are particularly sensitive to disturbance, remain poorly understood. One of these understudied areas is Wapusk National Park (WNP), located in northern Manitoba. WNP has experienced pronounced climate warming during the past century, as well as rapid increases in the Lesser Snow Goose population in coastal regions of the park since the early 1970s. My research will focus on developing new understanding of both present and past (multi-centennial)  hydroecological and biogeochemical dynamics of shallow lakes in WNP in order to identify drivers of landscape changes (climate warming, waterfowl population expansion, etc.). Landscape-scale contemporary studies of lake water chemistry, nutrient status, carbon cycling and water balance will be used to characterize current hydroecological conditions of 37 lakes in WNP. This contemporary information will be combined with paleolimnological analyses of past hydroecological variability to provide information required to anticipate future responses to climate and wildlife changes. 

RobinsonBarry Robinson
PhD Candidate, Ecology
University of Alberta
Title: Foraging Ecology and Breeding Behaviour of Arctic Peregrine Falcons

The arctic peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus tundrius) – a subspecies that breeds in the arctic regions of Canada, the USA, and Greenland – is a top predator with a prey base that may be affected by the impacts of climate change. Cold weather during precipitation events, which are becoming more frequent under a changing climate, can reduce chick growth rates and survival of insectivorous birds, a major prey group of arctic peregrines, by limiting the amount of arthropods available to forage on. However, little is known about the prey preferences or breeding behaviour of arctic peregrines in relation to prey abundance, so the implications of reductions in certain prey groups are hard to predict. To fill these knowledge gaps I am monitoring a population of peregrine falcons breeding among the Coxe Islands at the Northern tip of the Melville Peninsula, Nunavut. Specifically, I am investigating forage selection and breeding behaviour of peregrine falcons in relation to prey abundance to determine how vulnerable peregrines would be if certain groups of prey declined due to climate change. 

WattCortney Watt
PhD Candidate, Biological Sciences
University of Manitoba
Title: Foraging ecology in the narwhal (Monodon monoceros)

Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are culturally and economically important in northern communities and are vulnerable to changing climate. My PhD research focuses on narwhal foraging with three main objectives: to understand narwhal dietary trends over the last 30 years in two distinct narwhal populations, to determine what comprises narwhal diet, and to understand narwhal dive behaviour and identify critical foraging areas. An organism’s tissues provide information about their habitat and prey. By using chemical techniques (fatty acid and stable isotope analyses), I am analyzing narwhal tissues collected by Inuit hunters across the Canadian Arctic over the last 30 years in conjunction with potential prey. These analyses provide information on spatial, temporal, and sex based differences in diet and information on prey composition. In addition, satellite-linked tags with dive sensors are providing information about where narwhals are foraging, both geographically and within the water column. With this information I am able to identify areas important for narwhal foraging. Understanding narwhal diet and movement patterns can aid in determining their energy requirements, trophic level, and habitat usage. The Inuit rely on narwhal for subsistence and an understanding of narwhal ecology is essential for predicting how they will respond to changing climate.

W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (Masters) $15,000

CoulombeStéphanie Coulombe
Masters Candidate, Geography
Université de Montréal
Title: Paleoglaciology of Bylot Island at the Pliocene-Pleistocene transition

On Bylot Island, active-layer detachment failures have revealed massive bodies of ice buried in the permafrost. Following preliminary analyses, these bodies of ice were associated with an ancient glacial advance on Bylot Island in the early Pleistocene. This natural archive could therefore reveal information on the rapid and major regional climatic variations at the Plio-Pleistocene transition. The general objective of this project is to reconstitute the paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental of the Pleistocene era on Bylot Island based on the analysis of glacier ice buried in the permafrost. In addition to the cryostratigraphical description of the ice and the host sediment, core samples are taken from the permafrost for crystallographic and isotopic characterization. The age of the ice will be estimated by means of the paleomagnetic signal of the host sediment. Finally, the reconstitution of past climates and environments will be achieved from an analysis of the 180 signal of the ice and of the sedimentary facies, indicators of the type of deposition environment at the burying of the ice. The results will allow the characterization of the cryofacies and the conditions for the burying of the buried glacier ice but also shed light on the resiliency of the permafrost in the context of climate change. 

DoucetCatherine Doucet
Masters Candidate, Habitat and Wildlife Management
Université du Québec à Rimouski
Title: Effect of breeding phenology and resources availability on the growth of juvenile Lapland longspurs (Calcarius lapponicus) in the High-Arctic

In seasonal habitats, reproduction must be timed with the availability of resources to maximize reproductive success. At northern latitudes, the loss of synchrony between the phenology of predators and preys can possibly happen knowing that the timing of seasonal activities in response to the warming up of the Arctic might differ between species at different trophic levels. It is particularly difficult for migrating birds to predict local environmental conditions on their breeding grounds which may further increase the likelihood of a desynchronization. Few studies focused on this issue in northern passerines such as the Lapland longspur (Calcarius lapponicus), an abundant summer resident on Bylot Island, my study site. My objectives are to evaluate, in this breeding population, the synchrony between the hatching date and the abundance of arthropods, to verify its effects on juvenile’s growth and to evaluate the spatial correlation in the abundance of arthropods. To do so, nests are followed and juvenile growth recorded.  Arthropods’ abundance is estimated using pitfall traps. A better understanding of the relationships between breeding phenology, abundance of resources and juvenile’s growth is crucial to assess species capacity to deal with a modification of their environment, especially in a climate change context. 

GillHarneet Gill
Masters Candidate, Environmental Studies
University of Victoria
Title: Measuring and monitoring environmental change in the Peel Plateau, NWT

My research focuses on the lower Peel River watershed in the Northwest Territories, where increasing permafrost degradation, shrub encroachment, larger and more frequent fires, and human disturbance are impacting the environment and the Teetl’it Gwich’in community of Fort McPherson. I am using both scientific and ethnoecological approaches to investigate environmental change in this area. I am conducting an ecological investigation of the impacts of the Dempster highway on plants, soils and permafrost in the Peel Plateau, using field surveys at sites that are either sparsely or densely shrubby, at 30 m and 500 m from the highway.  I am testing for differences in vegetation composition, alder growth, berry productivity, soil nutrients, litter depth, organic layer depth, active layer depth, snow depth and snow density. My findings will contribute to our understanding of environmental changes caused by the highway and their consequences for infrastructure stability. In a separate, complementary effort, I am working with Teetl’it Gwich’in land users and youth from Fort McPherson to map observations of environmental conditions and changes. We are using photos, videos and audio taken on the land to compile a web-based map. This map will provide a medium for land users to communicate their knowledge and concerns about the environment, and will be useful for land management and planning, environmental monitoring, and adaptation. 

JansenKelsey Jansen
Masters Candidate, Risk and Community Resilience
University of Alberta
Title: Denesoline traditional knowledge of lanscape-caribou movement interactions with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation

My research project, as part of a Masters in Risk and Community Resilience at the University of Alberta, will involve the documentation of oral histories and gathering of new ecological and spatial information with elders, youth and scientists in Lutsel K’e, NT. The main goal of this project is to develop an understanding of the interactions between landscape features in the study area and the behaviour of caribou. This project will build upon existing documentation of Denesoline traditional knowledge studies undertaken by the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) related to caribou health and movements and focus on identifying key indicators of caribou migration patterns. During the summer and fall of 2012 I will work in cooperation with the LKDFN to verify existing oral histories and conduct mapping interviews of key areas for caribou habitat with the LKDFN traditional territory. I will also draw on principles of landscape ecology to create spatially explicit maps of key habitat areas for caribou within their winter range to determine conflicts and synergies between traditional knowledge systems and conventional ecological modelling. By working closely with community researchers in Lutsel K’e I hope that this project will make a meaningful contribution to the larger research agenda put forth by the community and provide many opportunities for community engagement and capacity building, allowing for increased community involvement in monitoring of local caribou populations. 

KershawGeoff Kershaw
Masters Candidate, Environmental Studies
Dalhousie University
Title: Downwind of the Oil Sands: A dendrochronology Study Quantifying Long-Term Aerial Pollution Risks in Clearwater River Dene First Nation Traditional Territory

The Alberta oil sands are arguably the most important economic vehicle in Canada, but the ecological impacts of the industry are uncertain. The region east of the oil sands is downwind of this pollution source and occupied by a First Nations population concerned about the impacts of the industry in terms of the health of their territory and the viability of their land-based lifestyle. Dendrochronology, the analysis of tree rings, could potentially help to fill these knowledge gaps. The goal of this study is to identify oil sands atmospheric pollution effects on ecosystems downwind of the industry through measurement of pollutants captured in tree cells and the suppressed growth of those trees. We hypothesize that trends in time and space will show greater concentrations of pollutants and greater growth suppression in the trees closest to the oil sands, as well as in their most recent rings.Using knowledge translation strategies in partnership with the Clearwater River Dene First Nation (CRDN), the research team will develop culturally appropriate dissemination tactics. By engaging in relationship building activities beyond the scope of our own analysis, it is hoped that respect and reciprocity will be established between the research team and the CRDN community. 

Mathon-DufourValérie Mathon-Dufour
Masters Candidate, Geography
Université Laval
Title: Characterization of the permafrost with a view to the rebuilding and the adaptation to climate change of the airport of Iqaluit, Nunavut

Historically, geotechnical and geomorphologic studies carried out on permafrost before the construction of infrastructure were rather brief. It was taken for granted that permafrost would remain a solid substrate in perpetuity. Before global warming made itself felt, transport infrastructure was not designed, in terms of materials or dimensions, to withstand heat gain in the soil without damage. Iqaluit, a territorial capital and hub of the Canadian Arctic, has an airport in poor condition. In fact, the runway, access roads and tarmac are affected by processes of cracking due to freezing and differential settlement stemming from the localized presence of ice-rich soils. The principal objective of this project is to contribute to the development of an integrated geoscientific approach permitting to compensate now for the absence of adequate characterization during construction, with a view to supporting necessary reconstruction work and adapting infrastructure to the new climatic conditions. In order to adequately explain the origin and nature of the geotechnical problems of the airport and to permit a restoration ensuring more long term stability, I intend to characterize precisely the properties of the permafrost in the airport zone and in particular to locate the ice masses and the sectors sensitive to the melting of the permafrost. 

PaquetteMichel Paquette
Masters Candidate, Geography
Université de Montréal
Title: Geomorphologic control of mass balances: processes, conditions and significance of solifluxion in the drainage basin of Ward Hunt Lake, Canadian High Arctic

Arctic drainage basins are heavily influenced by seasonality. Physicochemical balances involve essentially snow melt as well as the low summer precipitation as the principal vectors for the downslope transfers of matter. This research postulates that periglacial geomorphology and slow mass movements by solifluxion control and contribute to mass balances in cold environments. It aims to define the processes, the rates and the volumes of sediment mobilized by mass movements through solifluxion on the shores of Ward Hunt Lake, the northernmost lake in Canada and a site for studies in extremophilic biology. The cartography of surface forms and deposits provides the geomorphologic context and the spatial distribution of zones susceptible to movement. The measurements of movement will be carried out by observing the displacement of two lines of stakes positioned in 2011 on two slopes along the lake showing geomorphologic evidence of solifluxion. The monitoring of temperatures and water heights in the soil will provide indications as to whether the thermal mechanisms and conditions of the active layer promote movement. Active layer samples collected and subjected to triaxial cell thaw tests will provide the residual stresses at the base of the active layer. Tests according to geo-material standards will be done in order to obtain the basic geotechnical parameters (texture, Atterberg limits, hydraulic conductivity, consolidation, etc.) allowing us to determine the thaw behavior of the soil. These measurements will indicate if thaw conditions favour the movement of the active layer in its entirety and a larger sediment transfer than under simple slip erosion by frost. This data will represent the parameters, measurements and monitoring of the northernmost movements by solifluxion in Canada, in a particularly cold and dry climate. The research therefore acts as a bridge between geomorphology and limnology by clarifying the conditions for the flow of nutrients toward the lake, an effect of solifluxion neglected in periglacial research but sure to have an impact on lake ecosystems in permafrost regions. 

SoleckiAnna Solecki
Masters Candidate, Entomology
McGill University
Title: Phylogeography of Higher Diptera in Blacial Refugia and Xeric Grasslands

The key to understanding current biodiversity and predicting future changes lies in understanding the past. The Pleistocene glaciers that covered most of Canada until 10,000 years ago played a tremendous role in shaping our topography, river systems, flora and fauna. I will conduct a molecular and ecological study of flies (Diptera) to assess differences in diversity between glaciated and unglaciated areas in the Arctic, particularly the Beringian and Banks Island refugia. This will allow me to explore the effects of climate change on genetic diversity in Northern populations and to determine if there is a genetic signature in populations that survived in glacial refugia compared to those that have colonized glaciated regions. Additionally I will examine whether patterns of Diptera distribution support the hypothesis that xeric grasslands in the Yukon are remnants of Beringian mammoth steppe or originate from southern grasslands. Although the first hypothesis is favoured, warm, dry conditions 5000-8000 years ago could have allowed southern grasslands to move northward, then recede upon subsequent cooling, leaving behind disjunct populations. My project is a component of the Northern Biodiversity Program which will provide baseline data on arctic arthropod community structure and monitor change using insects as bioindicators. 

SteedmanAudrey Steedman
Masters Candidate, Geography
University of Victoria
Title: Ice wedge dynamics and ecology in the Mackenzie Delta uplands, Northwest Territories

The Mackenzie Delta region has experienced rapid temperature increases in recent decades, which has increased the frequency of terrain disturbances related to the thawing of permafrost .  Areas of polygonal terrain that are rich in wedge ice are likely to be particularly sensitive to ongoing changes. My research will investigate factors influencing ice wedge dynamics, and the distribution of melt ponds, a feature of recent ice wedge degradation.  Broad-scale factors influencing the distribution of melt ponds will be studied using high-resolution aerial photos to map melt ponds in 1972 and 2004 in the Mackenzie Delta uplands.  Fine-scale factors influencing ice wedge dynamics, including the interaction of biotic (plant community composition) and abiotic factors (ex. microtopography, soil characteristics) will be studied using field surveys in stable and degrading polygonal terrain. This research will 1) help characterize the likely consequences of more widespread ice wedge degradation with increasing temperatures and development (roads, pipelines) in the Mackenzie Delta, and 2) provide a more complete understanding of the biotic and abiotic interactions in ice wedge polygon ecosystems.  These issues of are of particular interest to the Inuvialuit whose traditional lands are impacted by environmental change and development in the Mackenzie Delta. 

VillettePetra Villette
Masters Candidate, Zoology
University of British Columbia
Title: Cameras as an alternative to live-trapping for estimating small mammal densities in the boreal forest

Mark-recapture models utilizing live-trapping data are currently a common method used to estimate small mammal densities; however, live-trapping can be stressful for the animals being studied and has the potential to disrupt normal activity patterns. Camera traps are one alternative to live-trapping for estimating densities. I am investigating the feasibility of using cameras to estimate the population densities of small mammals in the boreal forest, namely snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus), red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), northern red-backed voles (Clethrionomys rutilus), and several vole species of the Microtusgenus. My research focuses on determining if current motion-detection and digital filming technology is capable of detecting and recording footage of these mammals, and if hit-rates, or the amount of footage of each species per unit time, correlate with density estimates obtained through traditional live-trapping methods. I am also collecting data on the behaviour of these species around traps used for live-trapping; I am interested in how often individuals approach traps but do not enter them, enter them but then escape, or approach traps that are already occupied.

Northern Resident Scholarship $10,000 

AlexieElaine Alexie
Masters Candidate, Political Science
University of Victoria
Title: Limits of Sovereignty: Practices of Indigeneity among the Teetl’it Gwich’in

The purpose of this research project is to gather information on practices of Indigeneity: the spiritual, physical, and cultural practices of the Teetl’it Gwich’in from the community of Fort McPherson.  The researcher will be interviewing Teetl’it Gwich’in knowledge holders who can provide insight to the concept of Indigeneity and the significance it holds for them.  A major focus of this project is to engage with Fort McPherson community members who still maintain a connection to their traditional culture, embody an understanding of physical and spiritual well-being, and practice subsistence ways of life and land based practices with their families, and with the community as a whole. Current debates about state sovereignty and security have dominated national and international political discussions in the circumpolar regions.  As many countries and organizations participate internationally and collaboratively on policy development, the discussion on Indigenous people and sovereignty continually excludes indigenous voices from participating equally in the conversation. While some space has been provided to Indigenous groups, such as the Inuit, to voice their concerns in circumpolar issues, there is considerably less scholarship on the Northern Dene peoples, in particularly the Teetl’it Gwich’in, who inhabit the sub-Arctic region, but are nonetheless directly affected by Arctic policies. It is therefore vital to include Gwich’in voices in the international and national discussion on the role of sovereignty and security of the circumpolar region. The goals of this research project are: i) to identify practices of Indigeneity among Teetl’it Gwich’in people; ii) to record the living cultural, spiritual, and physical traditions of the Teetl’it Gwich’in that can better inform, validate, and account for Indigenous understandings of sovereignty in their traditional territories, iii) to form a comprehensive view of Teetl’it Gwich’in self-determination, in a way that contributes to the larger discourse of state sovereignty in the Arctic. There is a strong need for this research because it will compile a body of knowledge on international and national political discussions and their relevancy to the everyday lives of community members. This body of work will be accessible to the Teetl’it Gwich’in community, and can inform future policy discussions. This proposed research will also demonstrate how practices of Indigeneity—the traditional ways of being Teetl’it Gwich’in—will unearth buried traditional knowledge, in order to rethink the contemporary Indigenous-state relationship.  It will also contribute to the development of political theory and Indigenous political thought in a way accessible to the Teetl’it Gwich’in community, as few political theorists writing on sovereignty issues, address their work to Indigenous peoples.  By joining with other Indigenous scholars writing Indigenous political theory, this project will address the absence of an Indigenous political and legal perspective on the Arctic and the relationship to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty policies. 

FarnellGillian Farnell
Masters Candidate, Anthropology
University of British Columbia
Title: The Kaska Dene Landscape: Study of Identity and Perceptions of Dene Keyeh

Over the last half a century in the Kaska Dene Territory, fundamentally different ideologies about the landscape and the importance of landscape knowledge have emerged.  The Kaska Dene have been disenfranchised from their cultural and physical landscape as a result of neoliberal ideologies of resource development and environmental governance. These forces have created a disconnect between traditional views of the landscape and new interpretations of what it means to the Kaska Dene in a contemporary world. My proposed research focuses on the cultural landscape of the Kaska Dene of the Yukon and Northern British Columbia as expressed through distinct practises and discources expressing thier relationship with the land.  The research objective for this study is to examine traditional land-based knowledge in relation to contemporary understandings of landscapes by contemporary generations. Using collaborative ethnographic techniques this project will explore the significance of landscape narratives of the Kaska Dene.  In doing so, this research also aims to examine the similarities and differences between traditional Kaska ideals and the ideologies of development and ecological governance.  This anthropological analysis will contribute to the dialogue about a contested and understudied region in the Yukon and Northern British Columbia.  As a Kaska Dene member it is critical that our voices and lived experiences are included in contemporary debates surrounding our traditional territory. 

HamJennifer Ham
Masters Candidate,Peace and Conflict Studies
University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg (Joint Program)
Title: Hope, Healing, and the Legacy of Helen Betty Osborne: A Case Study Exploring Racial Conflict in Northern Manitoba 

Helen Betty Osborne, a Cree woman originally from Norway House, was kidnapped and murdered by four white men in The Pas on November 13, 1971. Her murder sparked a great deal of controversy concerning racist tendencies among police and townspeople, judicial corruption in Manitoba, and the apparent racial segregation in The Pas, Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN), and surrounding areas. Forty years have passed since Betty’s death, yet conflict between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Northern Manitoba is ongoing. Although Betty has become an iconic symbol of that conflict, her legacy has also ignited a sense of hope for the future of cross-cultural relationships and peacebuilding within these communities.  Stemming from colonialism and the implementation of the residential school system, racial conflict in this area is highly protracted as issues of culture, identity, and difference rest at its core. Since these concerns are qualitative in nature, the objective of my research is to conduct an interview-based study that garners perspectives on racism, the Betty Osborne murder, and violence against Aboriginal women from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents in The Pas, OCN, and Norway House. My intention is to uncover the breadth of this conflict and identify ways in which it can be ameliorated cross-culturally. The practice of storytelling—integral to Aboriginal culture and qualitative research—will provide an alternative theoretical frame that focuses on conflict transformation, reflexivity, and peacebuilding across cultures. My research will contribute to Northern scholarship by presenting a comprehensive understanding of racial conflict in Northern Manitoba that seeks to heal the residual wounds left by colonialism and forced assimilation.

LysCandice Lys
PhD Candidate, Public Health Sciences
University of Toronto
Title: Gettin’ F.O.X.Y.: Developing and Implementing an Intervention that targets Sexual Self-Efficacy among Young Women in the Northwest Territories

The sexual health of Northwest Territories (NWT) youth is a serious public health concern; thus, a social arts-based intervention, named F.O.X.Y. (Fostering Open eXpression among Youth) was developed through extensive focus testing with young women across the NWT.  F.O.X.Y. uses drama and the arts to guide the development of sexual communication skills between individual youth and their partner(s) and peers, improve safer sex negotiation skills between individual youth and their partner(s), and facilitate self-awareness of personal vulnerability to negative sexual health outcomes (such as sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies).  In addition, F.O.X.Y. targets outcome expectations (individual beliefs about the value of the consequences of behaviors) and efficacy expectations (individual beliefs about one’s abilities to execute a behavior). Grounded in the theoretical perspectives of social cognitive theory and social ecological theories, my PhD research will examine how a social arts-based intervention can influence individual sexual health behaviors among young women in the NWT, particularly in the context of sexual efficacy and outcome expectations.  In addition, my research will develop and validate a tool that can be used to evaluate individual outcome and efficacy expectations among youth participating in this intervention.  Once the research project is complete, a program manual will be available to schools and public health professionals who wish to continue offering the F.O.X.Y. workshops to Northern youth.  

PikeBrandon Pike
Masters Candidate, Geography
Wilfrid Laurier University
Title: Evaluating the Yukon’s regional land use planning framework as a tool for managing cumulative effects impacts in the Kluane region 

The tedious nature of conducting land use planning (LUP) in light of First Nations land claim agreements in the Yukon has significantly drawn out the process to its own detriment. Under the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA), land use plans are the initial mechanism by which proposed development is compared against existing land uses and broader planning objectives in the territory’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. However, to date only one of eight regions in the Yukon have an approved land use plan. With development rapidly increasing and the differing scale by which these two processes operate, the relationship between EIA and LUP has effectively become non-existent. While the EIA-LUP framework remains stagnant, development forges onwards and with it, the rising concern of cumulative effects among government, First Nations, and the public. It is widely recognized that typical EIA processes are incapable to effective accounting for cumulative effects in its deliberations despite the facts such considerations are a regulatory requirement. This is due to the poorly understood nature of cumulative effects, its ambiguous definition/application, and the narrow project-level spatial scope of EIA. As a result, failure to account for such potential significant landscape change presents a substantial liability of behalf of the federal and territorial governments to uphold their fiduciary obligation to maintain First Nations’ livelihoods. From my research, I hope to illustrate insights into how the EIA-LUP framework can be improved to allow more proactive regional LUP that provides strategic guidance to EIA at the regional scale in order to better more effectively manage cumulative effects, and thus the continued maintenance of First Nations communities in the Yukon.

St-AubinZoe St-Aubin
Masters Candidate, Sociology
University of Manitoba
Title: Food consumption experiences in Thompson, Manitoba: A northern narrative  

My proposed research applies a cultural analysis of the consumption stage of food systems and focuses on the factors that influence northern residents’ food choices. I aim to further the understanding of the health trends in northern Canada regarding food related diseases such as type II diabetes and obesity by examining the role culture plays in dietary behaviour for those living in northern communities. My model is designed to map the unique social dynamics of food consumption in northern urban centres that host multi-cultural populations where modern food systems are commonly lacking in supply and diversity. My model measures influences of occupation, gender, and place on food consumption. I will apply my model to Thompson, Manitoba; a northern urban centre 739 km north of Winnipeg. Thompson is a supply “Hub” that has a diverse trade area of 65,000 (Thompson Community Profile, 2008). It is imperative to examine food environments in northern urban centres because of their role in supplying surrounding communities in the north. Conducting a sociological investigation of food consumption behaviour in Thompson will inform municipal and regional governments in the North and assist in their endeavors to meet the food needs of their constituents. I intend to conduct my case study using a mixed methods approach consisting of on-line surveys and face to face semi-structured interviews. Recruitment posters will be placed on community display boards, recreation facilities, and break rooms of the local major employers. In addition to posters, I will place an advertisement in the local paper.

Northern Resident Award $5,000

BriseLindsey Brise
BHSc (Honours), Biomedical
University of Northern British Columbia
Title: Barriers to Accessing Eye Care for Rural Aboriginal Populations

My thesis will examine the barriers rural aboriginal populations face when accessing primary eye care. This project will give voice to an aboriginal perspective on access to primary eye care.  Identification of barriers has the potential to inform health care providers and community health officials on how best to increase access and user friendliness of eye care services for Aboriginal populations. This project will consider how social determinants and other factors influence access to health care and by extension the overall health of the community. Increased knowledge of the importance of community/public health has opened the door for the design and implementation of new and innovative health care practices. These practices and programs should be informed by and designed around the specific needs of the communities they serve. This study will contribute to a growing body of knowledge surrounding aboriginal eye care, particularly in regards to rural northern communities.

HawkingsLeeland Hawkings
BSc (Honours), Environmental Science
Carleton University
Title: The relationships between shrub growth, microenvironment and caribou foraging at Daring Lake, NT

Annual and summer temperature is increasing in Canada’s Arctic with potential consequences to wildlife habitat. The Bathurst caribou herd numbers have decreased dramatically in recent years and although populations have cyclical patterns, there is concern over how climate change will impact herd recovery. Evidence shows that the dispersion of shrub communities (birch and willow), which may be an important component of the Bathurst herd’s summer diet, is sensitive to climate warming. This study aims to determine if the Bathurst caribou include shrubs as part of their diet at Daring Lake, NT, if feeding preference is given to shrubs of higher nutritional quality, and if shrub quality and growth can be linked to microenvironment characteristics or thermokarst disturbances that are expected to be enhanced with climate warming. I will estimate caribou habitat use from fecal pellet transects in four different vegetation types. In all vegetation types, food availability and signs of browse will be recorded. In addition, soil characteristics, net productivity of shrubs, and the area, specific density and nutrient concentrations of leaves will be measured. The Bathurst herd is a critical part of many Northern communities’ cultural and economic well?being. The goal for this project is to contribute to knowledge about the Bathurst herds’ activities that may aid in future resource management planning.

Caribou Research and Management Award $1,500

SaucierValérie Saucier
Masters Candidate, Biology
Université Laval
Title: Interactions between climate change and browsing on the summer habitat of caribou

In many northern locations, an increase of the erected arctic shrub cover and earlier onset of spring has been observed and linked to climate change. The shrubs and herbs are the main sources of protein needed by migratory caribou (Rangifer tarandus) to replenish their body reserves after 7 months of negative protein balance. Our objective is to identify how browsing by migratory caribou and climate change affect the alimentary resources of the caribou. We investigate whether heavy browsing can limit the effects of climate change on erected shrub cover. We also look into the effects of previous browsing and climate change, including increasing biological activity in the soils and change in the phenological development of plants, on the productivity and the quality (digestibility) of shrubs. To do so, we implemented a simulation experiment using open top chambers to increase temperature in some tundra plots, nitrogen addition to mimic increase nitrification by bacteria in the soils and leaf stripping to simulate browsing at different intensity (0%, 25% and 75% of available twigs). The experiment has been ongoing since spring 2009. In the 2 coming years, we will carry on the manipulations and monitor the above ground biomass, structural and phenological development as well as the chemical composition of American dwarf birch (Betula glandulosa). Considering the interactives effects of biotic and abiotic drivers will increase our capacity to predict the outcomes of global environmental changes on the summer habitat of migratory caribou.

Arctic Cooperatives Award $2,500 

AfshariMona Afshari
Masters Candidate, Art Education
Concordia University
Title: Artists of the North

This study will involve participatory ethnography research about artwork created by selected northern artists. I will work with and learn from traditional and or contemporary northern artists who are exhibiting at the Great Northern Arts Festival held in July in Inuvik, NWT. I will be meeting with participants to find out how they learned about their craft and how they create and sustain their work. Participants will be telling/showing/teaching me what they know. Participants can inform me on their knowledge however they wish, for example through stories, unstructured interviews, observations or participations. The purpose of this study is to learn about Northern art, art culture and artists. Furthermore, I intend to learn about the relationship artists have with supporters like the Great Northern Arts festival and Arctic Co-operatives Limited. I will help artists prepare and set up for the Great Northern Arts Festival while learning about northern art culture and art making. My overall goal is to promote northern artists by creating an event at Inuvik’s Northern Images following the festival and thereafter publishing a scholarly article.