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Environment Canada Research Projects

Environment Canada is leading five IPY projects looking at a wide range of critical northern issues. In a region that contains a large percentage of the world's freshwater resources, the North's warmer temperatures, melting snow and ice, worrisome contaminant levels in local foods, and exotic chemical reactions are effects of activities that may have taken place thousands of miles away from the Arctic. EC IPY projects will generate the important knowledge and understanding for decision makers and Northerners who will need to adapt to their changing environment.

Environment Canada International Polar Year Projects

Environment Canada scientists are principal investigators of the first five projects listed below, and co-investigators/collaborators for the remaining 15 projects.

1. Arctic Freshwater Systems: Hydrology and Ecology

Sediment discharge into the Mackenzie River | Photo: ECProject Leaders: Fred Wrona and Al Pietroniro, Environment Canada
Description:
Field studies and laboratory analyses will be carried out to develop new knowledge and information to assess the hydrology and ecology of northern freshwater ecosystems.
Location(s):
Numerous field sites and communities across Canada's North (Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut).

2. Variability and Change in the Canadian Cryosphere 

EC scientist Dr. Chris Derksen, working in south of Churchill, Manitoba.Project Leader: Anne Walker, Environment Canada
Description: Research activities involve investigating the current state and past change of the cryosphere (snow, lake and river ice, sea ice, frozen ground, glaciers and ice caps) through analysis of satellite data and images, field measurements, and historical data. Projections of future climate change will be evaluated and enhanced by improving the representation of the cryosphere in Canadian climate models. This project will provide new satellite-derived information products to meet the needs of a wide variety of users, including northern communities and water resource management and operations. It will also support climate impact studies and the development of adaptation strategies.
Location(s): Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and northern Quebec.

3. Intercontinental Atmospheric Transport of Anthropogenic Pollutants to the Arctic

Project Leader: Hayley Hung, Environment CanadaLittle Fox Lake, Yukon
Description: This project will measure toxic chemicals produced from human activity and carried through the air to the Arctic. The chemicals will be measured in the air around the Pacific Rim to find out where they have come from and how they ended up in the Arctic. As these chemicals reach the Arctic, they fall to the ground, potentially affecting the health of both humans and animals. This project will help to determine where these chemicals have come from and how the weather influences their presence in the Arctic.
Location(s): Little Fox Lake, Yukon (closest community: Whitehorse), and Alert, Nunavut (closest community: Grise Fjiord).

4. Investigations of the Depletion of Ozone and Mercury over the Arctic Ocean (OASIS-CANADA)

Map of field study research locations for OASIS CanadaProject Leader: Jan Bottenheim, Environment Canada
Description: When the sun rises in the Arctic, both tropospheric ozone gas and toxic chemical mercury mysteriously disappear from the air in the lowest layers of the atmosphere. OASIS-CANADA aims to understand the causes of their disappearance, while investigating the effects of reduced ozone on Arctic's environment and whether the disappearing mercury ends up in the Arctic food supply. It will also look at how this might contribute to climate change.
Location(s): The Arctic Ocean.

Recent Envirozine article: OASIS-CANADA brings science to students

OASIS -CANADA 2009 Video

5. Thorpex Arctic Weather and Environmental Prediction Initiative

Photo of regional Arctic numerical weather prediction system | Photo: ECProject Leader: Ayrton Zadra, Environment Canada
Description: This initiative involves numerical modeling and data assimilation studies of various components of Arctic weather and climate systems, such as snow processes, polar clouds, sea-ice and ozone layer. The objective of this initiative is to develop and validate a regional Numerical Weather Prediction model over the Arctic. This model will help enhance our weather and environmental forecasting capabilities in polar regions, and improve our understanding of the Arctic and its influence on world weather.
Location(s): In several provinces, through collaboration amongst government, and university researchers, and northern communities. Thorpex Arctic Weather and Enivornmental Prediction Initiative website.

Our scientists are co-investigators or team members of the following projects:

6. Arctic Wildlife Observatories Linking Vulnerable EcoSystems

Long-tailed Jaeger near Eureka, Nunavut | Photo: ECProject Leader: Gilles Gauthier, Université Laval
Description: This project aims to document direct and indirect impacts of climate change on terrestrial animal biodiversity (insects, mammals, birds), and forecast future impacts on these populations and the Arctic ecosystem. The project will evaluate how Arctic biodiversity will be impacted by climate change and will develop strategies to adapt it.
Location(s): The project will take place at several sites in the Canadian Arctic, including national/territorial parks in Nunvut, Yukon and Manitoba.

7. Climate Change Impacts on Canadian Arctic Tundra Ecosystems: Interdisciplinary and Multi-scale Assessments

Project Leader: Greg Henry, University of British Columbia
Description: The project will examine how tundra ecosystems respond to climate variation using warming experiments and transects across a wide variety of tundra landscapes. It will provide the most complete assessment of tundra ecosystems in Canada, which can be used to evaluate climate changes in the future. The information from this project will be useful to Northerners, land and wildlife managers, and policy makers who need to understand the role of tundra in carbon populations.
Location(s): Canadian Arctic.

Climate Change Impacts on Canadian Arctic Tundra website

8. Climate Variability and Change: Effects on Char in the Arctic

Drying Char, Nunavut | Photo: L. DueckProject Leader: James Reist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Description: This project is focused on understanding the effects of climate change on char (species of freshwater fish) biodiversity, how this responds to climate change, and the consequences of this to human beings. The work also examines linkages between climate change and mercury bioaccumulation.
Location(s): Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories. (Climate Variability and Change website)

9. Ocean Production of Trace Gases in the Arctic and their Impact on Climate (SOLAS)

Project Leader: Maurice Levasseur, Université Laval
Description: The biological and photochemical production of a number of climate-active trace gases and related atmospheric compounds, including aerosols, will be measured during two autumn expeditions on board the ice-breaker CCGS Amundsen in 2007 and 2008. This project's goal is to provide critical knowledge on the interactions between sea ice, gas circulations and emissions, and particles in the Arctic. The end goal is to help reduce uncertainties surrounding these climate processes.
Location(s): an East-West transect across Baffin Bay and Lancaster Sound/Barrow Strait in Nunavut.

10. Polar Ecosystems in Transition: An Interdisciplinary Case Study of the Effects of Climate Change on Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus)

Polar Bear near Cape May, Western Hudson Bay | Photo: R. LetcherProject Leader: Elizabeth Peacock, Government of Nunavut
Description: This project's objective is to gather scientific and Inuit knowledge on changes in the polar bear ecology. The project will examine foraging ecology (changes and variations in terrestrial feeding, and the correlation of seal and polar bear growth) in four populations. The study will also record Inuit knowledge related to the subject in one of the populations. Finally, the study will examine how the accumulation of contaminants in one population has changed with increasing temperatures.
Location(s): Nunavut, Manitoba, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut.

11. Monitoring Impact of Global Change on Caribou and Wild Reindeer and Links to Human Communities

Caribou, Canadian Arctic | Photo: Wendy Nixon, Environment CanadaProject Leader: Don Russell, Yukon College
Description: An international network of scientists, managers and community representatives will work to improve our understanding of the impacts of changes in the Arctic on caribou and wild reindeer herds, as well as the people that depend on them for survival.
Location(s): Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut. (CARMA website)

12. How Seabirds Can Help Detect Ecosystem Change in the Arctic

Common Murre | Photo: T. Gaston, Canadian Wildlife ServiceProject Leader: William Montevecchi, Memorial University
Description: Climate changes that have been underway for several decades are influencing marine life in Arctic waters. Diving and surface-feeding seabirds (murres, fulmars, gannets, storm-petrels) will be studied during summer and when migrating throughout the High and Low Arctic during fall, winter and spring. The project will use previous surveys of seabird diets throughout Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador during the 1970s and 1980s to assess changes that have occurred in High and Low Arctic marine food webs and to establish a current baseline against which future change can be assessed.
Location(s): Nunavut and Newfoundland.

13. The Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study

Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen - winter of 2007/08 | Photo: ECProject Leader: David Barber, University of Manitoba
Description: This project will examine the importance of climate processes in changing the nature of a flaw lead system (a unique area where open water persists throughout the winter) in the Northern Hemisphere, and the effect these changes have on the marine ecosystem, contaminant transport, carbon fluxes and greenhouse gases. The project requires the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen to spend the winter in the Banks Island flaw lead in the Southern Beaufort Sea.
Location(s): Southern Beaufort Sea. Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study website.

14. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory and the International Arctic Systems for observing the Atmosphere

PEARL Laboratory on Ellesmere Island | Photo: ECProject Leader: James Drummond, University of Toronto
Description: PEARL is a new atmospheric research laboratory at Eureka, Nunavut. International Polar Year observations at this site will be intensified and several specific research projects will be conducted. Coordinated atmospheric experiments will be run in conjunction with other similar laboratories around the Arctic. The Arctic atmosphere is expected to undergo many changes in the coming years, many of them much larger and faster than will occur at lower latitudes. Interview with Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory Principal Investigator, James Drummond.
Location(s): Nunavut.

15. Impacts of Severe Arctic Storms and Climate Change on Arctic Oceanographic Processes

Storm, Arctic Ocean | Photo: Department of Fisheries and OceansProject Leader: William Perrie, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Description: The focus of this project is to understand coastal oceanographic processes in the Southern Beaufort Sea, and the related waters of the Western Canadian Arctic, driven by intense storms and severe weather. This area is important because the use of the coastal marine and terrestrial environment by Canadian Northerners is an integral part of their life style, and these environments are being impacted by coastal erosion processes, related to marine storms that tend to be growing stronger.
Location(s): Beaufort Sea and coastal areas of the Yukon and Northwest Territories. (Impacts of severe Arctic storms website)

16. Canadian Archipelago Through-Flow Study

Oceanographic parameters equipment | Photo: ECProject Leader: Humfrey Melling, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Description: This project will measure how much fresh water, salt water and sea ice pass from the Arctic Ocean to the Labrador Sea through the Canadian Archipelago each year. It will also determine what drives this flow, and how it will change with changing climate. Fresh water mixed into ocean surface water is critical to: (1) protecting Arctic ice from warm ocean water; (2) the productivity of Arctic marine ecosystems; and (3) the occurrence of ocean overturning in the Labrador Sea that removes climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Because a warmer climate may deliver much more fresh water to the Arctic, this research will clarify climate change impacts on local marine ecosystems and human activities, and also the impact of climate change on global deep ocean circulation.
Location(s): Qikiqtaaluk Region in Nunavut. (Canadian Archipelago Through-Flow website)

17. Determining the Diet of the Greenland Shark in a Changing Arctic

Project Leader: Aaron Fisk, University of Windsor
Description: This project will determine the role of the Greenland shark in Arctic ecosystems, particularly its predation on marine mammals during winter ice cover and summer open water periods. This information is critical for managing other important animal populations in the Arctic, such as ringed seals.
Location(s): Nunavut.

18. Thermal State of Permafrost:  International Permafrost Association's International Polar Year Project

Project Leader: Antoni Lewkowicz, University of Ottawa
Description: The goal of this project is to provide a snapshot of permafrost conditions during International Polar Year that we can use to make predictions about the future. Permafrost and the ice it contains make it difficult to build houses, roads and pipelines in the North. However, if the permafrost thaws this may cause new problems. Research is needed to understand how quickly change is happening and to help prepare northern residents and communities -- as well as industry and governments -- for the future.
Location(s): Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

19. Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project

Sea ice, Nunavut | Photo: Guta Laidler, Carleton UniversityProject Leader: Claudio Aporta, Carleton University
Description: This project's aim is to provide a broad snapshot of Inuit knowledge and use of sea ice in the Canadian Arctic. The project also allocates resources to contribute to scientific, educational, and policy initiatives that seek to incorporate Inuit and scientific knowledge in investigating, or addressing environmental phenomena and/or change.
Location(s): Nunavut and Nunavik. (Inuit Sea Ice Use and Occupancy Project website)

20. Yeendoo Nanh Nakhweenjit K'atr'ahanahtyaa: Environmental Change and Traditional Use of the Old Crow Flats


Old Crow Flats, in the Arctic Circle is one of the Yukon's most valuable wetlands.Project Leader: Shel Graupe, Vuntut Gwitch'in First Nation
Description: This project will study the impacts of climate change on the environment in the Vuntut Gwitch'in First Nation's traditional territory. This includes looking at the changes in the health of members of the Vuntut Gwitch'in First Nation and the food they eat (Porcupine Caribou Herd), vegetation, water quality, volcanic soil, muskrat populations, moose populations, and permafrost in comparison to the climatic changes since time immemorial. (Research Works website)
Location(s): Yukon.