Pandemic Pivots: Cold regions research stories from the field in a global pandemic
Despite an unprecedented global health crisis, cold regions research has continued, adapted, transformed, and in many cases thrived, as researchers respond to the new and uncertain context of the past 18 months. This session will explore three perspectives from Cold Regions Research Centre graduate students who have had to make significant changes to their research design.
1. Jeremy Harbinson, MSc Student in the Remote Sensing of Environmental Change Research Group
Contrasting under-ice cycling of arsenic in a series of subarctic shield lakes with different morphometric properties
The subarctic shield near Yellowknife, NT is populated with many small (<1.5km2) lakes. Historic mining activities in the region have left a legacy of environmental impacts on the landscape, including widespread arsenic (As) contamination in lakes and soils. Subarctic lakes are characterized by a seasonal ice cover which can persist for more than half of the year, yet little is known about the under-ice As cycling. The objective of this study is to contrast seasonal changes in As cycling within and between a series of lakes with different basin morphologies. We used a combination of water profile sampling, sediment cores, bathymetric mapping, and snow and ice measurements to explore differences in As cycling between Handle Lake (Lk area= 0.21km2, max. depth= 4m), Small Lake (Lk area= 0.73km2, max. depth= 15m), Fiddler Lake (Lk area= 0.31km2, max. depth= 7m) and Jackfish Lake (Lk area= 0.53km2, max. depth= 8m) from November 2020 and August 2021. Continuous monitoring of lake physical properties (dissolved oxygen, temperature, and light) was conducted via data loggers installed at 1-m intervals in the lakes. Detailed profiles of water chemistry were collected monthly at the deepest part of each lake, examining numerous key water chemistry elements with a focus on dissolved and particulate As concentrations. This project will contribute important information on the winter cycling of As, which will help to inform our understanding of the chemical recovery of subarctic lakes from As pollution. Despite significant challenges and travel restrictions associated with COVID-19 pandemic, we were able adapt and move forward with the project thanks to our local project partners and the Government of Northwest Territories.
2. Mackenzie Bell, MA Student in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Climate Change Research in the Dehcho During Covid – 19
For those of us in the fields of Environmental Studies and Geography the manner to which we have been able to conduct research has been drastically shifted due to the current Covid – 19 Pandemic. This presentation will discuss my research alongside the Dehcho First Nations and the Jean Marie River First Nations and will analyze how the Covid – 19 pandemic has affected my research regarding permafrost thaw and climate change in the Dehcho Region and how the application of traditional knowledge systems of the Jean Marie River First Nations can be effectively applied to develop a regional climate change plan for the Dehcho Region. This presentation will present a brief breakdown of this research alongside the Jean Marie River First Nations and discuss changes and adaptations that have been implemented due to the Covid – 19 pandemic. Additionally, this presentation will discuss future plans related to this research for the current academic year.
3. Alexis Jorgensen, MSc Student in the Forest Ecology Research Group
Boreal fire research during the pandemic
Climate change is causing more and larger fires to burn in boreal North America. These changes are expected to influence the regeneration of both trees and ground vegetation, with implications for wildlife habitat. My research examines the recovery of major wildlife forage species after fire and how environmental conditions mediate recovery processes. I then use this information to attempt to predict when wildlife, such as moose or caribou, are likely to use burned areas. My results are intended to be of interest to land-use managers charged with the effective conservation of wildlife habitat, and northern communities who will be required to anticipate and adapt to the consequences of increased burning. To further this goal, I originally planned to spend the summer of 2020 living in the small northern community of Kakisa and working directly with Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation. However, my plans had to change when the Covid-19 pandemic closed borders and cancelled the 2020 field season.
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