Adam Kirkwood, (PhD candidate, Laurentian University) is looking at permafrost and permafrost thaw features in the far north Ontario portion of the Hudson Bay Lowlands The project will map permafrost features and surface ecological conditions and to develop a better understanding of permafrost thaw features, such as mass-wasting features that are currently not well understood, but have occurred in river banks along major rivers in the far north. This research will also look at the stores of mercury in permafrost, and the potential for this mercury to be released, methylated, and mobilized in permafrost thaw features. With climate warming driving permafrost thaw, this project can provide valuable information about potential impacts on communities in the far north as well as on the possible export of mercury to aquatic ecosystems.
Celine Lajoie, (PhD candidate, McMaster University) is studying how harvesting in the Boreal forest may disturb the mercury stored in forest soils and facilitate its movement to and accumulation in nearby aquatic ecosystems. This project will be measuring mercury levels in leaves, algae, aquatic invertebrates, and the fish that eat them in streams within the boreal forest before and after forest harvesting. In particular, it will identify forestry Best Management Practices that reduce mercury accumulation in aquatic food webs and reduce risks to fish and fish consumers. Ultimately, this work will assist forestry companies with the sustainable management of crucial ecosystem services.
Haley MacLeod, (PhD candidate, Lakehead University) is studying the effects of microplastics on lake trout by assessing both the physical impacts of microplastics and their chemical additives (i.e. benzotriazole UV-stabilizers and antioxidants). We now know that microplastics are found in high concentrations in freshwater ecosystems, but we still do not understand the impact of these contaminants on freshwater fishes. Since freshwater fish are important to Canadians for subsistence, cultural and economic values this research will provide important insights into how microplastics are influencing freshwater fish at both the individual and population levels.
Jasmine Louste-Fillion, (MSc, Laurentian University) is studying the health of previously damaged lake trout lakes in northern Ontario.These lakes have faced multiple stressors including acidification from Sudbury smelter emissions as well as the current effects of climate warming, browning and invasive species.The goal of the project is to understand how such stressors can impact water quality of lake trout habitat and ecosystem population dynamics (i.e., phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish). These findings will be crucial for future fisheries restoration. There are also implications for lake management as we better understand how impacted native communities respond to remediation efforts such as hatchery stocking or assisted migration of lake trout.
Tim Hollinger, (Masters of Environmental Studies, Lakehead University) is studying the effects of three hydroelectric dams on the Namewaminikan River and associated mercury levels in fish, water and sediment. He is working in partnership with, and guided by Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek First Nation (BZA-Rocky Bay) situated on the eastern shore of Lake Nipigon. The Namewaminikan River watershed has been subject to many resource extraction projects, including mining and forestry, over the past 100 years. As a result, community members have expressed concern over the mercury levels in the fish they eat. By examining cumulative effects through mapping and sampling, the community hopes to gain a greater understanding of the impacts associated with development and resource extraction within their territory. This study also hopes to aid in the development of a long term community water resource monitoring program.
Juliana Balluffi-Fry, (PhD candidate, University of Alberta) is studying the diet and nutritional ecology of the snowshoe hare, a keystone boreal herbivore, in the southern Yukon. Generalist herbivores like the snowshoe hare are limited by the availability of multiple types of nutrients and minerals. The complexities of their dietary requirements are not yet fully understood. With climate change warming the boreal forest, nutrient availability and plant communities are expected to change. By understanding the exact nutritional requirements of the diet-sensitive snowshoe hare, we can better anticipate the affects climate change will have on this keystone species.
Karen Vanderwolf, (PhD Candidate, Trent University) is studying the microbiome (fungi and bacteria) and skin pH of bat wings. Skin pH is important because it affects the ability of pathogens to thrive. To date, bats in Yukon have not been exposed to lethal white-nose syndrome (WNS), which has led to a rapid decline in little brown bat populations across Canada in particular. By comparing microbiome and skin PH conditions before and after the arrival of WNS, we can determine if the disease causes changes in these conditions. As well, baseline data on pre-WNS bats can help in developing probiotics tailored for these bat populations to help them combat WNS.
Kirsten Reid, Memorial University (PhD candidate) is examining factors behind tree range expansion and biodiversity at high latitudes in the Canadian subarctic. She will be systematically identifying and quantifying terrestrial wildlife, plants, and microbes at 18 sites distributed throughout the region. Her research draws on techniques from microbiology, landscape ecology, entomology, and botany, and will generate detailed species data and biodiversity estimates throughout the Northern Boreal Mountains, specifically in the area that was an ice-free refuge during the last ice age.
Lucas Brehaut, (PhD. Candidate, Memorial University) is examining how climate change and wildfires may influence boreal-tundra treeline range expansion. He is undertaking a large-scale field experiment using tree-seeding in both burned and unburned treeline sites across the sub-Arctic to determine whether wildfire facilitates tree growth beyond their current population edge. Throughout the season, the project will monitor the sites closely for signs of growth or other changes to the ecosystem. The information gathered will then be used to create a model that predicts where wildfires may drive changes in the position of the treeline, which is essential habitat for caribou.
Rachel Hodgson, (Masters of Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University) seeks to explore how protected areas can enable or inhibit connectivity conservation projects. Connectivity conservation describes the actions taken to conserve landscapes, habitats, and ecosystems as connected systems. Looking at on-the-ground experience of developing such systems, the project will look at how to increase collaboration to advance the creation of such systems and how protected areas can be used to advance such initiatives.
William Twardek, Carleton University (PhD candidate), is exploring the migratory behaviour of Upper Yukon River Chinook salmon, that undertake the world’s longest inland salmon migration. His work will investigate the impact that physical barriers (such as a hydroelectric facilities) have on Chinook salmon migration, and will provide further insight on the distribution of spawning sites surrounding the Whitehorse area. Findings from this work may be used to inform the design and operation of fish ladder facilities that are used to help salmon pass physical barriers.