E-postcards from the Arctic

Each year, Natural Resources Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Program helps as many as 1100 scientists from around the world to safely conduct research in the Canadian Arctic. Now, some of these researchers are sharing their experience of what it’s like to work in this vast, remote and beautiful region right here, with e-postcards.

  1. The “sked” is a lifeline to remote field camps
  2. Northwest Territories Scientific Research Licence - approved!
  3. Great Slave Lake, June 16, 2014.
  4. Peter Morse selects the equipment.
  5. Cleared for take off!
  6. A first look
  7. Some sites are more remote than others
  8. Uncompromising Beauty in the Ragged Range of the Selwyn Mountains
  9. Slump
  10. Water Jet Drilling
  11. Landing in Yellowknife
  12. Happy after drilling the last hole
  13. The ice beneath our feet
  14. Drilling Ice Cores
  15. We are not alone
  16. A cool spot in summer
  17. Lucky Lake
  18. Shorebird survey volunteer, Debbie Buehler getting into helicopter
  19. Shorebird researcher on the tundra
  20. Lapland Longspur nest
  21. Dunlin
  22. Rewards of 6am trip to the outhouse at Daring Lake
  23. Groupie Traverse
  24. Twin Otter - the workhorse of the Arctic
  25. Trusty Echo
  26. Sewing the Weather haven
  27. Leaving Devon
  28. Infrared images
  29. A remote service call
  30. How we look inside an icecap
  31. Learning on the job
  32. Canadian High Arctic ice cap
  33. Mapping the geology of south-central Baffin Island
  34. Helicopter flight north of Iqaluit
  35. PCSP Resolute Facilities
  36. Thanks to everyone who helped us out!
  37. Peary Caribou
  38. Eureka muskox
  39. Axel Tents
  40. South Ellesmere Island
  41. Canada Day on Baffin
  42. Pelly Island, NWT
  43. Coastal change in the Western Canadian Arctic is truly the story of ice
  44. The importance of engaging the locals
  45. Axel Heiberg Island
  46. Plateau Lake Camp
  47. Camp move on Baffin
  48. Tunnunik impact structure, Prince Albert Peninsula, northwest Victoria Island, NWT
  49. “Georap” on Baffin Island
  50. Permafrost conditions along the Alaska Highway corridor
  51. Melanie Slump
  52. End of the field season on Baffin Island
  53. The Snow Geese in Bylot Island, Nunavut

The “sked” is a lifeline to remote field camps

NRCat

Twice a day, the Polar Continental Shelf Program’s (PCSP) Logistics Operations Officers in Resolute conduct scheduled radio calls (the “sked”) with each field camp. The sked is a lifeline to remote field camps and is an integral part of the PCSP’s safety network allowing camps and PCSP to exchange vital information. (Don’t worry, we don’t let the NRCan mascot “NRCat” do the sked).
Photo credit : Daniel Boivin

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Northwest Territories Scientific Research Licence - approved!

Northwest Territories Scientific Research Licence - approved! Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

Preparation for fieldwork begins months in advance, with the application of a Northwest Territories Scientific Research Licence.
Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Great Slave Lake, June 16, 2014.

Great Slave Lake, June 16, 2014.

Great Slave Lake, June 16, 2014.

Cumulus clouds building at the start of a hot summer contrast with lake ice remaining from a long cold winter.

Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

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Peter Morse selects the equipment.

Peter Morse selects the equipment.       Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe
One of the best things about getting ready for the field is checking out the field gear at PCSP's Technical Field Support Services (TFSS, PCSP, NRCan).

Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Cleared for take off!

Cleared for take off!
With a few weeks left before departure, the paperwork is in order for fieldwork. Field and helicopter schedule, field safety checklist, licensing and, of course, airline ticket!

Photo credit: Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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A first look

A first look

Ground temperatures are key to understanding permafrost conditions at this forested site near Yellowknife. It is satisfying to connect to a data logger and retrieve year's worth of data in a moment.

Photo credit: Melissa Dergousoff

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Some sites are more remote than others

Some sites are more remote than others

Paddling Tibbit Lake to a field site on a beautiful morning with fish jumping. An extra bonus: nothing has disturbed the equipment since our last visit.

Photo credit: Kumari Karunaratne

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Uncompromising Beauty in the Ragged Range of the Selwyn Mountains

Uncompromising Beauty in the Ragged Range of the Selwyn Mountains

Our study site lies within the new boundaries of Nahanni National Park Reserve, Northwest Territories (NT) and the traditional lands of the Naha Dehé.  The Ragged Range, in the Selwyn Mountains is extremely remote and features uncompromising beauty and rugged landscapes.

We are studying the recent fluctuation of the region's glaciers as part of NRCan/GSC's efforts to systematically document the state and fate of Canada's glaciers.

Determining past glacier area and volume/mass changes and the impact of these changes on the region's hydrology and ecosystem functioning is a key study goal.  The nature of synoptic scale weather and climate system influences on the processes of snow/ice accumulation and ablation are additional study foci.

We study much of our Northern and frontier lands with remote sensing but you still have to be there!

Photo Credit: Michael N. Demuth

Profile:

Michael N. Demuth

Michael N. Demuth, P.Eng., P.Geo., Glaciology/Cold Regions Research Scientist, Natural Resources Canada/Geological Survey of Canada; and Research Fellow, University of Saskatchewan, Centre for Hydrology.

Research Project:

The project involves studying the fate and significance of glacier in the Selwyn Mountains, NT (specifically, glacier in the Ragged Range, Nahanni National Park).

In partnership with:

University of Saskatchewan, Centre for Hydrology, Dr. John Pomeroy; and Masters candidate Ms. Emily Anderson (recipient of the ACUNS CNST W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research).

University of Victoria, Dept. of Geography, Dr. David Atkinson; and Master's candidate Mr. Eric Courtin (recipient of a NSERC Industrial Post Graduate Scholarship co-supported by Campbell Scientific Canada).

Parks Canada Agency, Northern Bioregion, Nahanni National Park Reserve

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Slump

Slump

This tangle of trees and mud is a thaw slump on a small island in the Yellowknife River. Thawing of the frozen ground causes the soil, water and trees to slide into the river. We will spend the next few days working at this site.

Photo Credit: Peter Morse (Google Earth image in the background)

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Water Jet Drilling

Water Jet Drilling

We spent the day on “Slump Island”. Using a fire pump, hose, and steel pipe, we manage to drill 15.5 m (nearly 51 feet!!!) through frozen ground to bedrock. We placed a cable down the hole to measure the permafrost temperatures. Wet work … and two more to go.

Photo Credit: Melissa Dergousoff

Stephen Wolfe

Stephen Wolfe is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). His research focuses on cold-climate processes in Canada including permafrost and ground ice.

 

Peter Morse

Peter Morse is a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the GSC. His research focuses on near-surface permafrost conditions, ground thermal regimes and mapping.

 

Research Project: North Slave Permafrost Study: Characterizing and Predicting Discontinuous Permafrost for Climate Change Adaptation

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Landing in Yellowknife

Landing in Yellowknife

Yellowknife is a gateway to the North.

Photo credit: Stephen Wolfe

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Happy after drilling the last hole

Happy after drilling the last hole

Happy after drilling the last hole to 21 m (70 feet), Melissa enjoys a well-deserved break. (See e-postcard "Water Jet Drilling")

Photo by Peter Morse

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The ice beneath our feet

The ice beneath our feet

Philippe Normandeau, of the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, stands beside exposed ground ice. We can’t help but be impressed by this frozen ground, with more ice than soil just a few metres below the surface.

Photo Credit: By Dr. Stephen A. Wolfe

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Drilling Ice Cores

Drililng Ice Cores

My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past. This season, I drilled ice cores on Devon Ice Cap (Devon Island) and Prince of Wales Icefield (Ellesmere Island) in the Canadian high Arctic. I will be looking at how changes in sea ice cover in Baffin Bay have impacted the ice caps. Though it can be very cold, I love drilling ice cores and working in the Arctic!

Photo Credit: Anja Rutishauser, University of Alberta PhD Student

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We are not alone

We are not alone

Bison, bear, moose and caribou... We step lightly for a few brief moments, but this is their home.

Posted by Stephen Wolfe

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A cool spot in summer

A cool spot in summer

Peter stands on a thick ice sheet also called an "icing" or "aufeis", formed by flowing water in winter. They can be more than 3 m thick, and can cause hazards where they cross winter roads.

photo by Dr Stephen A. Wolfe

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Lucky Lake

Lucky Lake 1

Photo 1 We flew to one of our observation sites at Lucky Lake, just south of the Arctic Circle near the Discovery Gold Mine. The area was burned in last summer's forest fires.

Lucky Lake 2

Photo 2: Jean Holloway and Stephen Wolfe set up an electrical resistivity survey to examine the extent of permafrost beneath the forest and winter road, and how fires affect the frozen ground. They will return next year to measure the changes.

Photos by Peter Morse

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Shorebird survey volunteer, Debbie Buehler getting into helicopter

Shorebird survey volunteer, Debbie Buehler getting into helicopter

This was my summer vacation 2015 volunteering with the Canadian Wildlife Service’s Arctic Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring, studying breeding shorebirds and songbirds in the Canadian tundra. This helicopter is our mode of transportation between study sites up to 200 km apart. From our “taxi” we see such wonders as herds of caribou and muskoxen.

Photo Credit: Debbie Buehler

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Profile: Jennie Rausch, Shorebird Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada

Research Project: Kivalliq Region, Nunavut (Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Back & Baillie Rivers). We are studying densities and habitat preferences of arctic-breeding shorebirds and songbirds. Many species of shorebirds are in population decline, so we are working to discover how many there are, what areas in the arctic are important for their breeding success and what are the factors that are limiting population growth and breeding success.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/reom-mbs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FC881C1B-1

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Shorebird researcher on the tundra

Shorebird researcher on the tundra

Shorebird researcher with the Canadian Wildlife Service surveys the tundra for breeding shorebirds and songbirds in the Canadian tundra near Baker Lake (the geographical center of Canada). Being out here reminds us of nature’s vastness. It is awe inspiring - and humbling.

Photo Credit: Debbie Buehler

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Profile: Jennie Rausch, Shorebird Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada

Research Project: Kivalliq Region, Nunavut (Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Back & Baillie Rivers). We are studying densities and habitat preferences of arctic-breeding shorebirds and songbirds. Many species of shorebirds are in population decline, so we are working to discover how many there are, what areas in the arctic are important for their breeding success and what are the factors that are limiting population growth and breeding success.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/reom-mbs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FC881C1B-1

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Lapland Longspur nest

Lapland Longspur nest

Studying the intimate lives of birds. We found this Lapland Longspur nest studying breeding shorebirds and songbirds in the Canadian tundra near Baker Lake (the geographical center of Canada). This nest will be a vital piece of data within the larger Arctic Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring dataset, and initiative of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Photo Credit: Debbie Buehler

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Profile: Jennie Rausch, Shorebird Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada

Research Project: Kivalliq Region, Nunavut (Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Back & Baillie Rivers). We are studying densities and habitat preferences of arctic-breeding shorebirds and songbirds. Many species of shorebirds are in population decline, so we are working to discover how many there are, what areas in the arctic are important for their breeding success and what are the factors that are limiting population growth and breeding success.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/reom-mbs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FC881C1B-1

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Dunlin

Dunlin

Up close and personal with a Dunlin in the Canadian tundra. We found its nest studying breeding shorebirds and songbirds for the Canadian Wildlife Service on the tundra near Baker Lake (the geographical center of Canada). This nest will be a vital piece of data within the larger Arctic Program for Regional and International Shorebird (Arctic PRISM) dataset.

Photo Credit: Debbie Buehler

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Profile: Jennie Rausch, Shorebird Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada

Research Project: Kivalliq Region, Nunavut (Arviat, Rankin Inlet, Baker Lake and Back & Baillie Rivers). We are studying densities and habitat preferences of arctic-breeding shorebirds and songbirds. Many species of shorebirds are in population decline, so we are working to discover how many there are, what areas in the arctic are important for their breeding success and what are the factors that are limiting population growth and breeding success.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/reom-mbs/default.asp?lang=En&n=FC881C1B-1

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Rewards of 6am trip to the outhouse at Daring Lake

Rewards of 6am trip to the outhouse at Daring Lake

In 2014, Jason Silliker travelled to Daring Lake to install a continuously-operating Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver that will support NRCan’s provision of a positioning reference system in Canada’s north. This will provide information on the deformation of the North America plate which will aid Canada in understanding our glacial history and help us adapt to climate change.

Photo by Jason Silliker

 

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Groupie Traverse

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June 22nd was the first day of our geological bedrock mapping project on southern Baffin Island (Photo 1). 

 

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Our team of 11 geologists and IM/IT specialists from the Geological Survey of Canada, the Canada-Nunavut Geoscience Office, the Nunavut Arctic College, Carleton University and Oxford University (photo 2) will spend 8 weeks documenting the geology of one of the last unmapped areas of this part of the eastern Canadian Arctic. 

 

3

As is traditional, the entire mapping crew began the project with a “groupie traverse” to make sure we are all prepared with consistent knowledge and equipment, including clothing for all types of weather.  Due to some transient snow showers (on this first day of summer!); today’s “groupie” was held just outside of Iqaluit on the Road to Nowhere (photo 3).  But with sunshine in the forecast, we can’t wait to get out on the land.

Profile: Marc St-Onge, Bedrock Mapper, Geological Survey of Canada

Nicole Rayner, Geochronologist, Geological Survey of Canada

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

Photo Credit: Tim Chadwick

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Twin Otter - the workhorse of the Arctic

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The twin otter is the workhorse of the Arctic, ferrying scientists to and from their field camps. Natural Resources Canada's Polar Continental Shelf Program contracts many aircraft every field season as part of the safe and efficient Arctic logistics that it provides to Canadian and international scientists. Here, scientists who study shore birds unload the aircraft for a 6 week stay on Bathurst Island, Nunavut.

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Photo Credit: Mary Preville

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Trusty Echo

Trusty Echo

Alison Criscitiello on Devon Ice Cap starting up the Echo power head that runs the ice core drill.

Photo by: Anja Rutishauser

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Sewing the Weather haven

Sewing the Weather haven

Alison Criscitiello sewing together the Devon Ice Cap weather haven tent that a polar bear thought was a tasty treat.

Photo by : Anja Rutishauser

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Leaving Devon

Leaving Devon

Alison Criscitiello and Martin Sharp (and their boxes of ice cores) leaving Devon Ice Cap summit camp to head to Ellesmere Island to drill more ice cores.

Photo by : Anja Rutishauser

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Infrared images

Infrared images

Anja Rutishauser and Colleen Mortimer taking infrared images of an ice core on Devon Ice Cap.

Photo by : Alison Criscitiello

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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A remote service call

A remote service call

Figure a) Colleen Mortimer upgrading parts on the Belcher Glacier weather station on the edge of Devon Ice Cap.

Photo by : Alison Criscitiello

A remote service call

Figure b) Alison Criscitiello upgrading the Belcher Glacier weather station on the edge of Devon Ice Cap.

Photo by : Colleen Mortimer

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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How we look inside an icecap

How we look inside an icecap

The setup for running ground-penetrating radar (GPR) on Devon Ice Cap to look at the internal layers of the icecap.

Photo by : Alison Criscitiello

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Learning on the job

Learning on the job

Anja Rutishauser getting the ice core drill head ready to drill another meter of core!

Photo by : Alison Criscitiello

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Canadian High Arctic ice cap

Canadian High Arctic ice cap

Outlet glaciers of a Canadian high Arctic ice cap.

Photo by : Alison Criscitiello

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Research/Profile: My name is Dr. Alison Criscitiello, and I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Calgary. I drill ice cores, and analyze their chemistry to understand climate in the past.

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Mapping the geology of south-central Baffin Island

Mapping the geology of south-central Baffin Island

During the next eight weeks we plan to map the geology of  50,000 km2 of south-central Baffin Island. To achieve this, we will be using a Bell 407 helicopter to navigate our field area each day. Following helicopter training back in Ottawa, today we received a safety briefing from our pilot. This included how to safely board and disembark the craft, which we were able to immediately practice on our maiden flight out onto the tundra. Over and out!

Photo : Owen Weller

Profile: Owen Weller, Visiting Fellow, Geological Survey of Canada

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

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Helicopter flight north of Iqaluit

Helicopter flight north of Iqaluit

Today we made our first helicopter flight north of Iqaluit to check the snow coverage over our field area. The views were both spectacular and encouraging, with lots of bedrock on show. The final stop of the day was on a limestone ridge, which provided an excellent opportunity for fossil identification. As four of the Baffin mapping team had never been in a helicopter before, this was a highly memorable day in the office!

Profile: Owen Weller, Visiting Fellow, Geological Survey of Canada

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

Photo credit: Owen Weller

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PCSP Resolute Facilities

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Photo 1 - We are currently at PCSP in Resolute, and preparing to leave for the field in 2 days.  It's my first time in the Canadian Arctic, and on top of mapping some spectacular geology I'm looking forward to witnessing the majesty of barren Arctic landscapes. 

 

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Photo 2 - Our field gear is packed and ready to go

 

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Photo 3 - The map at PCSP's control room shows where people currently are on Axel Heiberg and Ellesmere Islands. Our camp is the red dot. Isolated much?

Photo Credit: Marie-Claude Williamson

Research Project (E): Benoit Saumur (Visiting Fellow, GSC Central Division, Ottawa) is part of a team of three geologists working on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, with Marie-Claude Williamson (GSC Ottawa) and Carol Evenchick (GSC Vancouver). Their project, which is part of GEM-2 Western Arctic, is focused on the High Arctic Large Igneous Province. Through detailed mapping and follow-up laboratory work, their goal is to better understand the architecture of the igneous geological province and its potential for mineral resources such as Ni, Cu and Platinum Group Elements.

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Thanks to everyone who helped us out!

Thanks to everyone who helped us out!

Thanks to everyone who helped us out in the field this season! Luca Heim and Christine Peart (Carleton University; Steve Kokelj (Northwest Territories Geological Survey); Jennifer Baltzer, Nicola Day and Jason Paul (Wilfred Laurier University); Merritt Turetsky (University of Guelph); Jean Holloway (University of Ottawa) Xanthe Walker (University of Saskatchewan) and Melissa Degousoff.

Photo Credit: Stephen Wolfe

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Peary Caribou

Peary Caribou
Peary caribou are a small, light subspecies of caribou found in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The remoteness of much of their range limits both scientific and local knowledge - even basic information like population boundaries is still being refined. One source of information for this is genetics, with samples collected non-invasively from fresh or frozen pellets.

Research Project: My research program is focused on the ecology of Peary caribou and muskoxen in the High Arctic.

Photo Credit: Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Profile: Morgan Anderson is the Government of Nunavut’s regional wildlife biologist for the High Arctic. She is based in Igloolik, but works out of Grise Fiord, Resolute, and points beyond – weather permitting.

 

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Eureka muskox

Eureka muskox

Pellet collection can provide us a baseline for parasites present in the population. In the western arctic, parasites and disease outbreak can have major impacts on muskox populations, but for muskoxen in the high arctic, die-offs are generally tied to weather, when ground-fast ice limits access to forage.

Research Project: My research program is focused on the ecology of Peary caribou and muskoxen in the High Arctic.

Photo Credit: Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Profile: Morgan Anderson is the Government of Nunavut’s regional wildlife biologist for the High Arctic. She is based in Igloolik, but works out of Grise Fiord, Resolute, and points beyond – weather permitting.

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Axel Tents

Axel Tents

Collecting caribou pellets sometimes involves backpacking and camping, in this case, on Axel Heiberg Island in June.

Research Project: My research program is focused on the ecology of Peary caribou and muskoxen in the High Arctic.

Photo Credit: Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Profile: Morgan Anderson is the Government of Nunavut’s regional wildlife biologist for the High Arctic. She is based in Igloolik, but works out of Grise Fiord, Resolute, and points beyond – weather permitting.

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South Ellesmere Island

South Ellesmere Island

We use aerial surveys, by helicopter or fixed-wing and with local observers, to estimate numbers and distribution of Peary caribou and muskoxen in the high arctic.  The logistical difficulty and expense of surveys means that some areas have only been flown once or twice.

Research Project: My research program is focused on the ecology of Peary caribou and muskoxen in the High Arctic.

Photo Credit: Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Profile: Morgan Anderson is the Government of Nunavut’s regional wildlife biologist for the High Arctic. She is based in Igloolik, but works out of Grise Fiord, Resolute, and points beyond – weather permitting.

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Canada Day on Baffin

July 1st

Canada Day was particularly memorable this year for the GEM (Geo-mapping for Energy and Minerals) Southern Baffin bedrock mapping field crew, with a mid-tundra helicopter re-fuel courtesy of a passing Twin Otter. After another suite of successful foot traverses, some of the Nunavut Arctic College student assistants shared their traditional knowledge of survival on the land to ensure a comfortable wait until the evening’s helicopter pickup. 

Profile: Brendan Dyck, Senior bedrock Mapper, Geological Survey of Canada
Tyler Rowe, Geological field assistant, Nunavut Arctic College

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

Photo Credit: Angela Ford

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Pelly Island, NWT

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June 21st 2015, the picture is from Pelly Island, NWT, along the Beaufort Sea coast just off the Mackenzie Delta front. Pelly Island is one of the most eroded islands in the world. The long term change (loss) for portions of the coast is 17 m/yr since 1950, or 11 m/yr between 1950-85 and 23 m/yr between 1985-2013. Large blocks the size of a small house fall off every summer.  Our research is looking at the short and long term change of ice rich cliffs along the Beaufort Sea coastline.  

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A close up showing the massive ice layer that exists just underneath slumping material 

Photo Credit: Dustin Whalen

Profile: Dustin Whalen – Arctic Coastal Scientist - NRCan / RNCan

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Coastal change in the Western Canadian Arctic is truly the story of ice

Whether it’s the disappearing Beaufort Sea ice allowing for more open water causing increased waves and storms against the coast or the rapid melting of the ice and permafrost rich cliffs. Capturing that movement can be difficult. This year we have installed time-lapse cameras to try and capture the relationship between the waves and cliffs as the ice melts throughout the summer.

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Dustin Whalen (NRCan) standing on what is the last of the land fast ice for the season (June 21st 2015), Beaufort Sea, Pullen Island, NWT.

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Jeremy Bentley looking to see if the camera is operating (June 21st 2015), Beaufort Sea, Pullen Island, NWT. We have deployed 5 time-lapse cameras throughout the region that will stay on-site for the next 2 months.

Profile: Dustin Whalen – Arctic Coastal Scientist - NRCan / RNCan

Photo Credit: Dustin Whalen

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The importance of engaging the locals

A big part of Arctic Science is working and consulting with Northerners who live and depend on the land for much of their subsistence and livelihood.  I have always believed that traditional knowledge/local knowledge combined with scientific facts and observations is the best way to do business in this region.

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Bertha Day sharing her local knowledge of coastal science with Jeremy Bentley (NRCan co op student) at East Whitefish, 40 km west of Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

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Working with local James Keevik in Tuktoyaktuk Harbour, NWT to deploy seabed instruments. Angus Robertson (NRCAN) and Jeremy Bentley (NRCan coop student) also shown in photo.

Profile: Dustin Whalen – Arctic Coastal Scientist - NRCan / RNCan

Photo Credit: Dustin Whalen

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Axel Heiberg Island

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View from flight to Axel Heiberg Island, overlooking the Southwest corner of the island. Is it me, or is the landscape smiling at me?

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It's a beautiful day to set up camp in the East River Valley, near Plateau Lake, West Axel Heiberg Island.

Photo Credit: Benoit-Michel Saumur

Research Project: The aim of the project is to understand the architecture, volcanology and mineral prospectivity of the 90 million year old High Arctic Large Igneous Province (HALIP) exposed on Axel Heiberg Island (Nunavut).

Profile:  Benoit, GSC Ottawa, specializes in structural and economic geology, specifically on understanding the geometry and emplacement of igneous intrusions and how they can host mineral deposits of nickel, copper and platinum group elements (Ni-Cu-PGE).  He’s documenting the shape and orientations of the intrusions at local to regional scales, to determine the directions of magma flow. Follow-up work will include a vast geochemical survey of the HALIP, to determine chemical evidence for Ni-Cu-PGE mineralization.

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Plateau Lake Camp

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Plateau Lake Camp (Axel Heiberg Island), our temporary home (Marie-Claude Williamson (left), and Carol Evenchick)

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Sitting in the front seat of a helicopter has its perks...

Photo Credit: Benoit-Michel Saumur

Research Project: The aim of the project is to understand the architecture, volcanology and mineral prospectivity of the 90 million year old High Arctic Large Igneous Province (HALIP) exposed on Axel Heiberg Island (Nunavut).

Profile: Marie-Claude Williamson, GSC Ottawa is an expert on the volcanology and geochemistry of the HALIP, and is currently focusing on the lava flows that reached the surface (i.e., basalts). Flood basalt sequences are rarely as well preserved as those on Axel Heiberg Island.  Marie-Claude will provide critical insights on how these erupt, flow and cool. The chemistry of the lava flows will also tie in to that of the associated intrusions of the magma plumbing system, to allow us to evaluate Ni-Cu-PGE potential.

Carol Evenchick, GSC Vancouver, specializes in structural geology. She recently published an updated geology map of Ellef Ringnes Island, just west of Axel Heiberg Island, and thus provides key expertise on the regional geology of the area.

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Camp move on Baffin

Sunday July 12th

Today we swapped the sea fog of Iqaluit for the blue skies of our tundra camp.  We were based out of Iqaluit for three weeks while we mapped the southern portion of our field area, but for the next five weeks we will operate from a field camp as we continue northwards. Each of us has our own ‘Logan’ sleeping tent, which are an iconic feature of any Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) camp, named after the founder and first director of the GSC-NRCan, Sir William Logan. Although our mapping is now supplemented by satellite technology, it is interesting to reflect that our fieldwork and camp life would still be recognized by Logan himself.

Profile: Owen Weller, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, GSC-NRCan

Photo credit: Dustin Liikane and Tim Chadwick

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

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Tunnunik impact structure, Prince Albert Peninsula, northwest Victoria Island, NWT

Six people on Victoria Island

Two people at Tunnunik impact structure

I’m here in the remote northwestern part of Victoria Island to study the newly-discovered Tunnunik structure, an ancient meteorite impact structure. We estimate that it is 28 km in diameter which makes it the largest impact crater to be discovered in the past decade, worldwide. Lying as it does in a polar desert environment, it provides an exceptional opportunity to further understanding of how impact craters form and the effects they have on the environment. Many questions remain unanswered about this site, not least of which is when it formed - current estimates range from a few million years to over 400 million years!

It is a privilege to do fieldwork in the Arctic and I always look forward to it. This will be my 15th summer expedition to the Arctic and I am always learning and discovering something new.

Photo credit: Dr. Gordon Osinski

Dr. Gordon Osinski

Profile: Dr. Gordon “Oz” Osinski is a geologist and Associate Professor in the Earth Sciences and Physics & Astronomy department at the University of Western Ontario

Twitter: @drcrater
Website: spacerocks.ca

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“Georap” on Baffin Island

As the extraordinary CAVU (Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited) weather stretches into its third week for the Geological Survey of Canada’s Southern Baffin Island bedrock mapping project, members of the field party continue to complete an average of 5-6 foot traverses a day.  Individual traverses comprise 15 km of geological observations and measurements, which cumulatively build the new map.  Every traverse starts with a helicopter set-out (photo 1) from our field camp on the scenic McKeand River, and ends with a presentation of the day’s findings to the rest of the assembled group at a daily “georap”, during which observations are shared and samples passed around (photo 2). 

A helicopter set-out (photo 1)

A presentation of the day’s findings to the rest of the assembled group at a daily “georap”, during which observations are shared and samples passed around (photo 2)

Profile: Marc St-Onge, Senior Research Scientist, GSC-NRCan

Terry Milton and Sean Noble-Nowdluk, Geological field assistants, Nunavut Arctic College

Dustin Liikane and Timothy Chadwick, Senior bedrock Mappers, Carleton University

Photo credit: Angela Ford and Nicole Rayner, GSC-NRCan

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

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Permafrost conditions along the Alaska Highway corridor

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Measuring permafrost temperatures in southern Yukon along the Alaska Highway corridor (Haines Junction to Beaver Creek) to provide information to support climate change adaptation of northern infrastructure.

Photo Credit: Sharon Smith and Mark Ednie

Profile: Sharon Smith and Mark Ednie, Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) - Northern

Sharon Smith and Mark Ednie

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Melanie Slump

Melanie Slump

The first set of missions had us conducting photogrammetric surveys of three retrogressive thaw slumps located on the Peel Plateau near Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories (NWT).  Here, we were joined by collaborators Steve Kokelj of the NWT Geological Survey and Jurjen van der Sluijs of NWT Geomatics.  The image shows the largest slump surveyed (Melanie slump) using our octocopter and a 3D test model of the headwall portion created using 29 of the approximately 1000 photos collected.

Photo Credit: Rob Fraser

Profile: Robert Fraser, Research Scientist, Canada Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation

Research Project: Natural Resources Canda (NRCan) scientists Rob Fraser and Ian Olthof are conducting UAV-based photo surveys at several locations in the NWT in support of a new NRCan project funded by Polar Knowledge Canada and the TRACS project led by Steve Wolfe at the Geological Survey of Canada. 

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End of the field season on Baffin Island

End of the field season on Baffin Island 1

End of the field season on Baffin Island 2

Photo credit: Tim Chadwick, Carleton University

And before we knew it, the highly successful 2015 8-week field season on Baffin Island came to a close as they inevitably all do.  A glorious final day of geological mapping in the Ptarmigan Fiord area of Cumberland Sound (photo 1) was followed by an efficient move back to Iqaluit (photo 2).  With the traverses, scenery, adventures, and camp life behind us, no doubt the learning skills imparted and the friendships established during the course of the summer will endure, in some cases for a lifetime.

Profile: Marc St-Onge, Senior Research Scientist, GSC-NRCan

2015 Baffin crew:  Terry Milton, Sean Noble-Nowdluk  and Tyler Rowe (Nunavut Arctic College), Brendan Dyck (Oxford University), Dustin Liikane and Tim Chadwick (Carleton University), Marc St-Onge, Angela Ford, Nicole Rayner, and Owen Weller (CCD-GSC), Debbi Guilfoyle (Kelowna).  In absentia: Gerry Nuttall and Steve Penny (Universal Helicopters). 

Research Project: GEM2 Southern Baffin Island bedrock geological mapping project

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The Snow Geese in Bylot Island, Nunavut

Bylot Island is part of Sirmilik National Park, home to dramatic and grandiose landscapes.

Bylot Island is part of Sirmilik National Park, home to dramatic and grandiose landscapes.

Profile: Josée Lefebvre, Arctic Goose Biologist, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada

Project: Contrary to the south of Baffin Island, the northern region had remarkable weather this year. This project, in collaboration with Laval University, allowed us to ring 3600 Greater Snow Geese and place more than 500 collars on adult females in 6 working days.  Bird banding is an important tool to help study the migratory pattern and survival of these birds.

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