Current research projects (2019-2024)
Changing nutrients and food web health in northern lakes and rivers
Lakes and rivers are major components of the northern landscape and are of vital cultural, economic and environmental importance to the people of the North. This project brings together a complementary set of six leading laboratories in Canadian aquatic ecology, microbiology and biogeochemistry, along with multiple national and international collaborators, to develop an improved, integrated understanding of northern lakes and rivers and their responses to environmental change. Specifically, we will focus on the functioning of aquatic ecosystems via detailed studies on nutrients and basal food web processes that affect the transfer of energy, carbon and contaminants to fish and other animals, and the transport of materials to downstream ecosystems, including Arctic seas. We will undertake a comparative analysis of five key hydro-ecosystems distributed across the IRIS regions, to enable us to understand variable responses across key regions of the Canadian north, and to make meaningful contributions to each of the IRIS evaluations: 1) Peel Plateau waters (Northwest Territories), where permafrost thaw has substantially altered solute and sediment loads into the Peel River, a major tributary of the Mackenzie River; 2) Cambridge Bay lakes and streams (western Nunavut), including Greiner Lake (a CHARS monitoring site) and its outlet into the sea; 3) Resolute Bay lakes and outlet (eastern Nunavut), building on our ongoing work at Char Lake, the drinking water supply for Resolute; 4) Ward Hunt Island and vicinity (northern Nunavut), a sentinel lake district at the northern limit of Nunavut; and 5) Great Whale River (Kuujjuarapik-Whapmagoostui), where permafrost erosion and landscape change has been pronounced over the last 20 years. Across all sites, we will work in close partnership with Inuit and First Nations communities and organisations. We will also undertake training, from northern knowledge exchange to graduate and postdoctoral projects. The project has been endorsed by the IASC program Terrestrial Multidisciplinary distributed Observatories for the Study of Arctic Connections (T-MOSAiC), allowing us to collaborate with many groups internationally and to place our findings in a broad circumpolar context.