Current research projects (2019-2023)
Nutrient fluxes and living marine resources in the Inuit Nunangat
Marine wildlife is an integral part of food security and culture in the Inuit Nunangat and the abundance, visual appeal and nutritional value of this wildlife are sensitive to climate-driven changes in ocean properties and nutrient availability in particular. Using light as an energy source, phytoplankton and sea-ice algae assimilate carbon and nutrients to grow and produce the organic matter that sustains the food web and synthesize vital molecules (e.g., essential omega-3) that promote animal fitness and human well-being. The ocean currents that connect the Canadian Arctic (CA) with the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans bring variable quantities of nutrients and these quantities can be impacted positively or negatively by environmental change, with repercussions on the entire food web and Inuit food security. While nutrient inputs and outputs should balance for the whole Arctic Ocean, recent attempts at balancing nutrient budgets produced equivocal answers and raised several questions that will be addressed here. We will evaluate how components of the Arctic nutrient distribution network connect and respond to the changing physical environment and how this affects the magnitude and nutritional quality of organic matter production within the CA. Specific objectives are to 1) Measure nutrient concentrations and estimate their transports across major gateways leading in and out of the CA, 2) evaluate how microbial processes affect and are affected by changing N inventories and nutrient ratios along flow, 3) assess how the nutritional value of algal assemblages is affected by physical and chemical water properties. A sampling network involving partners from northern organizations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), and international partners will be assembled to train students and produce evidence-based assessments of the CA’s capacity to support harvestable marine wildlife. The results will contribute to the eastern Arctic and Subarctic IRIS processes by helping communities and local governments prepare for possible changes in the availability and nutritional value of marine foods. Together with local knowledge, the results will assist with current and future food security assessments, and inform decisions on adapting to the changing marine environment.