Northern ecosystems are being transformed by climate change. Join this long-term monitoring effort to explore what these changes mean for the arctic—and the rest of the world.
Churchill perches on the seacoast within the Hudson Bay Lowlands, North America’s largest wetland. The area’s most famous inhabitants are its some 57,000 beluga whales and 1,000 polar bears; Churchill advertises itself as both the beluga whale and the polar bear capital of the world. However, global climate change is threatening this landscape and the wildlife that resides there. Churchill has warmed approximately two degrees Celsius since record keeping began in the 1880s, resulting in a myriad of ecological changes, such as shrinking polar sea ice, retreating glaciers, and less snowpack that melts earlier.
You’ll measure evidence of global warming near Churchill, a small town on Hudson Bay that’s on the front line of climate change. Help researchers as they learn all they can about this fragile environment. If you join one of the summer or fall teams, you may don waist-high waders to take water samples and assess the abundance of the fish and frogs that make these northern wetlands their home; you’ll also help monitor the health of the tree line by examining tree cores, which allow researchers to reconstruct tree life histories (to date, the oldest living tree this team has found dates from 1643).
But to truly experience the power of the North, join a winter team that focuses on assessing snowpack and taking snow samples. You’ll travel between research sites on a sled pulled by a snowmobile and maybe get the chance to build and sleep in an igloo for one night.
HOW WILL YOU HELP
You’ll become very familiar with the flora and fauna of this Arctic landscape. Every day you’ll begin hiking early, stopping along the way to (depending on the season):
LOOK FOR SIGNS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
You’ll use sophisticated equipment to collect data on features of the snowpack, permafrost, and soil. This work helps reveal global-warming-related changes in these aspects of the Arctic.
RECORD PLANT OBSERVATIONS AND PROCESS SAMPLES
As you hike you’ll look for vascular plants, lichens, and mosses and monitor plant phenology (the timing of seasonal events such as flowering, first leaves, etc.). You’ll also core evergreen trees to count their rings, and count their needles. You’ll return to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to enter data and process water or plant samples in the state-of-the-art lab.
SURVEY MAMMALS, BIRDS, FISH, AND FROGS
You’ll also see how climate change is impacting Arctic animals by recording when and where you see them, and how many you observe.