Canada-US program engages students in Arctic climate research

Each year, high school students, teachers, and researchers from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Maryland travel north to participate in a unique student-led environmental research fieldwork program under the supervision of a group of researchers and teachers.

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Polar bears were among the nearby wildlife during the ISAMR student research program to Wapusk National Park, including one who took a nap against the camp perimeter fence (photo courtesy Ryan Brook).
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Students plunge their arms in to a soil crack to touch the permafrost in Wapusk National Park (photo courtesy Ryan Brook).

This August, the International Student-Led Arctic Monitoring and Research program (ISAMR) brought students to Wapusk National Park on the shore of Hudson’s Bay in Manitoba. There, they encountered Arctic fox, caribou herds and one day, a sleepy polar bear snuggling up to a fence for a nap just outside their camp.

ISAMR is supervised by Ryan Brook from the University of Saskatchewan, Julie Rogers and Mark Dhruv of The Park School in Maryland, Donna Labun from Winnipeg’s Kelvin High School, Jill Larkin of the Canadian Rangers in Churchill, Man., and Jim Roth at the University of Manitoba.

The students spent most of their time studying wildlife habitat and measuring permafrost depths to contribute to a 30-year research project that is monitoring the effects of climate change on the plants and wildlife of the Greater Wapusk Ecosystem. The last night was spent camping at Prince of Wales Fort, a Canadian historic site built by the Hudson’s Bay Company during the height of the fur trade in the 1700s. There, the students wrapped up this year’s excursion with a game of hide and seek, impromptu dancing on the stone walls, and a fine display of the Arctic’s signature northern lights.

 A full story on this year’s ISAMR student excursion appears in the Winnipeg Free Press.