POLAR UPdate Issue 17, Winter-Spring 2021

POLAR’s Northern Science Award presented to Wayne Pollard

Dr. Wayne Pollard received the 2020 Northern Science Award on December 9 at the ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting. Dr. Pollard, Professor of Geography at McGill University, is recognized as one of the world’s finest northern scholars. Over the course of his career, he has generated substantial new knowledge of northern geocryology, and of the geomorphology and hydrology of permafrost. His work has also brought new understanding of Antarctic environments, and of processes affecting permafrost-influenced landforms on Mars.

The award, which was created in 1984 and has been administered by POLAR since 2015, includes the Centenary Medal and a prize of $10,000. It recognizes a significant contribution to meritorious knowledge and understanding of the Canadian North and the transformation of knowledge into action.

Read Wayne Pollard’s Northern Science Award citation here.

POLAR and the National Research Council test clean energy technology for the North

Northern communities want to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, especially diesel-powered generators and oil-burning furnaces. Polar Knowledge Canada, (POLAR) is working with the National Research Council (NRC) to assess how new clean-energy technologies can help.

Clean energy is a priority for both organizations, and they have complementary strengths. The NRC, with laboratories in Ontario and across Canada, has knowledgeable and skilled researchers, many with extensive northern experience. POLAR, based at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, has technical, northern, and remote community expertise, as well as the laboratories and other research facilities of the campus.

Since 2017 the two agencies have been collaborating on several renewable energy projects. For example, they’re testing small wind turbines in arctic conditions. Wind turbines, like other clean-energy technology, are designed for southern conditions, not the extreme cold and high winds of the Arctic. The project will help determine what modifications turbines may need in order to be reliable sources of power in Arctic communities.

Tides can be a reliable and predictable source of energy for some coastal Arctic communities. POLAR is supporting NRC research to assess which Nunavut communities offer the best potential for tidal power.

The two agencies are also addressing another priority of northern communities: reducing the environmental impact of household waste and wastewater. They’re testing a Bioelectrochemical Anaerobic Sewage Treatment (BeAST) reactor, which can produce heat, and potentially bio-fuel, from sewage. This could eventually mean cleaner wastewater entering sewage lagoons, with energy generated as a byproduct.

POLAR and NRC are evaluating the Arctic performance of heat and energy recovery ventilators, which improve household air quality by providing a continuous supply of fresh air, at the same time reducing heat and energy losses. NRC and POLAR are testing these devices at the CHARS campus and in several houses in Cambridge Bay.

These successful projects are proving the value of the partnership between POLAR and NRC. It’s a growing collaboration that is helping north communities begin a shift toward clean energy, and more projects are planned. Stay tuned!

POLAR technician and science ranger Jason Etuangat works on the BeAST reactor, which can produce heat from sewage, at the CHARS campus.

POLAR co-developing a knowledge sharing forum focused on Indigenous knowledge and science

POLAR is committed to providing northern communities with accurate and relevant information on northern priority issues to support local decision-making. Acting on this commitment, the agency is co-developing a Knowledge Sharing Forum that enables two-way exchange of information between Indigenous knowledge and science, while creating an inclusive space founded on respect. As a first step towards this “made for the North, with the North” knowledge sharing event, POLAR hosted a Regional Planning and Knowledge Sharing Workshop, at the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) campus in March 2020, to gather ideas and priorities from participants for the forum.

A total of 22 participants attended the workshop, half of whom were Indigenous representatives from Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, to discuss best practices for sharing knowledge and communicating across different ways of knowing. They also selected five key themes that will shape the 2022 forum:

  • Caribou population abundance and migration
  • Population dynamics of arctic char and other fish
  • Whale populations and marine ecosystem biodiversity
  • Climate change research and monitoring
  • Environmental change – snow, ice and precipitation

POLAR staff and regional community representatives acknowledged that the workshop was a strong first-step towards co-development of the Knowledge Sharing Forum. Work with Indigenous knowledge holders, researchers, and decision-makers from across Canada’s North continues as planning for the Forum advances.

Read the Regional Planning and Knowledge Sharing Workshop report.

Participants at the Regional Planning and Knowledge Sharing Workshop laid the groundwork for co-development of a forum for sharing knowledge between Indigenous knowledge and science.

POLAR biologist Ian Hogg co-authors new paper calling for inclusion of Antarctic data in global biodiversity assessments

POLAR biologist Dr. Ian Hogg has co-authored a recent paper, “Antarctic ecosystems in transition – life between stresses and opportunities”, that appears in Biological Reviews, published by the Cambridge Philosophical Society.

From 2010 to 2020 scientists have made huge strides in understanding Antarctic ecological processes, especially how organisms react to climate change and how evolution has equipped them to live in extreme polar conditions. In a changing climate, these adaptations can determine whether a species survives or goes extinct. Antarctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems – some geographically isolated from the rest of the world and globally unique, and others with surprisingly close links to adjacent habitats -- are under environmental stress and are subject to change. Ian and his colleagues argue that, for these reasons, it is essential to include results from Antarctic studies in all assessments of global biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles.

photo: Diana Varela
Gentoo penguins, which eat mostly crustaceans, are among the many marine species that make up the rich biodiversity of Antarctic waters.

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