Past climates of ancient forests on Banks Island

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, climate change, fossils, paleontology, ancient forests, forestry, trees

Principal Investigator: Williams, Christopher J (1)
Licence Number: 13807
Organization: Franklin and Marshall College
Licenced Year(s): 2005 2003
Issued: May 12, 2005
Project Team: Christopher Williams (Project Director, Franklin and Marshall College), Arthur H. Johnson (Co-director, University of Pennsylvania), Suzanna Richter (Graduate Student, University of Pennsylvania), David R. Vann (Research Assistant, University of Pennsylvania), Jamie Hovarth (Graduate Student, University of Pennsylvania), Wesley Court (Undergraduate Student, Franklin and Marshall College), Jen Murphy (Undergraduate Student, Whitman College), Emily Mendell (Undergraduate Student, Lawrence College)

Project Description: The objective of this project is to make detailed measurements of fossil plants that grew at high latitudes between 12 and 2 million years ago. The researchers will use these and previously obtained data to test the hypothesis that until about 28 million years ago arctic wetland forests were high biomass forests dominated by deciduous conifers, but by 12 million years aga, these were replaced by the more cold-tolerant conifers. These data should help us understand how arctic landscapes may respond to warmer climates in the future.

A field party of three scientists, two graduate students and three undergraduate students will travel from Philadelphia to Inuvik via commercial air carriers on July 2, 2005. The researchers will stay overnight in Inuvik to obtain supplies. Polar Continental Shelf Project will transport the field team via Twin Otter to Ballast Brook (possibly with a stop in Sachs Harbour). They will establish a camp at Ballast Brook with one temporary Parcoll tent and several camping tents. The field team will use low-impact camping techniques to minimize environmental impact and wildlife encounters. They will spend about three and a half weeks in the Ballast Brook area (74°20’N, 123°10’W) studying the coal deposits on the north and south banks of the river. They will spend about 15 days on the south side of the river and then four team members will leave the site. The remaining four people will spend about 15 days on the north side of the river. The rest of the field team will leave the site around July 28, 2005. Movement around camp and the study sites will be by foot or possibly ATV. The field team will use hand tools to expose fresh surfaces of coal deposits and collect pieces of wood from coal layers for geochemical analysis. They will use a GPS survey system to map coal outcrops and sediments and fossil wood. They will have a small Honda generator (600W) on site to charge batteries in the surveying equipment. The total mass of the samples they collect will be about 45 kg. The researchers will share their results through published scientific journal articles, and would be happy to give a presentation to interested community, school, and government groups. The researchers have contacted the Sachs Harbour HTC to request a guide to assist the field team.
The study will be conducted at Ballast Brook, NWT (74o20' N, 123o10' W) during the month of July, 2005.