Environmental Change in the Western Canadian Arctic Islands

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, fossils, paleoclimatology, glaciation

Principal Investigator: England, John H (15)
Licence Number: 14645
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2012 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002
Issued: Feb 05, 2010
Project Team: Dr. John England (Principal Investigator, University of Alberta (U of A)), Tom Lakeman (Ph.D. Student, U of A), Jess Vaughan (Ph.D. Student, U of A), Dr. Mark Furze (Co-Investigator, MacEwan University), Dr. Julian Murton (Co-Investigator, University of Sussex), Dr. Catharine LaFarge (Co-Investigator, U of A), Dr. David Evans (Co-Investigator, Durham University), TBD (Field Assistant, U of A), TBD (Field Assistant, U of A)

Objective(s): The objective is to determine how the environment of Banks Island has evolved during the past several hundred thousand years to present, especially whether Banks Island served as a biological refuge during previous glaciations.

Project Description: This licence is being issued for the scientific research application No.1284.

The aim is to understand and reconstruct the extent and dynamics of past glaciers, past climates and ongoing sea level change, including submergence, on Banks Island, through geological mapping and the dating of sea shells, sediment and boulders. The objective is to determine how the environment of Banks Island has evolved during the past several hundred thousand years to present, especially whether Banks Island served as a biological refuge during previous glaciations.

One research team (Lakeman party) will operate out of two small field camps on the west coast of Banks Island and another third camp on eastern Banks Island. The second research team will operate out of three small field camps on southern Banks Island. Transects will be conducted from these camps via helicopter and ATV. Ancient shorelines, which are now far inland and above modern sea level, will be mapped and surveyed.

Fossils, which are frequently observed on these shorelines and related raised marine sediments, will be collected and radiocarbon dated. These radiocarbon dates, in combination with the mapped and surveyed raised shorelines, will be used to calculate rates of sea level change in the past. Fossils include marine mollusc shells (most commonly Hiatella arctica) and driftwood. A small number of fossil molluscs will be collected from each site and only a few grams of driftwood will be sampled, collectively representing only a very small proportion of the existing fossil material that is widespread on the landscape.

Sample locations will be surveyed and recorded using GPS receivers. Sample elevations will be determined using digital altimeters. Large boulders will be sampled for terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide dating. This entails sampling <1kg of rock from the upper surface of large boulders using a rock saw and chisel. Efforts will be made to ensure that the sampled surface is left in a natural appearing state. In 2010, a research team will use a small, portable coring device to sample lake sediments along an east-west transect across central Banks Island. The portable coring device extracts a small (<10 cm diameter) core 1-3 m in length from the lake bottom. The sediment will be analyzed for organic material, which will be submitted for radiocarbon dating. Radiocarbon dates will provide a test for the age(s) of the various till sheets that are proposed for Banks Island and will clarify the glacial history of the western Canadian Arctic.

The investigator will supply a summary of the research in plain language to be circulated amongst the surrounding communities (Sachs Harbour, Holman, and Cambridge Bay), and also make this information available to the Aurora Research Institute's library. Dr. England also intends to continue to give an annual public lecture at the Aurora Research Institute.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted on Banks Island from June 20 to August 12, 2010.

Specific locations:
1) Tom Lakeman's camp will have three main locations: a) Storkerson Bay from late June to mid July (this area covers approximately 72° 45’ N to 73° 00’ N; 121° 30’ W to 125° 20’ W), b) Burnett Bay from mid July to late July (this area covers approximately 73° 00’ N to 74° 00’ N; 121° 30’ W to 125° 20’ W), and c) Jesse Bay from late July to early August (this area covers approximately 72° 05’ to 72° 25’ N; 119° 15’ to 120° 35’ W).