ArcticNet: an Integrated Regional Impact Study of the Coastal Western Canadian Arctic.
Principal Investigator: Fortier, Martin (8)
Licence Number: 14917
Organization: ArcticNet
Licenced Year(s): 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2007 2006 2005 2004
Issued: May 19, 2011

Objective(s): To study on a long-term basis how climate induced changes are impacting the marine ecosystem, contaminant transport, biogeochemical fluxes, and exchange processes across the ocean-sea ice-atmosphere interface in the Canadian Arctic Ocean.

Project Description: The central aim of the ArcticNet marine-based research program is to study on a long-term basis how climate induced changes are impacting the marine ecosystem, contaminant transport, biogeochemical fluxes, and exchange processes across the ocean-sea ice-atmosphere interface in the Canadian Arctic Ocean. Ultimately, the knowledge generated from this multi-year program will be integrated into regional impact assessments to help decision makers develop effective adaptation strategies for the changing coastal Canadian Arctic. The proposed ArcticNet marine-based research program will be conducted in partnership with Industry (Industry partners to be confirmed). This partnership initiative aims at increasing the diversity, temporal and spatial coverage of environmental data collected by the ArcticNet network.

The ArcticNet marine-based research program is carried out from the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen. The multi-year sampling program is developed around 3 main research components: 1) a meteorology, ocean & sea ice component; 2) a marine resources and environment component; and 3) a geology/bathymetry component.

1) Meteorology, ocean & sea ice component
The general objective of this research component is to collect data on the ocean-sea ice-atmosphere (OSA) interface over a range of time and space scales, focusing on spatial and temporal variability over diurnal, seasonal and inter-annual time scales.

A CTD/rosette sampler will be deployed at each sampling station to determine continuous profiles of temperature, salinity, light transmittance, fluorescence, pH and oxygen. The sampling stations will be complemented by surface measurements (salinity, temperature and chlorophyll a, fluorescence), continuously monitored along the ship’s track by using water sampled through a water intake located in the hull of the ship. Underwater currents and meteorological conditions are also monitored continuously using, respectively, a haul-mounted current meter, and a meteorological tower located at the bow of the ship. Contaminants (especially mercury and hexachloro-cyclo-hexanes) will also be measured in the water to study their movements through the ecosystem.

Subsurface moorings will be deployed in the study area. Moorings are lines anchored to the bottom and maintained vertically in the water column by flotation devices. The moorings will be equipped with instruments that gather continuous records of currents, temperature, conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and the vertical flux of carbon and contaminants. Some of the moorings will also be equipped with upward looking ice profiler sonar and others with autonomous hydrophones to record the acoustic background and the vocalizations of marine mammals. The top instrument on each subsurface mooring is located at a water depth of 60m water. The research team intends on servicing and redeploying subsurface moorings in the study area until 2018. The researchers also plan to moor surface Metocean buoys that will provide a time series of meteorological and surface (0-50m) ocean data during short open water periods (2 to 4 weeks).

Using the helicopter, a number of sea-ice sampling operations will be conducted in the study area. Satellite tracked ice motion beacons will be deployed on large first-year and multi-year ice floes to track ice motion in the Beaufort Sea. Two sea ice mass balance buoys each equipped with a transmitter, GPS, ice temperature profile thermistor, air and water temperature sensors, ice acoustic rangefinders and data logger will be also be deployed on large multi-year ice floes. Finally, surveys will be carried out throughout the study region to collect sea ice thickness distribution statistics with a remote sensing electro-magnetic system.

2) Marine resources and environment component

In the Arctic Ocean, sea-ice dynamics and hydrography will ultimately determine primary production, microbial activity, zooplankton and larval fish dynamics and benthos productivity. The objectives of this research component are: 1) to quantify and map the summer-fall distribution and contamination of the main components of the pelagic and benthic food webs in the study area, and 2) to quantify the response of the pelagic and benthic communities to physical forcing processes over the summer-fall season.

Sampling of the pelagic and benthic environments will be conducted at most sampling stations in the study area. The CTD/rosette profile (described above) will be complemented by seawater sampling for measurements of Dissolve Organic/Inorganic Carbon, nutrients, Chlorophyll a, microbial densities and suspended sediments at selected depths. Plankton nets will be deployed for the determination of zooplankton and larval fish abundances and contaminant levels.

The major species collected with the plankton nets will consist of zooplankton and larval fish (5 to 50mm) of the dominant offshore fish species (i.e. arctic cod, sculpin). To complement the net tows, a scientific echosounder (EK60) will be operated during transit between stations to determine the vertical position and migration of plankton and fish in the water column. A box corer and Agassiz trawl will be used to assess the abundance, diversity and distribution of benthic organisms and levels of contaminants and carbon in the sediments. In all instances, the quantity of pelagic or benthic organisms sampled will be ecologically insignificant and will have no impact on the resource. At selected stations, the ship’s Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) will be deployed for in situ images of the organisms living on the ocean floor.

3) Geology/bathymetry component

The major goal of this research component is to conduct a bathymetric and sediment characterization survey to investigate seafloor stability conditions at the outer shelf/upper slope area of the central Beaufort Sea and to provide the necessary geosciences knowledge to understand the distribution of ecologically and biologically sensitive benthic ecosystems.

The icebreaker will be used as a research platform to conduct multibeam and sub-bottom surveys, and bottom sediment sampling in the study area. Surveys will be conducted in between stations along the sampling transects in open water using 1) an EM 302 multibeam echo sounder to produce along-transect track 3-D maps of the topography and character of the seabed and, 2) a subbottom profiler to map the distribution and characteristics of the sediment below the water sediment interface and to assist in the selection of adequate piston and box coring site. The upper 50 cm of seabed will be sampled with a box corer (0.25m2) to provide sample control to calibrate the multibeam sonar and undisturbed “historical” environmental data. A piston corer will be used to recover the upper 10 metres of sediment (0.01 m2).

Three of the five general objectives of ArcticNet are to: 1) involve northern communities and Inuit organizations as partners through bilateral exchange of knowledge, training and technology; 2) contribute to the training of the next generation of young Arctic specialists (including northern residents) and, 3) contribute to the development and dissemination of the knowledge needed to formulate policies and strategies to adapt to change in the Arctic. Hence, it is ArcticNet’s mandate to involve the residents of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR) at various levels of research and training. Oceanographic fieldwork in the ISR started in 2004 which generated various involvement opportunities for the residents and more opportunities are expected to arise throughout the duration of ArcticNet.

Involvement opportunities will include positions on the CCGS Amundsen as research technicians and wildlife monitors. Wildlife monitors have been a great asset in the past and we intend to continue hiring them throughout the existence of the ArcticNet project (up until 2018).

As part of ArcticNet’s education and training initiatives, the Schools on Board program was developed to bridge Arctic research with science education in high schools across Canada. Since 2005, the ArcticNet Schools on Board program has welcomed a number of Inuit students from the NWT and Nunavut onboard the CCGS Amundsen. The program will recognize schools that implement (or are interested in implementing) an arctic science component to their science curriculum, and then offer them the opportunity to nominate a student and/or teacher to participate in the ArcticNet field program onboard the ship. This will be an excellent opportunity for young, enthusiastic students to see part of their environment and experience first-hand Arctic research. Information on the Schools on Board program and the application process is provided on the ArcticNet website (

ArcticNet, in collaboration with the Nasivvik Centre, is also funding a full time position of Inuit Research Advisor (IRA) for each of the four Canadian Inuit regions (i.e. Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut). Part of the IRAs mandate is to promote communication between researchers and community members and therefore facilitate the dissemination of results and information to and from the communities.

As in past years, research results and progress reports will be submitted to the Joint Secretariat, the Game Council, the Aurora Research Institute and the HTCs of all Inuvialuit communities. Research results will also be communicated through community visits conducted by ArcticNet researchers.

A compendium of ArcticNet research results (2004-2008) will be submitted to the aforementioned organizations. ArcticNet’s annual report and quarterly newsletter are also sent out to Inuit partners and Northern organizations. All results ensuing from ArcticNet’s marine-based research program are made available as peer-reviewed primary publication in scientific journals.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 10, 2011 to October 10, 2011.