Studies of methane release from lakes in the Mackenzie Delta and on Richards Island

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region

Tags: physical sciences, sediment quality, water monitoring, methane

Principal Investigator: Orcutt, Beth N (3)
Licence Number: 15851
Organization: Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015
Issued: Mar 22, 2016
Project Team: Laura Lapham (Scientist, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science), Geoff Wheat (Scientist, University of Alaska Fairbanks)

Objective(s): To study methane release from different lakes in the Mackenzie Delta and Richards Island area, with a focus on capturing a full ice in/ice out cycle, to determine how much methane is released from lakes under different conditions and how microorganisms increase or decrease methane release.

Project Description: The focus of this project is to study methane release from different lakes in the Mackenzie Delta and Richards Island area, with a focus on capturing a full ice in/ice out cycle, to determine how much methane is released from lakes under different conditions and how microorganisms increase or decrease methane release.

As part of this project, eight experiments the size of a milk crate were deployed on the lake beds of eight different lakes in the Mackenzie River delta and North Richards Island areas. Three of the six lakes are located near Inuvik, two in lakes on the northern portion of Richards Island, and two lakes in the outer delta. The research team have two different planned activities: 1) deployment of replicate experiments in two Inuvik-region lakes from March-August, to collect a higher-resolution data set during the critical ice thaw period; and 2) in August, recovery of the systems deployed last year and in the spring. The experiments consist of a sampling and sensor package that continuously collects small volumes of water (less than 2 milliliters per day) into either copper or plastic tubing for laboratory analysis of dissolved gas and ion concentrations, as well as the composition of the microbial ecosystem in the water. These sampling systems are self-contained and do not require batteries, power, or moving systems – they operate by osmosis. The packages are discretely anchored to shore with a negatively buoyant rope to assist in recovery. Inuvik-area lakes are accessed by small boats (30 hp motor), while outer delta and North Richards Island locations are accessed by helicopter transport and inflatable boats. Nothing is left in the field upon recovery. The research team will collect a few push-core samples of lake sediment and take a few liters of lake water for laboratory investigations. A push-core is a small diameter (10 cm diameter) tube that is pushed about 30 cm into the lake bottom with an extended stick, removing a cylinder of sediment. These sediment samples will be transported back to the facilities at the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) for analysis. These two research activities are non-invasive and no substantive disturbance to aquatic or terrestrial wildlife or habitats is anticipated.

The research team collaborate with ARI in offering educational outreach activities in Inuvik and for surrounding regional communities. The activities build on a successful series of programs the team has hosted for elementary, middle, and high-school students and teachers that teach functional technology, team-oriented problem solving, and creative innovation. Specifically, these programs include workshops for educators and students that train in the building of simple sensors, electronic components, and robots, with a focus on using such devices for local water quality monitoring programs.

In addition to the local outreach the team intend to do in the form the educator workshops, the research team can also present this research project at community meetings. This will include a presentation of the project to the Game Council. Results of the findings will be made publicly available through distribution at ARI and the project website.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from March 23, 2016 to August 20, 2016.