Integrated Regional Impact Study of the Coastal Western Canadian Arctic
Principal Investigator: Levesque, Keith R (4)
Licence Number: 15922
Organization: ArcticNet
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016
Issued: Jul 20, 2016
Project Team: 40 scientific personnel and 40 Coast Guard crew members, Full list available upon request

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. The knowledge generated from this multi- year program is integrated into regional impact studies (IRIS reports) to help decision makers develop effective adaptation strategies for the changing coastal Canadian Arctic.

The ArcticNet 2016 marine-based research program proposes to continue its studies of the ecosystems of the Beaufort Sea/Amundsen Gulf region to better understand the effect of climate change on these marine environments. The field program will involve meteorological, oceanographic and geological sampling, as well as bathymetric and sub-bottom surveys of the seafloor. Oceanographic moorings will be deployed as part of ArcticNet’s Long-Term Oceanographic Observatories project aiming to extend a 10-year time series of the oceanographic properties in the Amundsen Gulf region. Moorings will also be deployed within the framework of joint programs with the integrated Beaufort Observatory (iBO) and the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).

The ArcticNet marine-based research program is carried out from the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen. The multi-year sampling program is developed around 4 main research components: 1) a mooring program; 2) a meteorology, ocean & sea ice component; 3) a marine resources and environment component; and 4) a geology/bathymetry component.

Planned operations will focus primarily on the Southern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf region. If meteorological and ice conditions allow passage in McClure Strait and Viscount Melville Sound, oceanographic sampling and coring operations will be conducted at designated stations.

1) Mooring program
Two oceanographic moorings will be deployed in the Amundsen Gulf as part of the ArcticNet Long-Term Oceanographic Observatories (LTOO) project. Four moorings will also be recovered and re-deployed as part of the ArcticNet-iBO joint program. The integrated Beaufort Observatory (iBO; 2015-2018) is a new mooring-based program targeting the shelf and slope environment of the Canadian Beaufort Sea. The major goal of iBO is to extend existing time-series and expand regional coverage to contribute key information required for decisions on development, regulations and management in the offshore Beaufort Sea. Finally, two benthic landers will be recovered and re-deployed on the Mackenzie Shelf slope in collaboration with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC).

2) 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.

3) 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 stations identified in the study area. A CTD/Rosette sampler will be deployed to determine continuous profiles of temperature, salinity, light transmittance, fluorescence, pH and oxygen. The CTD/Rosette profiles will be complemented by seawater sampling for measurements of Dissolved Organic/Inorganic Carbon, nutrients, Chlorophyll a, microbial densities and suspended sediments at selected depths. Various size 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 50 mm) of the dominant offshore fish species (i.e. arctic cod, sculpin). A LOKI and MOKI in situ video recording systems will also be used to determine the distribution of zooplankton species in the water column.

To complement the plankton net tows and determine the vertical position and migration of plankton and fish in the water column, a scientific echosounder (EK60) and fish finding sonar (SX90) will be operated during transit between stations. If fish aggregations are detected while in transit and conditions allow, an Isaacs-Kidd Midwater Trawl (IKMT) and/or benthic beam trawl will be deployed to sample the fish.

The active acoustics project will use the Kongsberg-Simrad SX90 long range, low frequency (20-30 kHz) fish finding sonar. This sonar operates at a similar frequency to the existing EK60 echosounder on board the Amundsen, but with its omni-directional beam surmounts the narrow beam coverage and detection limitations of the EK60 in the upper surface layer. Target detection and identification using the SX90 sonar can be influenced by the physico-chemical properties of the water column and type of bottom sediments. Hence, before conducting the surveys, a custom 50x50 cm tri-plane reflector will be used as a reference target to calibrate the SX90 sonar. This calibration will provide information on how the physical environment affects sonar observations and in turn, fish or whale detections. The omni-directional sonar beam of the SX90 allows for observation of the whole water volume up to 2 km around the vessel and helps to reduce the uncertainty associated with largescale field surveys of populations with a highly skewed distribution (e.g. pelagic fish) or low numbers (e.g. cetaceans).
A box corer, gravity 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.

4) 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.

For geotechnical analyses, a piston corer will be deployed to recover the upper 9 metres of sediment (surface of 0.01 m2). Multibeam and sub-bottom surveys will be conducted in between stations along the sampling transects in open water using 1) a long range Simrad/Kongsberg EM 302 multibeam echo sounder to produce along-transect track 3-D maps of the topography and character of the seabed and, 2) a sub-bottom profiler (Knudsen) to map the distribution and characteristics of the sediment below the water-sediment interface and to assist in the selection of adequate box coring, gravity coring and piston coring sites. The multibeam and sub-bottom profiler are hull-mounted at the bottom of the ship.

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.

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 onboard the CCGS Amundsen. This year, 3 berths have been reserved for northern students. 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 this year’s field study 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 (

Part of the 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 will be communicated to Inuvialuit organizations and communities through progress reports submitted to the Aurora Research Institute as well as during community visits and regional scientific meetings conducted by ArcticNet researchers.

The ArcticNet annual report is also sent out to Inuit partners and Northern organizations. To promote communication between researchers and community members and therefore more easily distribute results and information to and from the communities.

All results from ArcticNet’s marine-based research program are made available as peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals. Once the intellectual property rights of the researchers and partners are satisfied for publication, relevant data sets will be incorporated into the central database of ArcticNet ( and offered for inclusion in national and international data banks.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from August 25, 2016 to September 17, 2016.