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: 16066
Organization: Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2016 2015
Issued: Mar 22, 2017
Project Team: Dr. Laura L. Lapham (co-PI, University of Maryland), Dr. Geoff Wheat (co-PI, University of Alaska), Hadley McIntosh (student, University of Maryland), Trevor Fournier (student, University of Alaska)

Objective(s): To collect an annual record of methane release from nine different lakes in the Mackenzie Delta and Richards Island area, with a focus on capturing a full ice in/ice out cycle.

Project Description: The focus of this one-year-long project is to collect an additional annual record of methane release from nine 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. This annual record will allow the research team to examine variability in release under different spring ice out conditions.

The research team intend to undertake two distinct activities at each lake. Activity 1: Recovery of small milkcrate sampling and sensor package from the bottom of nine lakes in the Mackenzie River delta, deployed in summer 2016. These sampling and sensor packages sit on the lake bottom and continuously collect small volumes of water (less then 2 milliliters per day) into either copper or plastic tubing for laboratory analysis of dissolved gas and ion concentrations. These sampling systems are self-contained and do not require batteries, power, or moving systems – they operate by osmosis. The sampling systems are recovered by visiting the lakes with either small motor (<50hp) or inflatable boats, and grappling lines attached to the milkcrates, and then returning the milkcrates to Aurora Research Institute for disassembly and analysis of samples. Nothing will be left in the field upon recovery. Activity 2: To calibrate the results of the year-long deployments, the 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, 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. ARI has led workshops for educators to train them in the building of simple sensors, electronic components, and robots, with a focus on using such devices for local water quality monitoring programs.

The research team can also present outcomes of this research project at community meetings when the team is in the area. In 2016, team members presented to the Inuvialuit Game Council and the Gwich'in Tribal Council; the team intend to arrange similar presentations in 2017. The research team will also seek to invite the community to provide input on lakes to consider for future studies.

Finally, team members mentored a local student summer intern during field work, involving the student in field sampling and laboratory analyses. The research team will try to arrange similar opportunities for the coming summer when we plan return to the area.

In addition to the local outreach the research team intend to do in the form of educator workshops, the team can also present the research project at community meetings; the team will seek to arrange these over the coming year. 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 August 1, 2017 to August 26, 2017.