Erosion of old organic carbon in the Mackenzie River Basin

Regions: Gwich'in Settlement Area

Tags: physical sciences, water quality, sediment, organic carbon

Principal Investigator: Hilton, Robert G (6)
Licence Number: 16106
Organization: Durham University
Licenced Year(s): 2017 2013 2011 2010 2009
Issued: Jun 02, 2017
Project Team: Robert Hilton (Principle Investigator, Durham University), Edward Tipper (Co-Investigator, Cambridge University), Mathieu Dellinger (Co-Investigator, Durham University)

Objective(s): To better quantify the carbon source, age and fate in one of the largest rivers draining the high latitudes.

Project Description: The objective of this research is to better quantify the carbon source, age and fate in one of the largest rivers draining the high latitudes.

The research team will sample river sediments and waters to establish temporal variability in OC source and age. The team will target high and falling flow (in June) when most sediment and water are exported. The research team will directly measure velocity profiles, channel cross-sections and water discharge using an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), providing detailed constraints on the hydrodynamics of sediment transport to compliment the Environment Canada water discharge measurements. At all sites the team will collect at least 6 river depth profiles (i.e. 1 per week). Custom built Van-Dorn depth samplers will be used to collect samples near the surface which reflect fine grained, clay mineral dominated sediments, and the progressively coarser material carried closer to the river each profile consists of 5-6 discrete samples, whose depths are selected based on the water velocity profile data provided by the ADCP at time of sampling. These have been previously used on the Mackenzie River and other large rivers to provide unique insight on sediment and particulate organic carbon (POC) source. They also allow the team to collect large samples (8 L) with abundant material (4 g per sample) for a range of analyses.

River water samples will be filtered within 24 hours using custom built 142 mm diameter filter units developed by the research team. These provide samples suitable for inorganic and organic isotopic analyses on sediments and water which can be stored for decades for future research projects. Filtered water will be stored in acid pre-cleaned bottles and shipped to the UK for storage. Suspended sediments will be decanted to pre-combusted glass vials, shipped to the UK and freeze dried. These methods are suitable for a large range of organic and inorganic elemental and isotopic analyses, including analysis of trace metals which may be of environmental interest to those in the community.

As part of this three year project, the research team look to collect time series water samples from the Peel River at Fort McPherson.

The research team will take time to explain the approach and the methods and answer any questions people may have. The team will then revisit communities to explain findings as the project moves forward. Summaries in non-technical language will be provided to explain the main findings that have been made.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from June 2, 2017 to June 30, 2017.