Caribou and fish habitat studies receive funding

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Three Wilfrid Laurier University researchers have received funding from the Government of the Northwest Territories to help answer important questions about environmental issues in Canada’s North. Jennifer Baltzer, Derek Gray and Philip Marsh each received funding for separate projects as part of the Northwest Territories Cumulative Impact Monitoring Program, which aims to provide an understanding of environmental trends and the impacts of human and natural changes in the Northwest Territories. The goal of the program is to provide information to resource managers, governments and communities in the territory to aid in future decision-making.

Baltzer received $120,000 for her continuing project, “Impacts of wildfire extent and severity on caribou habitat: from woodland to barren ground”. Both boreal and barren ground caribou are facing unprecedented rates of disturbance within critical habitats in the Northwest Territories due to resource development. Resource managers must consider the impacts of wildfire as a cause of additional disturbance. Baltzer and her team have established a network of study sites in a 250-kilometre radius around Yellowknife.

Gray received renewed funding of $98,000 for his project, “How will fish communities in Gwich’in lakes respond to climate change?” To forecast future changes, Gray’s team is collecting baseline data on fish communities and water quality in 60 lakes. Data produced as part of the project will provide information for the develop­ment of resource management plans.

Marsh received $60,000 for his project, “Changes in water within the Mackenzie Delta-Beaufort Region as indicators of aquatic health”. The Mackenzie Delta-Beaufort Region is experiencing dramatic environmental changes, including climate warming and decreases in rain and snow levels. These changes have resulted in shallower snow cover, longer snow- and ice-free periods and increased evaporation. This drying of the environment is causing complex and poorly understood changes in stream flow and lake levels, as well as fish health and habitat. Marsh’s study will use climate, remote sensing and water data to document changes.

Wilfrid Laurier University is based in Waterloo, Ontario, with campuses also in Branford, Kitchener and Toronto.