Understanding when and where bowhead whales occur is ecologically, culturally and politically important in the context of a rapidly changing climate, with some of the greatest impacts happening in the Arctic. Decreases in sea ice allow for increased shipping and its associated underwater noise in one of the last acoustically pristine habitats in the world. Bowheads, the only endemic Arctic mysticete and a cultural keystone species for the Inuit, are vocal, their survival depends on sound, thus vulnerable to increasing noise.
The proposed research will aim on a better understanding of both temporal and spatial distribution of marine mammals in the Western Canadian Arctic, with a main focus on bowhead whales. Compared to other marine areas, the Arctic Ocean currently shows less noise disturbance due to the presence of sea ice throughout most times of the year, however reduction in sea ice caused by climate change is likely to allow for increased underwater noise.
The Yukon’s Northern Boreal Mountains region is under increasing pressure from human disturbance and climate change. Exploration of previously untapped natural resources is expanding in northern Canada, and northern ecosystems are thought to be more sensitive to climate stressors. However, the cumulative effects of these co-occurring disturbances on wildlife populations, community structure, and habitat quality are not well understood and often only studied individually and at local scales.
Scientists of WCS Canada have obtained funding through the Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk (CNFASAR) to conduct a collaborative project focusing on bowhead whale research in the Canadian Arctic. The proposed postdoctoral project is a main part of the CNFASAR project and aims to assess how bowhead whales react to underwater noise so that risks from human activities, particularly ship-related, can be managed effectively.
Globally, mountain regions (especially those at high latitudes) are undergoing rapid environmental change and plant communities are expected to respond by changing their locations or timing of flowering. Exactly how future plant communities in these regions will look and function is unknown but has important implications for local animals and human communities. Through this project, we will focus on understanding the response of high-latitude plant communities to ongoing warming and predict how these communities will continue to change.
Canada is a signatory to global conservation agreements to increase the number and coverage of protected areas in the country. Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are a science-based planning tool that can help governments, industry, environmental groups and Indigenous Nations target the right places to protect in terms of habitat for wildlife and to ensure these areas are connected on the landscape.
Bats often use urban areas, but ecologists lack understanding of where they roost and forage. Bats are important predators on insect pests, including mosquitoes, so understanding their requirements is important. This need is made more critical by the likely imminent spread of an exotic fungal pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome, which is often lethal to bats. Our proposed work will support a MSc student who will examine summer roosts in the Metro Vancouver region.
Locally-caught freshwater fish is a healthy and important source of protein, especially for First Nation peoples living in remote communities across northern Ontario, where access to affordable fresh produce is limited. However, some of these fish have elevated concentrations of chromium (Cr), a potentially toxic metal that is abundant in the surrounding bedrock. Not all forms of Cr, however, are toxic to humans and the main goal of our study is to develop a method to differentiate the begin form of Cr (Cr3) from the toxic form (Cr6).
Bats are a crucial part of healthy ecosystems, providing vast economic benefits through control of forest, agricultural and human pest insects (including mosquitoes!). Unfortunately, bat populations face many threats, including an exotic fungus causing white-nose syndrome, which is lethal to bats. It is important to understand how we can enhance bat habitats so they can successfully raise young an essential part of maintaining or recovering populations. Our proposed work will support a MSc student who will compare maternity colonies in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions of BC.
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