Residents were invited in to meet their local Parks Canada team Nov. 29 at their office on Kingmingya Road and learn all about the different conservation work Parks Canada does in the region.
From listening in on songbird sonnets to canoeing down one of the oldest rivers in the country for water samples to mapping landslides resulting from thawing permafrost, the open house offered a window to the front lines of northern conservation.
“Our parks up here tend to be quite remote, so people don’t get the opportunity to see what we do first-hand,” said representative Michelle Clyde. “So we held this open house to engage with people and invite them into our space and inform them what we do.”
As climate change is bringing rapid and dramatic changes to the north, much of the work has an urgency to it. Cultural resource management advisor Ashley Piskor said her department was working with elders to preserve cultural resources around the Beaufort Delta, with a particular focus on Ivvavik National Park, where up to nine metres of coastline can erode into the sea each year.
It’s predicted that by 2100, at least half of the historical cultural sites in the park could be gone, so Parks Canada is working with community leaders in Aklavik to locate and document areas of historical importance and work to preserve sights and artifacts of importance to the community.
“I mainly work as an advisor and communicate the science,” she explained. “The communities decide what to preserve.”
As an example, a decision needs to be made about an old Hudson’s Bay Warehouse and the cultural artifacts in it. A river is fast encroaching on the building and will undercut it within a few years if actions are not taken.
Water and song
While occasionally conservationists make the rough journey into these remote parks to collect their data, more often than not the work is behind left to automated devices to give scientists more time to work on their research.
One example is a songbird monitoring program. Singing their love songs to each other takes substantially more energy for birds than other calls and they tend to have very distinct sounds.
However, they’re also at higher risk of predation at these times, so when potential dangers — like scientists — are present, they don’t sing. So the solution is to have remove microphones recording the birds autonomously.
Pingos ever present
Several different departments are looking at pingos, the large hill like bumps seen throughout the Beaufort Delta. Small amounts of soil topped over a large amount of permafrost, the iconic landmarks are both vulnerable to the effects of climate change as well as from human activity.
Now in its 15th year, the Pingo Pride program goes through local schools and educates students on the pingo’s vegetation cycle.
As it turns out, when grass grows on the top of the pingo, keeping the soil underneath in place. So skiidooing or tobogganing off them can pull up vegetation and damage the hill.
Instead, the program instructs students to use plastic sleds and explains why the pingos are closed for climbing n the summer months.
Parks Canada also holds an annual tour of the pingos for grade six students in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.
Also on Parks Canada’s radar is using drones to monitor permafrost slumping, particularly under pingos but also along cliff sides and throughout the region.
Local soil is divided into an active layer and the permafrost layer. The active layer thaws each summer, exposing the top of the permafrost. With climate change, the active layer is getting deeper every year, melting more and more of the permafrost.
Geomatics technician Halyleigh Conway explained that once permafrost melts, it’s gone for good.
“It’s a depressing project,” she said. “But it’s fascinating.”