Skip to content

Major beaver study gets boost from Britain

A British team has been awarded over half a million pounds to come study the impact of beavers here in the Beaufort Delta.
Doug Esagok and Angela Koe (left) and Frank Smith (right) ply the Mackenzie River in search of beaver as part of an ongoing study on the impact of Tsee’ in the Arctic. Photo courtesy of Cheryl Greenland

A British team has been awarded over half a million pounds to come study the impact of beavers here in the Beaufort Delta.

Anglia Ruskin University announced May 11 they have been awarded £553,491 from UK Research and Innovation to join a study with Wilfrid Laurier University of Canada and the Inuvialuit Fisheries Joint Management Committee.

“Thanks to the scale of the project and the funding we have received, we will be able to investigate the complex effects of rapid environmental change in a truly interdisciplinary way, bringing together experts in wildlife change, hydrology, biogeochemistry, ecosystem and fish ecology, and human wellbeing, and I’m really looking forward to carrying out fieldwork in the region this summer,” said zoology lecturer Dr. Helen Wheeler. “What is especially pleasing is that this project is working closely with Inuvialuit partners and community members, and together we will be creating tools and infrastructure that will exist way beyond the life of the project.

“This will allow locally led monitoring and research to continue in the region long term, providing the Inuvialuit with the scientific data on the changes created by beavers that is necessary to help inform their ongoing stewardship of the land.”

Canada’s principal mascot has been moving progressively northward as climate change continues to warm the Arctic. As the beaver population increases, so do their dams — which not only alter the flow of water by creating ponds, but can also divert fish populations and reduce their numbers.

The resourceful rodents, called Tsee’ in Gwich’in, are even moving north of the treeline, where beaver ponds are contributing to permafrost melt, which can lead to the release of carbon dioxide and methane gas, which in turn lead to further warming.

The new research will build on research ARU is already carrying out in the Gwich’in Settlement Region on how the natural engineers are changing local ecosystems. That research has been carried out at Jackfish Creek in the Northwest Territories and Tombstone Territorial park in the Yukon.

Wheeler said she was overjoyed to be able to continue her research in the Arctic.

“We are delighted to receive this funding from UK Research and Innovation as this project will allow us to work closely with the Inuvialuit Fisheries Joint Management Committee and members of the Inuvialuit community to address an important environmental change that is causing a great deal of concern in the area,” she said.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

Read more