Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards: Cohort 3

By June 1, 2021July 8th, 2021No Comments

Seasonal prediction of freeze-up dates and ice coverage in the St-Lawrence Seaway using Artificial Intelligence
Amélie Bouchat, McGill University

Knowledge of river ice conditions from freeze-up to break-up is critical for the safe operation of ships in icy rivers. However, forecasts of freezing onset and ice conditions are almost non-existent for the St. Lawrence Seaway, a major shipping channel for Canada. For Fednav (Canada’s largest international bulk shipping company operating in the Seaway) this lack of information results in large uncertainties, forcing them to adopt a conservative approach to ensure the safe and efficient navigation of their fleet.

While regional ice forecasting typically relies on high-resolution ice-ocean numerical models, this type of model is expensive to develop and run, and none are yet available for the St-Lawrence Seaway. This project proposes to develop a new freeze-up forecast model for the St. Lawrence Seaway based on Machine Learning.

Future-proofing marine conservation planning in the North-West Atlantic Ocean
Andrea Bryndum-Buchholz, Memorial University

This research focuses on the analysis of future ecosystem changes within currently established and proposed marine conservation areas in the North-West Atlantic Ocean, in efforts to provide crucial guidance to help climate-adaptive placement of conservation measures in the region. Dr. Bryndum-Buchholz examines climate change impacts, evaluating gaps and opportunities for additional areas, to achieve comprehensive conservation planning for climate change adaptation.

Designing Solutions to the Hidden Impacts of Climate Change on Canada’s Undersea Forests
Danielle Denley, Simon Fraser University

In 2015, First Nations communities on the central coast of BC observed an expansive outbreak of an encrusting bryozoan correlated with extreme ocean temperature anomalies in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Giant kelp were heavily encrusted by the bryozoan, causing them to sink to the seafloor where they rapidly disintegrated. This concerned the First Nations communities, who rely heavily on these kelp forest ecosystems for commercial, food, social and ceremonial purposes.

In partnership with CCIRA and the four First Nations of BC’s central coast (Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv Nations) this co-designed project will determine whether adaptive management of traditional community-based kelp harvest and herring spawn-on kelp fisheries can minimize the negative impact of temperature-induced bryozoan outbreaks—and enhance the resilience of both kelp forest ecosystems and coastal communities to climate change.

Linking fisheries, food security, and health, to changing marine food webs in the Canadian Arctic
Marianne Falardeau-Côté, Université Laval

Arctic marine systems are undergoing major transformations driven by climate change. Marine food webs are shifting, with cascading effects on fisheries and coastal communities. Arctic char (Salvelinus alpinus) is one of the most harvested fish species in the Canadian Arctic, supporting commercial, subsistence, and sport fisheries. This circumpolar anadromous species migrates to the more productive oceans in the summer, to feed on abundant marine prey, resulting in high energy intake. The tight linkages between marine food webs, Arctic char, and fisheries play a critical role in sustaining culture and well-being in northern Canada’s coastal communities including as a source of healthy food. In this region where food insecurity is up to five times higher than Canada’s national average, there is a pressing need to understand how climate change may affect people’s ability to access marine foods and to inform sustainable management. In this research, Dr. Falardeau-Côté is assessing how changes in the ocean are impacting marine food webs, Arctic char fisheries, and key well-being dimensions that are linked to fisheries, especially food security and health in Nunavut and Nunavik.

 Ecological trait indicators for predictive modelling of tuna fisheries productivity and distribution to inform Canadian and US fisheries management under climate change
Natasha Hardy, University of Alberta

This project’s end goal is to forecast climate-based impacts to the distribution and abundance of valuable fisheries species, including albacore tuna. This includes building an open-source database on Pacific tuna diets and prey traits and growing collaborative networks between researchers, government scientists and climate modellers. Existing products building to this goal are of significant value to the fishery users and managers in Canada, the US and globally.

Ocean Remote Sensing and spatial-temporal dynamic of coastal marine biophysical provinces of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska
Christian Marchese, University of British Columbia/University of Victoria

The coastal oceans of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska are influenced by the interplay of different climatic and oceanographic processes. These regions, where freshwater and ocean waters interact, support diverse food webs and determine the habitat available for various species of Pacific salmon, which are highly sensitive to changes in environmental conditions. In recent years, Pacific salmon stocks have fallen below-average levels, possibly due to a low prey availability for juvenile salmon caused by a mismatch with the timing of phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms. The latter have shown to be highly variable because influenced by a combination of environmental factors, such as ocean temperature. In this connection, the detection of ecological provinces as a template for understanding biological and physical processes in the coastal oceans of BC and SE Alaska is key to improve our ability to map conditions experienced by juvenile salmon along their main migration route. Bioregional classification can enhance our understanding of how fish abundance and dynamics respond to different biophysical conditions. This project responds to the need to have a proper, relevant, and dynamic bioregionalization to explain region-specific responses to future environmental changes.

Assessment of nitrogen cycling in coastal benthic ecosystems
Ludovic Pascal, UQAR

The economic development of coastal zones and changes in land use (e.g., agricultural drainage) have significantly increased nutrients inputs in coastal water. This increase may lead to eutrophication, a rise of organic matter supply to the ecosystem, altering its natural equilibrium. The most obvious expressions of eutrophication are disproportionate algae blooms, deoxygenation and acidification of water, with far-reaching consequences on the mortality of marine organisms with potential economic interest. To date, more than 400 impacted coastal ecosystems have been reported as an oxygen-poor or dead zone, including the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary. Although biogeochemical processes involved in sedimentary nitrogen cycling (NC) are now well discriminated, little is known about the influence of environmental context on their occurrences and rates. Many parameters influence NC, such as NO3 and O2 concentrations in bottom water, the reactivity of organic matter delivered to sediments as well as the community structure of the 3 ecosystems. Moreover, the ongoing climate change and associated alterations of biodiversity are likely to change the rate and the dominant pathways of NC.

Historical Variability and Drivers of Sea Ice Along Coastal Labrador
Christoph Renkl, Dalhousie University

This work aims to gather baseline data about polynyas and other open water features along coastal Labrador. Dr. Renkl’s role will be to assess the historical variability and long-term trends of sea ice in this region and identify its large-scale drivers over the past 50 years. Sea ice along the coast of Labrador provides travel routes for coastal Indigenous communities. Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, also known as polynyas or locally as ‘rattles’ or ‘inggiganik’, are areas of high biological productivity that serve as a habitat for marine animals. These open water features provide local hunting and fishing grounds to Indigenous communities. Under a warming climate, changes in ice conditions can lead to unpredictable travel conditions whereby past knowledge of the environment is no longer applicable. Therefore, information about ice conditions are needed to assure the safety of travel routes and sustainability of traditional subsidence cultures. The targeted population of this project is the Indigenous communities in coastal Labrador who are directly involved in the project.

This research is embedded in the “Community-Based Hazard Mapping of Polynyas and Ice Features” project led by Paul McCarney of the Nunatsiavut Government of northern Labrador, in partnership with Dr. Eric Oliver and Bird’s Eye Inc., an Inuit-owned company.