Climate program brings youth to Canada’s Arctic


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This article was published 11/10/2016 (2427 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The stillness; the wildlife; the untamed landscape… these themes stood out in the bright, young minds of participants in the International Student-Led Arctic Monitoring and Research (ISAMR) trip to Wapusk National Park this past August.

Their many wildlife encounters included fox pups, caribou herds and sleepy polar bears snuggling up to a fence just outside their camp. They described quiet nights of dark skies set ablaze with northern lights and the cries of the Pacific loon soaring in the distance. They expressed feelings of peace and tranquility as they took in Wapusk’s arctic landscape.

Each year, a group of students from Winnipeg, Churchill, and Baltimore, travel north to participate in fieldwork and data collection through the ISAMR program.

Sou'wester ISAMR students in front of Fort Prince of Wales after spending the night camping in the fort

In August, students spent several days collecting samples and measuring permafrost depths as part of a 30-year research project monitoring the effects of global climate change as observed through the study of flora and fauna of the Wapusk Ecosystem.

In the nearly 10 years it has been operating, ISAMR has established itself as a research program that promotes learning and sharing. Knowledge gained by students over one season is passed on to students in the next season, creating a legacy of learning. The program offers education as well as an opportunity for young people to gain essential life experience while contributing to research that will provide important information about global environmental issues.

Many of the students acknowledged that their time in Wapusk National Park this summer was one of personal growth and change. In addition to learning the fine details of scientific research and data collection, the students reflected on lessons of humility, compassion and harmony as it applied to themselves and their relationship with the natural environment.

After leaving Wapusk National Park, this year’s trip ended with an overnight camp-out at the iconic Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. The group played an evening game of hide-and-seek and were treated to one last polar bear sighting just outside the wall. Later that night, they celebrated the end of this extraordinary journey with some impromptu dancing on the 250-year-old stone fort walls, taking in one final northern lights display with their newfound friends.

The ISAMR research project is a coalition of educators, professional researchers and high school students from Canada and the United States, co-founded in 2007 by Dr. Ryan Brook of the University of  Saskatchewan and Julie Rogers of The Park School in Baltimore, Md.

Since its creation, the program has formed collaborative relationships with the University of Manitoba; Kelvin High School in Winnipeg; and Parks Canada, which provides logistical support and safety measurements for the high school group during their data-gathering trips into Wapusk.

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