I am a Master's student working with Dr. Grant Gilchrist and Dr. Mark Forbes at Carleton University in Ottawa. My thesis aims to investigate whether or not Common Eiders nesting in the Canadian Arctic are enriching the terrestrial environment of islands with large breeding colonies through transporting and depositing marine-derived nutrients. This transfer of nutrients across ecosystem boundaries has the potential to have large scale bottom-up effects on the entire communities on these colony islands through fertilization and increased primary productivity. In general I am interested in questions of ecosystem connectivity, community ecology, contaminants, and conservation biology. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Victoria, and spent my formative years on the west coast of British Columbia.
Effects of Climate Shifts on the Canadian Arctic Wildlife: Ecosystem-Based Monitoring and Modelling
MARINE NUTRIENT SUBSIDIES TO THE TERRESTRIAL ENVIRONMENT OF COMMON EIDER NESTING ISLANDS IN THE CANADIAN ARCTIC
Nutrient fluxes across ecosystem boundaries can have pronounced effects on ecosystem dynamics, but these interactions can be difficult to untangle in complex systems. Island systems are ideal places to study nutrient subsidies as they have finite bounds and are separated by physical space. In particular, the arctic island archipelagos of Hudson Strait are severely nutrient limited, mostly undisturbed, and have been surveyed historically since the 1950?s. This area harbors many species of seabird, including the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), which nest in large colonies on offshore islands in this region. Through foraging on benthic invertebrates and returning to these colonies, these birds may be artificially providing marine nutrients to the terrestrial environment of their nesting islands through excretion, with possible large-scale bottom-up consequences on primary productivity, trophic structure, and overall biodiversity. Using freighter canoes and local Inuit guides we sampled vegetation, soil, and invertebrates on 25 islands and 6 mainland sites in the areas near Cape Dorset, Nunavut and Ivujivik, Quebec over the previous two summers (2014-15). Using stable isotope techniques, we aim to show the extent and level of nutrient subsidies to these colony islands is substantial, and has the potential to have ecosystem-level effects. We also aim to model basic habitat requirements across the Hudson Strait region. The Common Eider is a local and internationally relevant species that is harvested across the Canadian Arctic that is facing increasing predation pressure from Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) due to cascading effects of climate change. This project is part of a multi-disciplinary research effort to investigate this trend and to attempt to predict possible outcomes, and is the result of collaborations with Environment Canada, Baffinlands Iron Mine, Oceans North, PEW charitable trust, Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat, Carleton University, many HTOs and communities in the Hudson Strait region, and the Canadian Museum of Nature.
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