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2009 Field Program

The 2009 Schools on Board Field Program experienced a very successful year on-board Leg 4b of the ArcticNet scientific expedition, which included the Northern Labrador Fjord Study. Participants were selected by their schools to represent their community and region on-board this very exciting Arctic research experience. This year, one space was allocated to Youth Science Canada, as part of their IPY activities. The space was given to a high school student who participated in the Canada-Wide Science Fair, and who was selected from a pool of students applying to the polar expedition competition. This new collaboration with YSC proved very successful.

This year we achieved a very national representation of schools on board the ship, with a teacher from Toronto, and students from Sidney (BC); Winnipeg (MB); Pembroke (ON); Ottawa (ON)' Quebec City (QC); Dartmouth (NS); St. John's (NL); Nain (NL); Hopedale (NL); and Rigolet (NL). Our program enjoyed the many benefits of a fruitful collaboration with the kANGIDLUASUk Base Camp, an educational program of the Torngat Mountain National Park and Nunatsiavut government. Four spaces were allocated to kANGIDLUASUk, which resulted in the selection of three Inuit students from three different communities in Labrador, and the involvement of Mandy Arnold, Student Program Coordinator of kANGIDLUASUk, who joined our team as one of the program leaders, bringing her energy, expertise in experiential learning, and knowledge of the Labrador study to our field program.

This two-week adventure into Arctic research exposed students and teachers to the research objectives and methods of numerous science teams representing a number of research disciplines from institutions across Canada. This year, the focus of leg 4B was the Northern Labrador Fjord Study that included extensive sampling in four fjords - the Nachvak in the Torngat Mountains National Park; Saglek; Okak; and Anaktalak fjords. Our group participated in numerous sampling stations – helping crew and scientists deploy nets, rosette, and box cores, as well assisting with identification and sorting of zooplankton and benthic organisms. Some students were deployed in the zodiac and assisted scientists with surface sampling. A very unique aspect of this year's program was the opportunity to get off the ship on two occasions for land expeditions to Hebron and Okak, two historical sites on the coast of Labrador. More details about the field program are described through the eyes of our participants in their daily dispatches sent from the ship (see below).

The participants and leaders of the 2009 Schools on Board field program would like to thank Dr. Sam Bentley (chief scientist) and the many scientists onboard leg 4b of the ArcticNet scientific expedition for sharing their time, knowledge and passion for research and science; Captain Marc Thibault and the crew or the CCGS Amundsen for their support and involvement; and ArcticNet, Nassivik Centre, NSERC PromoScience, Nunatsiavut government, Youth Science Canada, and the many local sponsors that provided the funding required to create this very unique opportunity.

Schools on Board would like to thank the administrators and educators of our participating schools for their collaboration in the 2009 field program:

Parkland Secondary School – Sidney, BC
École Secondaire Kelvin High School – Winnipeg, MB
Bishop Smith Catholic High School – Pembroke, ON
Northern Secondary School – Toronto, ON
Bell High School – Napean, ON
Collège Jésus-Marie de Sillery – Québec, QC
École Carrefour – Dartmouth, NS
Holy Heart of Mary High School – St. John's, Newfoundland
Amos Comenius Memorial High School – Hopedale, Labrador
Northern Lights Academy – Rigolet, Labrador
Jens Haven Memorial School – Nain, Labrador
kANGIDLUASUk Base Camp – Nain, Labrador
Youth Science Canada

Expedition Logbook

The 2009 expedition will take place in the last segment of the 2009 ArcticNet science expedition at the end of October. Schools on Board participants will join the ArcticNet science teams on board the CCGS Amundsen (Canada’s state-of-the-art research icebreaker), in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The onboard program will take participants through Frobisher Bay, across the Hudson Strait, along the Labrador Shelf and into the fjords of northern Labrador, proceeding into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and ending at the Coast Guard port in Quebec City.

Schools on Board  Download this map to follow the Schools on Board Field Program (the ship track is in light blue on the map).

*** As part of the 2009 field program, feel free to visit Ameena's blog.

Logbook day - 16 November, 2009

Hello everyone! My name is Rosalie Brochu and I am 16 years old. I study at Collège Jésus-Marie de Sillery, in Quebec City. I am really enjoying my participation at the Schools on Board field program. It's an amazing experience and a great opportunity to learn about environmental sciences and life onboard a research vessel.

Yesterday, we observed the deployment of three important pieces of the scientific equipment; the nets. There are three types of nets that all have a different purpose. The first one is the monster net, a cone shape net that is drop vertically in the water. Scientists are using the vertical one to sample zooplankton. The second net is the horizontal. This net is more complicated to deploy because the ship has to move when it is in the water. Basically, it's a cone dragged horizontally by a boat that is used to sample zooplankton and fish larva. It cannot catch adult fish because they are too fast and can easily escape the net. The last net is the RMP. RMP stands for rectangular mid-water trawl. This one is very similar to the horizontal net except that it's much bigger and can catch mature fish. Thank you to Maxime Geoffroy and Hélen Cloutier from Université Laval, and Tanya Brown and Esteban Estrada from the Royal Military College for letting us help them with their deployments and taking the time to work with us.

Of course, the most interesting part of all this work is analyzing the contents in the container at the end of the nets. We caught a lot of Arctic cod, which scientists refer to as an indicator species because changes to this specie due to environmental change, has a domino effect to other species in the food web. Those little fish assure the energy transfer between the zooplankton and the bigger predator in the Arctic. It is important to monitor the cod because any change in their population could have great impact in the rest of the animals composing the arctic food web.

One evening, we proudly contributed to the life on board by working in the kitchen and dining room. This was a great opportunity for us to learn about different tasks essential to the operations of the ship and to say 'thank you' for everything that they have done for us during our stay onboard. I think the crewmembers really enjoyed having a break!

Figure 1 – Late night deployment of the vertical nets
Figure 2 – Jobe (student from Rigolet) emptying the zooplankton collected in the container at the end of the net
Figure 3 – Rory (student from Ottawa) and Ameena (student from Winnipeg) sorting zooplankton in the lab
Figure 4 – Rosalie posing for the camera
Figure 5 – Rosalie helping the chef in the kitchen while other Schools on Board students helped with washing dishes, and setting up and cleaning the dining room
Figure 6 – Rosalie with one of her new friends
Figure 7 - Horizontal nets


Logbook day - 15 November, 2009

This is Mandy Arnold writing to say hello from the CCGS Amundsen! What a ride it has been so far!

For the past 9 years, I have been living in Kingston, Ontario, but this past summer I moved to Nain, Labrador. I am the coordinator of the kANGIDLUASUk Student Intern program that operates at a remote base camp in Saglek fiord during the summer for Inuit youth. I was invited on board this year to assist with the Schools on Board program and coordinated the participation in the program for three youth from Nunatsiavut, the self-governing Inuit region of Labrador.

The students in the program have never ceased to amaze me on this voyage. Their level of engagement and keen interest in all of the opportunities that have presented themselves on this adventure has been astounding. As the science operations on the ship run 24 hours a day, students have been jumping at the chance to work with researchers at 3:00am to assist with the deployment of the Rosette to study the profile of the water column. Students did not hesitate to get down and dirty sorting through mud from the ocean floor to pick out spider crabs, brittle stars, and transparent worms. Students have eagerly used voice recorders to interview scientists about their perspectives on climate change, or to capture stories and legends we have heard about local Inuit culture. Now (our eighth day on board) their energy has yet to dwindle as the students gathered outside on the flight deck to participate in a 30 minute workout session with the scientists and crew members!

We have also had the privilege of sharing this adventure with Mary Denniston and Joey Angnatok from Nain, Labrador. Mary works for the Environment Division of the Nunatsiavut Government, and along every step of our journey she has taken the time to share stories and answer questions about Inuit culture, customs, and language in Nunatsiavut, including the history of family and friends from the communities of Hebron and Okak. Mary has also been found on the fore deck of the ship and in the labs capturing students on camera as they assisted scientists with their field work, and she gave a presentation for the students on long range and short range contaminants, highlighting a local case study in Hopedale, NL.

Joey Angnatok is the owner and operator of the longliner the "What's Happening", and has worked with several of the marine scientists currently on board the Amundsen in the summer months in the same fiords we have been studying this past week. Joey's knowledge about the land and people of this region has truly personalized the experience for myself the students. In collaboration with the Captain and Chief scientist, Joey coordinated the excursions off the ship by barge and helicopter to what was once the communities of Hebron and Okak.

Both Mary and Joey returned home to Nain yesterday. Although we wish they could have stayed on with us to Quebec, we are grateful for the time we had to spend with them.

Looking forward to the adventures to come as we steam forward from Anaktalak Fiord to Quebec,

Mandy Arnold

Figure 1 – Captain Marc Thibault and Joey Angnatok enroute to Nain
Figure 2 – Mandy with students from Nunatsiavut – Left to right – Caitlyn (Nain), Germaine (Hopedale), Mandy (Nain) and Jobe (Rigolet)
Figure 3 – Mandy Arnold
Figure 4 – Mary Denniston at Okak
Figure 5 – Mary Denniston and Germaine Onalik throat singing at Hebron memorial
Figure 6 – Mandy Arnold and Rebecca Hollet working with sediment samples late into the night


Logbook day - 14 November, 2009

Hello, my name is Germaine Onalik and I am a student at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale Labrador. The Schools on Board Program is held on the Amundsen Ship, and it is an opportunity that ten students including myself are involved in. This program involves science and geography related studies with a focus on global warming and what has happened over the years because of it. The scientists have inspired the students to learn about the research related to understanding these important changes.

There are many different operations that are being conducted on the ship. The classification of organisms or grouping is interesting and easy for students to do. Tanya Brown was the scientist that worked with the ocean floor organisms to see if there were any changes or differences in the number and kind of species between the fjords. Tanya is interested in learning more about where different species appear in the different areas of the ocean and fjords, and their adaptation to climate change and ocean currents. Better understanding of these organisms allows scientists like Tanya to predict how the organisms will survive in the future. We were able to help Tanya sort and classify organisms that came out of nets and on the surface of the box core. These included copepods and other zooplankton, as well as a variety of organisms that live on or in the sediment such as starfish, sea urchins, clams, and translucent worms. Further tests can be carried out to see if there have been any changes in these organisms and to see if negative substances such as contaminants affect them. After organisms are sorted, they are stored in small glass containers or plastic bags that are carefully labelled and placed into containers to freeze for further analysis.

We all learned a lot on this field program by working in the labs and on the deck with scientists. It's interesting to discover the unique and different creatures that roam in the seabed of the Labrador fjords and the methods used to capture them.

Figure 1 – Germaine Onalik from Hopedale, Labrador
Figure 2 – Germaine sorting organisms in the lab with other students
Figure 3 – Germaine finding her family name 'Onalik' on the memorial plaque in Hebron
Figure 4 – Germaine and other students (Rebeccah, Ameena, and Caitlyn) sorting benthic organisms with Maéva Gauthier from the University of Victoria


Logbook day - 13 November, 2009

My name is Rebeccah Sandrelli-Hotte and I am a grade 10 student from Bishop Smith Catholic High School from Pembroke, Ontario. Last evening, I participated in the deployment of the Agassiz Net. This net is deployed to the bottom of the ocean floor and drags along bottom for five minutes. The Agassiz Net collects a cross section of organisms including crustaceans and benthic organisms.

Working alongside many scientists in the deployment of this net was spectacular. When bringing up the net, I used the powerful hose to wash of some of the mud. We, in a collaborative effort, untied the net and release the many organisms within the mud. All involved were engulfed in copious amounts mud and sediment. I would have never thought there could possibly be so many different organisms collected in one net. The mud and sediment was thrilling and so interesting. I could have never imagined myself getting that full of mud.

After being hosed down and changing, I had the opportunity to work alongside the scientists to assist in classifying animals. We collected various types of crabs and many brittle stars. There were also many types of shrimp and a lot of sea urchins collected. I learned many new species and how to tell similar ones apart.

This Schools On Board Experience is amazing. It has created so many memories for me and surely many to come.

Figure 1 – Rebeccah fetching benthic organism from the sediment sample collected with the Agassiz Net
Figure 2 – Rebeccah and Ameena working in the benthos lab
Figure 3 – Rebeccah in the helicopter
Figure 4 – Helping with a late night deployment of the Rosette and CTD


Logbook day - 12 November, 2009

Hey, my name is Alysha Berben, and I'm from Sidney, British Columbia. I am 17 years old and am currently in grade 12 at Parkland Secondary. I have always been greatly interested in the outdoors and science and I am enjoying the Schools on Board program on board the CCGS Amundsen immensely. It is really helping me to narrow down what fields of science I want to study in university.

Today we started our morning by handing our poppies to the crew and scientists on board the ship. Later in the morning, the captain authorized an expedition on land for our group. We took the helicopter to Okak Village and learned a little about the history of the area. In 1918, a ship infected with Spanish Influenza traveled to Okak Village and the infection spread. Over a span of 3 days, the whole village save a handful of German missionaries and a couple villagers died. It is probable that the disease hit around November, when the supply ship that only came twice a year arrived and everyone rushed on board. The survivors were on their own until around December, when the water froze over and the ice was crossable. The houses were burned down and the survivors left, leaving the rock foundations and pieces of pottery as the only remnants of the community. We found some graves from then, which was interesting because it made it more real. There were so many bodies that the people stopped trying to keep the bodies in a couple houses and started only living in a couple houses and burning all the other houses with the bodies in them. The survivors were in great danger of attack by the dogs, who were crazed with starvation. We also found some graves from the German missionaries that went to Okak Village. It was sad that we found one of a child who was born and died on the same day. I wondered how often miscarriages were then. Along the shore in the water, we found a lot of pieces of pottery and bone, which was also cool. Some pottery pieces had writing engraved into them and some were decorated with beautiful blue flowers. I found it very interesting that there was still rhubarb that probably spread from a garden a long time ago. This means the rhubarb has probably been growing there for almost a century.

In honour of Remembrance day, we recited the poem "In Flanders Fields," and gave a moment of silence, which I thought was great because we were in the middle of nowhere and still stopped what we were doing to show our respect.

Last night at around 8:00pm we went and watched scientists from Université Laval (Maxime Geoffroy and Helen Cloutier) and the Royal Military College (Esteban Estrada) deploy a net called the Hydrobios. This sampling instrument has up to nine different nets that are electronically opened and closed at different water levels. We only used two nets, as the water isn't deep enough for all nine. Scientists onboard the Amundsen work around the clock to deploy their instruments. They had a rosette scheduled for 2am, followed by a piston core at another location. The research occurs when the ship arrives at the location, it doesn't matter what time of day, scientists and crew members do what they have to do to get the job done.

Figure 1 – loading the helicopter to get to Okak
Figure 2 – Porcelain artefacts in Okak Harbour
Figure 3 – uncovering a headstone at Okak Village
Figure 4 – Students accompanied by Joey Angnatok and Sam Bentley at Okak Harbour
Figure 5 – Alysha onboard the CCGS Amundsen
Figure 6 – Scientists working late at night deploying the Hydrobios net


Logbook day - 11 November, 2009

My name is Ameena Bajer-Koulack, I am a grade 12 student at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a participant in the 2009 Schools On Board program. I love environmental science, and I'm having the best time of my life onboard the CCGS Amundsen; taking samples, sorting critters, and learning all about the fiord ecosystems and about Inuit culture.

Today we all bundled up and went to the top of the bridge, where we had a breathtaking view of the mountains all around the ship. Sam Bentley, the head scientist for this expedition, gave a lecture on the geology of the fiords, which was really interesting. Sam is a perfect example of the diverse paths that have led various researchers to study the Arctic fiord ecosystems. He actually majored in theatre, but discovered a passion for geology, and now he works for Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, and is studying the transfer of sediment from rivers to oceans.

A fiord is a valley sculpted by glaciers moving towards the ocean, which later becomes flooded. Northern Labrador was one of the last regions in the world to become ice-free after the last ice age, so these fiords are extremely old; between 1.8 and 2.1 billion years old! The Torngat Mountains around Saglek fiord were formed when Tectonic plates collided and pushed up layers of sediment, creating folds, which were quite visible from our vantage point on the top of the ship. Sam also showed us how the sea floor is a series of sills and basins by sketching on his "white board" (AKA the snow on top of the bridge).

To a scientist, the fiords are fascinating because of their unique geology and the different ecosystems within them. But whether you are a scientist, student, sailor, or layman, anyone can appreciate the incredible beauty of the fiords; deep blue ocean surrounded by towering, snow-covered mountains. We should all do our part to keep the earth clean and healthy, so everyone can enjoy the beauty of these areas, and the local Inuit communities can continue to live off the land as they have done for generations.


Figure 1 – Ameena aboard the Amundsen
Figure 2 – Ameena in Saglek Fjord
Figure 3 – Dr. Sam Bentley, chief scientist from Memorial University of Newfoundland, describing the geology and oceanography of the Labrador fjords
Figure 4 – Dr. Bentley giving a new meaning to the term 'whiteboard'


Logbook day - 10 November, 2009

Hi my name is Caitlyn Baikie, I am from Nain Nunatsiavut Labrador. I am a grade twelve student at Jens Haven Memorial School and I am a participant in the 2009 Schools on Board Program.

On day five of our arctic adventure some students were out of bed at five AM ready to deploy a box core sample at Saglek fjord. Later in the morning another group of students identified and classified the organisms, which were collected from the box core sample. According to Maéva Gauthier (U Vic) this sample contained the most diverse and the largest quantity of organisms she had ever seen, a very productive morning.

After lunch we all had the privilege to visit an abandoned community on the north coast of Labrador named Hebron. Hebron was an Inuit community that was forced to relocate by the Newfoundland government in 1959. This visit was very special to me because some of my family is from there. One of the three houses that is still standing belongs to my great-great-grandmother. My grandmother has told me many stories about when she lived there too.

When we got back on the ship we all exchanged stories and legends, which are relevant to our homelands. The other students were very interested in hearing some of the Inuit legends that I know about the area. It was also very interesting to learn more about their other cultures and share stories. It was very cool to share and show the rest of the students where my roots are.

katilautta- come together,


Figure 1 – Caitlyn standing in front of the church at Hebron
Figure 2 – Schools on Board visits historic site of Hebron
Figure 3 – Caitlyn sorting through benthic organisms
Figure 4 – Caitlyn and Rosalie (student from Quebec) in helicopter


Logbook day - 9 November, 2009

Hello. My name is Bonita LeBlanc. I am a resident of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, currently attending grade 11 at École du Carrefour, the only French high school in the HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality). I was able to be a part of the Schools on Board program through YSC (Youth Science Canada), where I applied for the research excursion, as part of the Canada Wide Science Fair program.

Today was a very busy day. Everyone had something to do. Some people were out on the deck, others in the labs. I was fortunate enough to be able to go out onto a barge with Caitlyn Baikie, another SonB student, and Olivier Wurl a scientist from the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Victoria, BC. We were both very excited to be able to partake in this experiment.

We launched a device called a 'skimmer' that collects water samples from the very thin top layer of the water. After it was launched, we had a few problems with the controls. We couldn't get a signal to the skimmer, so it was on its own. Instead of waiting around for 45 minutes, the crew of the barge wanted to go for a little drive. We went around the basin in the fjord once and saw incredible views. The mountains themselves resembled rolled toffee sprinkled with powdered sugar. When we returned to pick up the skimmer, we realized that it had drifted out of site. We finally spotted a small yellow dot on the opposite side of the basin. We had located our device!

After our little ride around the fjord, Caitlyn and I helped Tanya Brown, a scientist from the Royal Military College, with her benthic creepy crawlies. She had used a box core to retrieve parts of the ocean floor, along with the creatures that were occupying it. We needed to hose down the mud in the screen, to be able to view the specimens. When we were finished cleaning the specimens, we organized them according to species. It was a very dirty job, but I was glad to do it. My experiences here have opened my eyes to brand new career possibilities for me.

Figure 1 – Bonita and Caitlyn working with Eunice Wong and Olivier Wong from the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Victoria, BC
Figure 2 – view of Saglek fjord from the helicopter pad
Figure 3 – Olivier’s ’skimmer‘ being pulled into the barge
Figure 4 – Bonita LeBlanc, École du Carrefour, Halifax N.S.


Logbook day - 8 November, 2009

Hi, my name is Rebecca Hollett but most people know me as Becky. I am 17 years old, a grade 12 student at Holy Heart High School in St. John's, Newfoundland. I have always been interested in science and being a member of the Schools on Board team is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I am learning things that are not only interesting and educational, but are applicable to my future dreams of one day becoming a scientist myself.

Today, November 8th, was our first day of work and research on the ship. The Amundsen was sailing through different sampling stations in the Nachvak fiord, which is located in the Torngat Mountain National Park in northern Labrador. The group was split into smaller teams and we did different jobs all day whether it was helping the crew smash ice off of the deck, helping out the scientists sorting and classifying the species that were pulled up from the ocean floor, or just watching some of the bigger experiments that were taking place. I was included in many of the activities, which gave me a sample of what life on this vessel is like: busy and diverse.

The highlight of my day actually took place late at night. Four other students and I were able to participate in the sampling of the ocean waters using a rosette. We worked alongside scientists (Joannie Ferland, Université du Québec à Rimouski, and Dominique Boisvert, Institut national de la recherché scientifique) to successfully launch and recover the rosette, draw samples from the bottles, and analyze the results. I was able to sit in the control center and operate the rosette on my own! I was honoured with this opportunity and I look forward to any other chances I get to partake in this amazing world of science and adventures!

Figure 1 – Rosette being deployed by chief of operations, Claude Lafrance
Figure 2 & 3 – Maéva Gauthier, University of Victoria, showing her catch of benthic organisms
Figure 4 – Becky Hollett, onboard the CCGS Amundsen, in Saglek Fjord


Logbook day - 7 November, 2009

Greetings from the CCGS Amundsen!

My name is Danielle Gauci. I am a teacher from Northern Secondary School in Toronto and I am thrilled to be a part of the Arctic Net Schools on Board 2009 Arctic Expedition. We've only been at sea for 2 days and already have seen and heard and experienced so much. We started with a whirlwind tour of Iqaluit that included a visit to the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, and the Visitor Centre, where we witnessed a spectacular 3:15 pm sunset on Frobisher Bay. We ended our first day in Iqaluit with a tour of the Nunavut Legislative Assembly, and the unique flavours of Char & Chips and Thai Caribou Salad. The next day, we flew in a helicopter from Iqualit to the ship. Since then we haven't stopped.

I am in awe of the intense collaboration between the Coast Guard and the scientific team, the dedication of the scientists who spent 4 hours assembling a piston corer AFTER several hours of chipping 4 inches of ice from their equipment on deck, the passion of these scientists for their work and their willingness to spend so much time with our students, and the endless interest and enthusiasm of the students.

The bunks are comfortable, the food is plentiful and delicious and the scenery is stark and beautiful. Please check in with us again to see what new experiences await us!

Danielle Gauci,

Figure 1 - Sunset in Iqaluit
Figure 2 - Danielle helping the crew chip the ice off the deck and sampling equipment
Figure 3 - Bonita contributing to the work bee.
Figure 4 - Group picture taken on the roof of the bridge in Nachvak Fjord.


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