The 8th Annual Arctic Science Day was held Thursday, March 9th, and brought together students from Grades 7-12 together with research scientists from the University of Manitoba (CEOS) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the frozen lakes of FortWhyte Alive. This year, though the March sun felt warm on the face, our intrepid budding researchers braved -18 Celsius and 30 km/hr winds… and kept in good spirits all day!
This annual event has been made possible through a long-standing partnership with Schools on Board and ArcticNet, an outreach program developed to bridge Arctic research with science education; to increase awareness of issues related to climate change, and to educate youth about the challenges and career opportunities of Arctic research.
On Arctic Science Day, scientists arrive early in the morning to set up the Field Station as a research camp, with a meteorological station, ice coring equipment, ice-fishing tents for water and biota sampling, and displays of baleen and seal skins.
A total of 74 students from 17 high schools arrived onsite, and were greeted and offered additional warm clothes for the day. They soon met up with their FWA volunteer who hiked with them out to their first learning station of the day on remote Lake Cargill.
Stations included aquatic biology, marine mammals, meteorology, archaeology, ice coring and contaminants. Students took an ice core out of the lake, collected and analyzed water samples for aquatic life, measured the weather conditions, tracked a GPS tag on a ‘beluga,’ examined artifacts from Paleo-Inuit archeological digs, and discovered the science behind mercury contamination in the food chain.
In addition, 91 students from 2 junior high schools were hosted by scientists set up at the Interpretive Centre. Students learned about the role of hunting in Inuit culture and got to handle skin clothing and put their hands into a muskox pelt; they then donned gloves to pick through a “seal stomach” (made of grape Jell-O) to find out what it ate; and followed that with helping to extract an ice core from the lake to compare the properties of freshwater vs. saltwater ice.
It was a great day because of the efforts of many. A big thanks to all the participating graduate students and researchers, and to Michelle Watts of Schools on Board for her role in coordinating. Thanks to the Winnipeg Art Gallery who donated a tour of the Inuit Art exhibitions to award one of the attending school groups. Another big thank you goes out to dedicated teachers who bring students each year, and to new teachers who attended for the first time. And of course, this day wouldn’t be possible without FortWhyte volunteers who assisted in leading groups of students out onto the ice.
Finally, to all the students who attended Arctic Science Day, we hope you are inspired to share what you are learning about the impacts of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem and human communities. We hope that this experience has made you think about future career choices, and given you a new perspective on the impacts you can make with a career in environmental science and climate change research.