I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Tim Papakyriakou’s research group at the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the University of Manitoba in early December of 2015, thanks to NetCare’s HQP training fund. Many members of the group at CEOS are responsible for making measurements of processes in the challenging environment of the marine Arctic. I work at the University of Victoria with a group on biogeochemical modelling of the marine Arctic in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. My work in our project is focused on carbon exchange between the air, sea, and ice in the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic Ocean is an extreme environment, with conditions often being very different from other marine environments. These conditions make it both unique and somewhat inaccessible, and I have not had the opportunity to experience it firsthand. But it is still important to have a basic understanding of the environmental processes, so it is very helpful to talk to people who have been there and had their boots on the ice.
This trip was aimed at fostering conversations and exchange between our respective groups in two ways. One was by describing how our model works, the assumptions that go into it, and explaining the types of observations that are most helpful in constraining our model. The second way is by learning what observational data is available, the limitations and uncertainties of the measurements, and what proposed measurements would be feasible in the field (or laboratory).
In conversations on my trip, I was able to talk with experts on measurement methods of air-sea and ice-sea gas exchange, of water and ice carbonate chemistry, and the techniques and associated limitations for measuring carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, ice, snow, and water column in the Arctic environment. This information has helped me better constrain our model through comparison to observations. It has also given me a better understanding of the processes involved in the seasonal ice cycle on both the ecosystem and the carbonate exchanges through the seasons.
In addition to these discussions about Arctic fieldwork and equipment, I was also given a tour of the Arctic Research Facility operated by CEOS (shown left). The large tank was in the process of being filled with water and salt mixture to closely match oceanic sea water conditions. It is then exposed to the open air, which in Winnipeg’s winters, can be similar to Arctic conditions.
I also saw a narwhal tusk/tooth (in the CEOS meeting room) and the world’s largest trilobite fossil (in the museum on the 1st floor of CEOS), both shown below.
I would like to thank the many researchers and staff in CEOS who took the time to talk with me and/or made my stay welcome, especially Tim, CJ, Wieter, Odile, Nix, Yubin, Tonya, and Jasmine, as well as NetCare for financial support.
-Eric Mortensen, NETCARE Graduate Student