Ringed seal (Pusa hispida) underwater., William Halliday
Ringed seal (Pusa hispida) underwater. © William Halliday

Arctic

Climate change is happening two to four times faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world.

Why the Arctic matters

Arctic wildlife has evolved to live in a cold climate. Their lives are timed to match snow and ice melt, freeze-up, and other natural rhythms. But despite the cold and many months of darkness, the Arctic region boasts highly productive ecosystems both on land and in the Arctic Ocean.

This rich underwater and shoreline environment is facing major changes, including a loss of sea ice and increased ship traffic and development pressures.

Threats in the Arctic

Underwater noise

The Arctic has long been one of the quietest environments on Earth thanks to a thick covering of ice. But this is changing as climate change causes ice to recede or thin out. Ship traffic, both cruise and cargo, is growing. As a result, noise and traffic is increasing and creating a more challenging environment for marine mammals.

Climate change and the Arctic

Climate change is happening two to four times faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world. It’s dramatically altering the Arctic environment and impacting all wildlife.

On land, warmer temperatures lengthen the growing season, allowing shrubs and trees to move further north. Melting permafrost causes lakes to drain, and softens and eroding the normally ice-covered coastlines. This reduces critical bird and fish habitat.

Wildlife normally found further south, like grizzly bears, foxes, and a variety of fish, are moving further north because of the earlier and more extensive snow and ice melt. This means they’re competing with their Arctic counterparts.

Industrial development in the Arctic

There’s more oil and gas development happening in the Arctic, both on land and in the ocean.

High-value mineral resources could lead to large-scale mining in new areas, as well as new roads and year-round shipping.

Our solutions

Conservation planning across borders

We are working with our colleagues in the Russian Federation, United States, and Canada, as well as Indigenous governments and communities in Alaska and Canada, to address conservation challenges across Arctic Beringia.

Our goal is to change land-use and conservation planning approaches so that they take a more holistic approach to protecting key areas and reducing development impacts instead of relying on piecemeal project approvals that can lead to steadily growing cumulative impacts.

Reducing underwater noise

We’re working with Inuvialuit communities to see how the noise from ships might affect marine life in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas.

Underwater sound monitoring equipment allows us to track the presence of whales and seals in the Beaufort Sea and to monitor ship noise and soundscape changes over time.

We’re using our findings to suggest safer practices, like slowing down ships or avoiding certain areas at certain times, to the Arctic Council and the Canadian government.

Monitoring changes in the Arctic

We are monitoring ecological changes and ecosystem health in the Arctic marine environment through methods like measuring the diets of local ice seals.

To do this, we work closely with our local Inuvialuit partners on a community- based monitoring approach, one of the ways in which we show our deep respect for their traditional knowledge.

Projects

Assessing seal diet and health

Assessing seal diet and health

We are working with Inuit in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region to assess seal diets and contaminants as indicators of a changing Arctic ecosystem.

Documenting the impacts of underwater noise

Documenting the impacts of underwater noise

Addressing impacts from shipping and climate change in the western Arctic

Resources


Stories and op-eds

Scouting for Sound in the Arctic Depths
2023-11-15

Scouting for Sound in the Arctic Depths

Our Western Arctic team is tracking the performance of a new listening device – a “glider” that can roam beneath the water’s surface picking up sounds and other ocean state information.
William Halliday
Worth the wait: Encountering bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic
2023-03-20

Worth the wait: Encountering bowhead whales in Canada’s Arctic

We arrived in Igloolik hoping to find community members with boats to hire to take us out to find bowhead whales.
A Pandemic of Virtual Conferences
2022-02-05

A Pandemic of Virtual Conferences

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, two years ago, scientific conferences (like any other social gathering) have been canceled one after the other.

Media coverage

Rare moss designated key biodiversity area in Quttinirpaaq National Park

Canada’s northernmost park is home to pockets of a moss called “Porsild’s Bryum”, a “species at risk”
2024-04-29 | Nunavut News

'Like being at a loud rock concert': study looks at how ship noise affects Arctic marine mammals

"Whales are swimming faster when ships are close by ... and we're finding changes in the sound that they're making in their vocalizations," said William Halliday, the lead researcher for the study.
2023-12-26 | CBC

Trois exploratrices, une passion

Maya Chartier travaille comme technicienne de la faune dans l’Arctique pour la Wildlife Conservation Society du Canada. Elle recueille, entre autres, des informations sur les phoques sur les rives de la mer de Beaufort.
2023-12-23 | Radio-Canada

Our team

Stephen Insley

Stephen Insley

 Director of Arctic Conservation

William Halliday

William Halliday

Conservation Scientist/Arctic Acoustics Program Lead

Annika Heimrich

Annika Heimrich

Bioacoustic Analyst

Maya Chartier

Maya Chartier

 Wildlife Technician

Najeem  Shajahan

Najeem  Shajahan

 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Arctic acoustics

Niki Diogou

Niki Diogou

 Postdoctoral Fellow

Annie Loosen

Annie Loosen

Aerial Survey Postdoctoral Fellow


Press releases

A tiny gem hidden on a High Arctic island takes the spotlight
2024-02-13

A tiny gem hidden on a High Arctic island takes the spotlight

In a steep gully at the head of a fiord on Ellesmere Island grows a moss that forms small brilliant green colonies that have a distinctive “sparkly” appearance.