Simon Charbonneau: Recipient of a NSTP scholarship for the upcoming 2017 field season

May 24, 2017 in @en

Congratulations to Simon Charbonneau, M.Sc. candidate in geography at the University of Montreal, for a Northern Science Training Program (NSTP) scholarship. This scholarship will enable him to complete his second field campaign on Bylot Island, where he is mapping the thermokarst lakes and ponds at the scale of the Qarlikturvik valley using high-resolution satellite images and historical aerial photographs.

NSERC and FRQNT for Karine Rioux!

May 23, 2017 in @en, post

Congratulations to Karine Rioux for obtaining the Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded by NSERC and the Masters Research Fellowship awarded by the FRQNT. His master’s degree, which will begin in the fall of 2017, under the supervision of Daniel Fortier (UdeM) and Mélissa Lafrenière (Queen’s University), will focus on carbon, nutrient and sediment fluxes from thermo-erosion gullies. These scholarships will help support research and field campaigns at Bylot Island, Nunavut.


GHG emissions from Canadian Arctic aquatic systems dated for the first time

December 22, 2015 in Article

Bylot Island ponds and lakes: Carbon sinks or GHG emitters?

*all credits: by Gisèle Bolduc*

For the first time, researchers have successfully dated the carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emitted by ponds and lakes on Bylot Island, Nunavut. The research team observed significant variability in age and emission rates of greenhouse gases (GHG) from aquatic systems located in a continuous permafrost zone. The study, whose lead author is Frédéric Bouchard affiliated to the INRS Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre and the Geography Department of Université de Montréal, appeared in the international journal Biogeosciences.


Gas samples taken over the summer showed strikingly different ages and emission rates depending on the size and depth of the water bodies. Carbon-14 dating revealed that gas emitted by shallow ponds was a few centuries old, making it relatively “young”. Certain ponds, covered by cyanobacterial mats, were identified as CO2 sinks and sources of CH4; others, with eroded banks, were significant emitters of both GHG. Compared to ponds, arctic lakes were found to release much older GHG—up to 3,500 years old in the case of CH4—but at a much slower rate, at least in summer.

“This study demonstrates the significant impact of the combined geomorphological, limnological, and hydrological properties of aquatic systems on CO2 and CH4 emissions caused by thawing permafrost,” noted Professor Isabelle Laurion.”

The research team approach enabled an estimation of GHG emissions caused by two distinct processes: diffusion and ebullition. Researchers found that diffusion can be a significant mode of emission, especially from ponds. Until now, ebullition had been considered the predominant mode of CH4 emissions in lake systems.


“This study on the age of GHG emitted in the Canadian Arctic is one of very few using data from lakes outside of Siberia or Alaska. It sheds light on the specific role played by aquatic systems on carbon dynamics associated with thawing permafrost, and their potential impact on future climate change,” stated researcher Frédéric Bouchard

This work sets the scene for further research that must not only measure gas exchange rates, but also account for the age of carbon emitted, since this will impact the systems’ potential positive feedback effect on climate.

About the publication

This research was conducted by Frédéric Bouchard, Isabelle Laurion, and Vilmantas Prėskienis, of the INRS Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre, along with Daniel Fortier of Université de Montréal, Xiaomei Xu of University of California, and Michael J. Whiticar of University of Victoria. The resulting article, “Modern to millennium‐old greenhouse gases emitted from ponds and lakes of the Eastern Canadian Arctic (Bylot Island, Nunavut),” was recently published in the international journal Biogeosciences (DOI: 10.5194/bg-12-7279-2015). Financial support for the research team was provided by ArcticNet, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Natural Resources Canada’s Polar Continental Shelf Program, NSERC’s Discovery Frontiers and EnviroNorth programs, and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation. 

Nunavummiut, Parks Canada and Science

September 8, 2015 in post

The 22nd of June 2015, Bylot Island, Nunavut.

Around mid June 2015, we heard from our bi-daily radio communication with the outside world that visitors were interested in visiting Goose Camp. Parks Canada’s rangers and manager (Sirmilik Park) visiting us is a regular event,  we know each other by name,  appearance or project (yeah that guy working in the gully) after all these years. Rangers visit us about twice a year to check that everything is well done at the camp, that the site is well kept, that everyone is healthy and happy and to share a lunch with  the camp staff (coffee and chocolate chips cookies is usually a winner). While lunching we share the latest news : animal observations regional news, hockey playoff, project advancements and other important things.

But this time a special visitor would join the group: a MP from the Nunavut government. He would like to see what we are doing and the camp. It is unusual, but not exceptional. The last person from a government instance visiting us (as best as I can remember) was sometime in 2009-2010. He was wishing to visit the nearby fossil forest which Alexandre Guertin was working on at the moment.

camp 1

Figure 1: Everything was in order at the camp, as usual. June 2015.

All that is quite interesting, I like surprises! When the day came, everything was perfect at the camp (as usual, Figure 1). Visitors were visiting the camp under the wing of Yannick Seyer and Dom Fauteux – followed by a break for lunch-cookies-hockey-coffee. Our special guest, M. Joe Enook, is a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut (Constituency: Tununiq), who heard among other things that there was an ongoing project on ‘permafrost erosion  and gullying’ and was willing to take a hike to see what it looks like.


Soon, we were leaving toward the gully with M. Enook and Parks Canada staff. A bizarre thought crossed my head while guiding the group: I was finding quite convenient to have this gully very nearby the camp : perfect to show visitors ! But simultaneously, I was wondering that I am probably one of the few to find anything positive about having a very active gully nearby any kind of infrastructure. Oh well – all depend on the context.

Visite du Ravin 2015

Figure 2: From left to right: Yannick Sayer, Dominic Fauteux, M. Joe Enook and Etienne Godin, and the gully in background. The 22nd of  June 2015.

When we arrived on site, M. Enook and Carey (Manager from Parks Canada) told me they heard and knew about gullying. But further they told me that pictures, describing the gully orally or even looking at it while flying over by helicopter was not as real as standing right on it. When standing a meter from the gully, they realized first hand how fast it occurred, how wide and big and how the tundra changed following the erosion. Gully channels, retrogressive thaw slumps, all around slumping or tundra denudation, it was quite obvious to the visitors what could be wrong with the permafrost terrain
when ice-wedges are disturbed. M. Enook, a scholar and a well informed person about climate change related problems told us that many people from the community have no solid ideas about what are the dynamics of such a gully on the landscape, and that he would have this as a topic in his next broadcast at the public radio channel !

This made me all realize one thing : considering our effort for science outreach in a classical way, such as presenting kiosks, making posters, conferences and discussions with peoples from the community, disturbed permafrost can be a concept which could be hard to relate. I think that this time with M. Enook for whom the communication with his people is quite a natural thing, permafrost erosion will get to people in a way I did not expected. In the future, it is quite important to consider how community members interested by science and who are good speakers are among the best people to broadcast knowledge using an approach which can be simultaneously interesting and accessible for the people from the community.

M. Enook, in any case, thank you for coming !

Blog- by Audrey Veillette

August 27, 2015 in post

August 10, 2015

Two weeks after coming back from Bylot Island, it’s already time to leave for another adventure but this time, in Northern Quebec with the course UQAM NORD! We will travel on the road through Abitibi-Témiscamingue up to Radisson and then fly to Kuujjuarapik. On the schedule are a few field visits (mining site of Malarctic, La Grande hydroelectric complex), conferences and testimonials concerning diverse themes such as energy, mining, northern ecosystems, society and culture and tourism. When I will be back in September, it will finally be time to process all the data collected in Bylot Island this summer!

Myself walking in the snowy valley in May 2015 at Bylot Island

Blog – Georadar and permafrost coring (summer 2015): – by Audrey Veillette

August 20, 2015 in post

My fieldwork this summer could be described by two essential elements : a georadar and a permafrost coredrill (oh, and not to forget Vilmantas Preskienis, my precious collegue who helped me all summer to collect the data!).


Daniel Fortier (Director of Geocryolab) and Étienne Godin (PhD candidate) are performing the firsts cores of the summer at my study site. We are looking for aggradational ice, reflecting the uplift of the permafrost table after a perturbation like thermo erosion gullying.


Vilmantas Preskienis (PhD candidate) assembling the georadar and getting ready for a day where we will make 25 cm steps in the tundra!

Our patience was put to the test when using georadar. Over a few hundreds of meters, we surveyed the ground, making steps as small as 10 to 50 cm (depending on the antennas). The data will give us information on the morphology and cryostratigraphy of permafrost at my study site, a stabilized thermo-erosion gully.

To calibrate our georadar data and allow us to precisely characterise permafrost at my study site, a lot of coring was required this summer. Thanks to the coredrill that had its engine purring all summer and worked beautifully. Two big filled coolers were brought back to Montreal!

New paper by Godin et al. on near surface dynamics in permafrost wetland following gully erosion

July 29, 2015 in Article, post

New contribution from Frédéric Bouchard et al. on greenhouse gases emitted from fresh water ecosystems in the high Arctic

July 27, 2015 in Article, Paper

Maxime Tremblay awarded of a EnviroNord scholarship will present his master thesis research project in the community of Pond Inlet

May 27, 2015 in post

Maxime Tremblay, with EnviroNord support, will stay in Pond Inlet from the 26th to the 30th of May to present his master project on the woolly willow on Bylot Island. He will also present his project at the local radio and will hold a stand at the COOP of the village. He will also participate to the science classes at Nasivvik highschool to reach the youth and to expose them his research.


Glacial lake sediments: nice paleoenvironmental archives.

May 25, 2015 in @en, focus-en


Figure 1: Location and context around kettle lake ‘BYL36’. The lake, containing sediments dated at 10.8 ka BP, is located just to the north-east (slightly upstream) of a terminal moraine dated at 9.8 ka BP (photos: V. Preskienis [upper] et GeoEye-1 [lower]).

The Holocene history of glacier valleys on Bylot Island, since the last glaciation, has been reconstructed by carefully studying the landscape features. For example, in the valley of glacier C-79 (map, Figure 1), the maximum advance of the glacier was dated at 9860 ± 140 BP (before present), and it was suggested that the glacier front was in contact with shallow marine waters (Allard, 1996). This interpretation is based on mollusc shells found in marine clay and dated using the radiocarbon (14C) technique, which would give a ‘calibrated’ age of 11 440 ± 380 cal BP.


During the summer of 2014, Geocryolab members used a novel method of bathymetric mapping in order to characterize the morphology of a glacial lake located in the valley (see other post about the sonar-GPS system). It is a kettle lake, formed by the melting of ground ice buried in soil after glacier retreat, and located near the position of the glacier front mentioned above (Fig1). A > 30-cm long sediment core (Fig2) was collected from the deepest part of the lake (~ 12 m), and 14C dating at the base of these lacustrine sediments gave an age of 10 825 ± 45 BP, or 12 730 ± 50 cal BP once calibrated. The exact nature of these sediments still has to be confirmed, but this shows the great potential of studying sedimentary archives contained in lakes. Which makes our friend ‘Zodiac Sherpa’ (Fig3) very optimistic.

Fig2 Sediment core

Figure 2: Sediment core collected from the deepest part (~ 12 m) of kettle lake ‘BYL36’ (photo: F. Bouchard).

Fig3 Sediment Coring Sherpa

Figure 3 : Motivated young researcher who wisely checks, before jumping to the next coring site with a zodiac on his back, if he has all the equipment he needs. We can see the percussion corer just behind him (photo: V. Preskienis).











For further information:

Allard, M. (1996) : Geomorphological changes and permafrost dynamics: Key factors in changing arctic ecosystems. An example from Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Geoscience Canada, 23, 205-212.