|IAFS participants and bowhead whale jaw bone arch. I am in the front row on the right.|
(photo taken by Pascale Ropars at Apex Cemetary)
The cryosphere is anything that is permanently frozen for 2 years or more including sea ice, permafrost and glaciers and as the climate warms the cryosphere is changing. As we learnt throughout the week, this has impacts on the land and ocean ecology, the Inuit way of life including hunting practises and travel, and community infrastructure including buildings, roads, airports, water supplies and pipes. In the mornings we heard presentations on everything from ecology to health to infrastructure and how they are being impacted by the changing cryosphere. In the afternoons, we headed out on the land to see the cryosphere in action, digging snow pits, building igloos and boring holes through lake and sea ice. We took measurements of the properties of the snow and lake water which we then used in subsequent analysis to further our understanding of cryosphere processes.
We completed mini projects on snow properties, limnology and infrastructure culminating in short presentations on our findings and interpretations. We worked in small groups composed of graduate students and postdocs from universities and Inuit students from the Environmental Technology Program, Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, drawing on local knowledge from the Inuit students and what we had learnt in the class room and on the land. The field school structure of lectures, field work, group exercises and presentations was a great approach to gain a deep understanding in a very short space of time of many facets of the Arctic that we were not always familiar with. Our final mini project was to design a road across the tundra taking into consideration the permafrost properties in different superficial geologies and applying different construction techniques to minimise the thawing of the permafrost.
You can read more about the field course through the daily blog the participants wrote http://sentinellenord.ulaval.ca/en/changing-cryosphere-field-report. All in all, an excellent and well organised experience for both participants and mentors.