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Canada’s frigid North is home to some amazing animals, but unfortunately it’s an ecosystem under threat. Climate change is causing the Arctic zone to warm two to three times faster than the global average, which is having serious impacts on the species that call it home. That’s why it’s essential that we work to better understand what the potential effects of climate change on wildlife will be, and develop conservation strategies that will mitigate their impact.
In the Southern Hudson Bay, the number of ice-covered days is decreasing by 6.8 days per decade. Polar bears rely on this sea ice as a platform for hunting seals, and are forced to migrate on shore when the sea ice melts completely each summer. Without access to the marine mammal prey that make up most of their diet, polar bears on shore are forced to fast and rely on stored fat for energy. Climate warming has also affected the availability of denning habitat for reproductive females.
Your adoption will help support York University researcher Tyler Ross as he works to better understand the influence of climate change on one of the Arctic’s most treasured animals. When you adopt a polar bear, you will help Tyler’s team to fit 25 polar bears with GPS radiocollars. Data from these collars will allow Tyler to determine polar bear movements and behaviours, providing crucial information on the degree to which a warming climate is affecting the bears’ migratory patterns, foraging success, and maternity denning behaviour. Results of this research will help to inform conservation activities in Ontario’s Northern Boreal Forest and along the Hudson Bay coast, providing models for land-use planning to mitigate impacts on polar bears and their critical habitat, as well as providing important information on the effects of climate change on the timing and distribution of polar bear denning.
Thick-billed murres are a resident of the far northern oceans, found in Arctic waters all across the globe. Known as the “penguins of the north”, these birds have distinctive black and white colouration and are one of the deepest underwater divers of all birds, regularly descending to depths of over 100 metres and using their stubby wings to “fly” through the water. Although their population is in the millions, recent reported declines of 20-50% in some large colonies are cause for concern as the species is increasingly exposed to threats like fishing net entanglement, ocean pollution, oil spills, and climate change. The ability of thick-billed murres to respond to changes and degradation in their habitat is largely unknown, although the high energetic demands of flying and diving pose physiological constraints for them.
Your adoption will help support McGill University researcher Emily Choy as she examines the relationships between thick-billed murres' physiological strategies and foraging movements on Coats Island and northern Hudson Bay. Using miniature bio-loggers, Emily will be able to track the movements of murres remotely, measuring things like heart rate, body temperature, and activity levels as they dive, fly, and forage. With this information, Emily will develop an “energy map” to assess habitat quality for these charismatic seabirds and other marine predators with the goal of ensuring that their key foraging areas are not being negatively impacted by human disturbances, like Arctic shipping traffic.
The Arctic fox is a small fox native to the Arctic tundra biome. It is best known for its thick, warm fur that is also used as camouflage, changing with the seasons, and its incredible ability to pounce headfirst to catch small prey moving under several feet of snow with pinpoint accuracy. Although the Arctic fox is still considered fairly abundant in the Canadian Arctic, Arctic foxes have been disappearing from the southern edge of the tundra around the globe. This is due to the secondary effects of climate change on their habitat—sea ice and tundra are shrinking, competition is increasing due to the northward expansion of red fox populations, and prey are becoming less abundant.
Your adoption will help support McGill University researcher Emily Choy as she examines the effects of climate change on a common Arctic fox prey species—thick-billed murres—on Coats Island in the Arctic. Arctic foxes are frequently seen cruising the shores of Coats Island looking for seabird nests, where they will feast on murre eggs during the summer when colonies nest in the thousands. Protecting the integrity of these colonies is crucial in ensuring that this food source remains stable for Arctic foxes.