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Researching Climate Change with Wilfrid Laurier University

Homa Kheyrollah Pour, Canada Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Environmental Change and assistant professor in Wilfrid Laurier University's Department of Geography and Environmental Studies recently returned from the Northwest Territories after conducting research on global warming using the DTG3 with her team, the Remote Sensing of Environmental Change Research Group (ReSEC Lab).

Dispatching to Délı̨nę, within the Tsá Tué International Biosphere Reserve in the Northwest Territories, Kheyrollah Pour and her team set out to gather information regarding the effects of climate change on Arctic lake ice. Global warming is especially pertinent to Northern Canada as reports have suggested that Northern Canada is warming at nearly three times the global rate.

Laurier has a longstanding research partnership with the Government of the Northwest Territories through their Centre for Cold Regions and Water Science. Using the DTG3, Kheyrollah Pour and her team set out to understand Arctic lake ice phenology and thickness and study the interplay between ice condition variability and lake water attributes and productivity.

In-Depth Research

There were numerous ways in which the DTG3, nicknamed Dory by the ReSEC team, was used to research the area. Kheyrollah Pour noted that investigating the layers of ice provides researchers with valuable insight into how the ice has formed and ice growth over time on a large lake such as Great Bear Lake (GBL). “When there is no or little snow on the ice, the ice grows from the bottom of the ice cover. The ROV allowed us to actually look under the ice to easily see the topography and ice-water interface,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Using the 4k camera on the DTG3, the team was able to observe the ice from underneath to gather valuable insights.

Kheyrollah Pour explained that as the duration of seasonal lake ice cover is declining across Canada , the duration of the open water season will increase which has numerous implications for the environment and lake ecosystem. By monitoring winter ice cover conditions and under-ice water quality, the ReSEC team can learn more about these changes that will be happening in the future.

Using the Dory the DTG3, the ReSEC team also took important water and sediment samples. “Without the ROV, we couldn’t collect water samples under the ice at various depths up to 45m,” shared Kheyrollah Pour. With the temperature sensor on the ROV, the researchers were able to gather data regarding changing water temperatures at numerous depths and locations. Noting that land loses heat faster than water, Kheyrollah Pour mentioned that obtaining these temperatures was crucial to her research.

Looking at algae blooms also provided key information for the ReSEC team. “We used the Deep Trekker for sampling different depths and to take sediment samples from the bottom,” said Kheyrollah Pour. Taking samples from different depths and locations gave the team a complete look at the surrounding environment.

Interaction with the Local Community

The use of the DTG3 also provided an amazing opportunity for learning in the Délı̨nę community. “It was so interesting for the community,” exclaimed Kheyrollah Pour. “They consider the GBL to be like a person.” The local community provides the ReSEC team with assistance.

Kheyrollah Pour explained that, “we had two community members with us, they were interested and curious about the research! They loved seeing the bottom of the lake and we were able to show them the fish and planktons’ life under the ice.”

Use of the DTG3

Kheyrollah Pour noted that the durability and reliability of the DTG3 was crucial for their research. “We didn’t have any difficulty to be honest,” she shared. “Everything was good and smooth.” Despite the Arctic conditions the DTG3 battery lasted the entire day, allowing the team to make the most of their time up north. “We were impressed with how long it lasted in such cold conditions,” said Kheyrollah Pour.

The team took advantage of the pool at Wilfrid Laurier to practice before their mission took place. The prior practice allowed the team to feel confident in their piloting abilities prior to operating the vehicle under ice.

Deep Trekker sincerely thanks Kheyrollah Pour and her team for their time. You can learn more about their research in their Laurier spotlight and stay up to date with the ReSEC Lab on their Twitter account.

For more information about the use of Deep Trekker ROVs in ocean science, check out our case studies with Island Dolphin Care and the Wildlife Conservation Society of Canada.

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