The Arctic Eider Society / Société Des Eiders de l’Arctique (AES~SEA; pronounced ‘icy’, or SEA~AES; pronounced ‘sea ice’) is a diverse and integrative team of Inuit, academics, educators, and communications specialists committed to preserving the integrity of sea ice ecosystems in Hudson Bay.
Despite longstanding concerns of local Inuit about the influence of environmental change and development projects on sea ice habitats and wildlife, Hudson Bay remains a critical but particularly understudied region of Arctic. Our programs are based on extensive collaborative efforts combining Inuit and scientific knowledge on sea ice ecosystems, identifying key priorities and indicators for assessing cumulative impacts, and establishing community based research, education and outreach programs.
Eider down is the warmest feather in the world and represents natures technology for storing energy in winter. This unique sub-species
doesn’t migrate south, spending winter in sea ice habitats in the heart of Hudson Bay. Our community-based programs began in response to Inuit concerns about cumulative impacts of hydroelectric developments and major ice entrapments and die-offs of eiders. Eiders are a critical source of food and clothing for Inuit on the Belcher Islands, and symbolize the proverbial canary in
the coal mine for environmental change in Hudson Bay. The Arctic Eider represents our culture and history, current changes in sea ice ecosystems, and our inspiration for the future: that there are indeed solutions that work with nature’s innovations, to store and distribute energy in a way that works with the seasons of the hydrological cycle.
In addition to broad scale oceanographic surveys, in depth studies of salinity, bathymetery and currents are being conducted in key regions affected by winter freshwater inputs. This provides high resolution data linked to ecological studies at polynyas and floe edges and allows assessing the role of key sites as indicators of larger scale oceanographic conditions.
Image processing is used to detect and measure ice edges and wildlife, producing time series data and video
sequences. The resulting images allow Inuit communities to view results of their monitoring efforts and provide feedback, engaging them in research and providing novel ways to integrate Inuit and scientific knowledge.
To date, we have captured over 100 time lapse sequences of changing sea ice. We are currently seeking funding to make these publicly available, along with other monitoring data, through an Interactive Web Platform.
In depth studies of sea ice ecology are also conducted at polynyas and floe edges. Eider ducks and beluga whales are a key indicators of variation in winter sea ice habitats. We employ an interdisciplinary approach to study the relationship between the foraging ecology of individuals and larger scale group and population dynamics, to evaluate how these are influenced by changing environmental processes.
A detailed study of the foraging ecology of eiders diving under the sea ice was recently published as a cover story in the prestigious journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B”. You can access the full article here.
Gilchrist, H. G. and Robertson, G. J. 2000. Observations of marine birds and mammals wintering at polynyas and ice edges in the Belcher Islands, Nunavut, Canada. Arctic 53, 61-68.
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address cumulative impacts of environmental change on sea ice ecosystems
The current approach to hydroelectricity involves massive infrastructure, diverting rivers and storing water as potential energy behind dams.
River flow is based on electricity demands. Capturing energy in phase with the hydrological cycle could be achieved by storing and distributing hydropower in new ways.
For example, the east coast of North America has major energy demands for electricity and shipping that do coincide with the hydrological cycle and many small communities in direct proximity to hydroelectric developments still rely on diesel fuel to generate electricity. By storing energy in other forms besides water behind the dam, Hydroelectric projects could mitigate impacts on the hydrological cycle and at the same time provide the capacity for other sectors such as shipping to transition to cleaner energy sources. *
A short video outlining our Community Based Research and Monitoring of sea ice ecosystems in Hudson Bay, and efforts to address cumulative impacts of hydroelectric developments.
Our programs are based in the heart of Hudson Bay, from the community of Sanikiluaq, Nunavut and other communities in the region.Toggle Map