Monitoring Climate Change in Canadian Arctic National Parks- Arctic Vision Photo Exhibition by the Embassy of Canada

The Canadian Arctic is undergoing profound changes, affecting the fragile ecosystems, rhythm of life and the Inuit who depend on the land and sea for their traditional lifestyle. The Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, and the Center for Environment and Security (CENSE) organized a public lecture by Paul Ashley, Ecosystem Scientist, Parks Canada Sirmilik and Auyuittuq National Parks. Ashley delivered a lecture at CEU on 30 March entitled “Monitoring Climate Change in Canadian Arctic National Parks,” on the effects of global warming on the Canadian Arctic. Brandon P. Anthony, Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy acted as chair of the event.

Paul Ashley’s enthusiastic and informative multi‑media overview of the myriad changes occurring across the Canadian Arctic, and how they affect the wildlife and people who live there brought out the essence of John Muir’s quote that “When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to everything else.” Through the presentation, the western perspective of “monitoring and protection” was compared to observations and traditional knowledge from elders of nearby communities which accentuated the importance of incorporating both these perspectives for inclusive conservation efforts. The lecture touched upon the social, economic and cultural frames of reference of traditional knowledge about sustainable ways to manage the environment. It brought out the symbiotic relationship between the Inuit communities and the scientists and other staff members of Parks Canada, and the role it continues to play in the protecting and preserving the pristine ecosystem. Ashley stressed on the importance of this co-operative and mutually beneficial effort as the close relationship that these indigenous communities have shared with nature for centuries also makes them very vulnerable to the drastic changes in the quality of their environment. He focused on Sirmilik and Auyuittuq National Parks which, through the collaboration of several universities, have some of the longest Arctic ecosystem monitoring datasets in the world. Ashley spoke about a variety of problems that arise in the process of monitoring and maintaining sites as vast as these, chief among which is the lack of adequate funding. The main focus of the presentation was therefore rather the response of Parks Canada (and its associates) to stresses on the environment in the Arctic, mainly climate change.

The lecture was followed by the unveiling of the photo exhibit “Arctic Vision - A photo exhibition of the Embassy of Canada,” a series of evocative photographs that bring out the essence of Paul Ashley’s lecture.  Outside the lecture hall, after the question and answer session, the event continued with a photo exhibition by the Canadian Embassy in Budapest. The official opening took place in the Octagon of the University, where the 21 panels of 120cm x 80cm and two circular maps of the Arctic had been set up. Richard Martin-Nielsen, Political Counselor of the Embassy of Canada, introduced the “Arctic Vision” exhibition as presenting photos of the International Polar Year. He briefly spoke about the importance of the Arctic Council in bringing together people living in different parts of the Arctic for centuries, thus giving them a collective identity. The challenge that conducting research in the North poses is amply evident in the photographs that bring out the nature of the research as well the extraordinary everyday life of inhabitants of the area. The fact that the photos were all taken by Canadian researchers and scientists actually working in the region of the North Pole during the International Polar Year 2007-2009, gives a special element to the photos. The exhibition will be open until 18 April.


Paul Ashley is the Ecosystem Scientist for Parks Canada Sirmilik and Auyuittuq National Parks, and is responsible for developing long‑term monitoring projects in the National Parks of Nunavut, Canada. He joined Parks Canada after managing two of Canada's National Wildlife Areas found along the shores of Lake Erie, Ontario Canada. Paul Ashley is presently on leave from Parks Canada and working as a Senior Ecologist for an engineering company specializing in renewable energy. He has an MSc in Zoology from the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario and a BSc in Environmental Science from Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

The International Polar Year 2007-2009 was a collaborative international effort of scientific research on the Arctic and Antarctic involving 55,000 researchers of 66 countries. Encompassing nearly a quarter of the Arctic and one of the eight countries of the Arctic Council, Canada was a leading contributor to this ambitious program, which was organized for the fourth time in the last 125 years. The magnitude of Canada’s IPY effort was as sweeping as the Arctic itself- 1,750 researchers worked on 52 projects, from the Yukon to northern Labrador. Conducting research in the North is challenging; scientists had to contend with extreme weather, physical, arduous work and basic living conditions. The exhibited photos give an insight to their everyday lives.