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Circumpolar Speaker Series

Understanding Landscape Flooding in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary, NWT: A Multi-disciplinary Approach

Speakers: Sonia Wesche & Joshua Thienpont

University of Ottawa, Queen’s University

Tues. March 5th 15:00-16:00pm Simard 129, University of Ottawa


In recent decades, lakes have rapidly expanded across portions of the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary (MBS) in the Deh Cho region of the Northwest Territories. Bison habitat and local land use are being affected. We are conducting a detailed study that combines a variety of complementary approaches to better understand the potential drivers and consequences of recent lake expansion. Our research relies heavily on community engagement, and includes data collection and verification via traditional knowledge interviews and community workshops. Remote sensing is being used to document the timing and extent of lake expansion and impacts on critical bison habitat. The collection and analysis of lake sediment and tree ring cores enables an investigation of long-term changes in meteorological, terrestrial and limnological conditions in the region that may provide insights into the mechanisms driving lake expansion. Lake sediment records are also being utilized to track flood-related changes in sedimentary mercury. In this presentation we will discuss our multi-disciplinary approach to this research and present preliminary findings.


Sonia Wesche is an Assistant Professor in Geography at the University of Ottawa. Over the past nine years she has worked with several First Nation communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories to better understand their vulnerability and capacity to adapt to environmental change. She also has experience working with the National Aboriginal Health Organization on a range of Metis health issues. She is particularly interested in links between environmental change, traditional land use, food security, and health and well-being in Aboriginal communities.

Josh Thienpont is an aquatic ecologist and paleolimnologist who is currently a visiting researcher (and incoming post-doc) in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University. He is in the final stages of his PhD in Biology at Queen’s University, which he will defend this April. His previous research, centered in the Western Canadian Arctic, has focused on understanding the cumulative impacts and interactions of intense localized disturbances such as permafrost thaw, storm surge impact and hydrocarbon exploration, with regional climate warming. He primarily employs sediment-based techniques to reconstruct lake histories over time using a variety of biological indicators.

Series Information: Dr. Audrey Giles :

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