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Coralie Gautier


Master student

Department of Applied Geomatics, Université de Sherbrooke

2500, boul. de l'Université
Université de Sherbrooke
Quebec, Canada
J1K 2R1

819.821.8000 extension 62506






Research project

Study of habitat quality and migratory patterns of Peary caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) using a thermodynamic model of snow and traditional knowledge

Arctic climate variability and change is now relatively well documented. Dramatic changes in spatial and temporal trends of sea ice, snow, permafrost, and glaciers have been observed due to a variety of strong climate related feedbacks. This warming was estimated at +1.06 °C/decade by Solomon (2007), while a much lower rate is observed for the rest of the planet (+0.43 °C/decade) (Jin et Dickinson, 2002). One of the main consequence of this warming is an increased occurrence of winter extreme events such as rain-on-snow (Dolant et al., 2017), presence of ice layers (Montpetit et al., 2013) and snow densification (Dolant et al., 2018). These events could affect the conditions of access to the food for the Peary Caribou (Rangifer tarandus pearyi) (Ouellet et al., 2017; Langlois et al., 2017).

The main goal of my master’s project is to develop and expand to a larger area of ​​the Arctic the caribou habitat quality model that is under development at GRIMP. The goal of this is to predict the most favorable habitats and changes in caribou populations migration patterns by 2100.

My master’s project will focus on the 2 main areas where the concentration of caribous is highest: Southwestern region of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago (Banks Island and Victoria Island) and the Bathurst Island complex. The first methodological approach will use a spatialization platform for the SNOWPACK model, developed by GRIMP since 2014. This platform can simulate snow conditions at 1-km of resolution (Beaudoin-Galaise, 2016). Snow simulations will be conducted along migratory corridors (Johnson, 2016), and a thresholding approach of snow state variables such as density will be investigated in order to  quantify foraging conditions(Ouellet et al., 2017). This aspect will characterize food access during migration from 1979 to 2100. The second methodological approach will make use of a polynya (openings in ice/open water) climatology currently being developed in our lab. This climatology uses radar satellite imagery from RADARSAT 1 and 2 since 1997. The climatology and ice charts will be compared to migration patterns of the last 20 years in partnership with the local communities, to integrate their traditional knowledge of the caribou’s migration in our habitat prediction models (mainly Ulukhaktok and Resolute Bay communities).

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