A look back

The current ecological studies on Bylot Island started in 1988 as a collaboration between Université Laval (Centre d’études nordiques) and the Canadian Wildlife Service (Quebec region). Before that, several other biologists had visited the island to conduct some ecological research, especially on the rich bird life of the island. This includes the pioneering work of Josselyn Van Tyne, William Holland Drury, Louis Lemieux and Leslie M. Tuck in the 1950s, and more recently the work of J. Douglas Heyland and Hugh Boyd in the early 1970s. However, the current project is the longest and most intensive scientific investigation ever conducted on the island.

The large colony of greater snow geese breeding on the island was the incentive to start the project. Because the population was growing rapidly during the 1980s, there was fear that this could negatively impact the Arctic tundra. The initial goals of the study were to initiate a demographic study of the population through a long-term marking program, and to assess the impact of goose grazing on the tundra vegetation. However, over the years, the research program has broadened considerably and now includes many other components of the terrestrial ecosystem. A central theme of the project is now to study the interactions between plant, herbivores and predators in the context of global change. Thus, in addition to geese, foxes and lemmings, other bird species and the vegetation are now part of our investigations. We are also interested in understanding how anticipated climate change may impact the animal and plant communities of the tundra.

Over the years, the Bylot Island research project has grown into one of the largest and longest ecological studies in Nunavut. The site is also part of several national and international research network including ArcticNet, ArcticWEB, the Arctic Wildlife Observatories Linking Vulnerable EcoSystems (ArcticWOLVES), the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Programme (CBMP), the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT) and the Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators (CNNRO).

Greater snow geese - Tim Moser
Study site