The NorthSTAR program(formerly ISAMR) promotes cross-cultural scientific exploration to understand the impact of climate change on wildlife. Youth from around Manitoba join the Churchill Junior Canadian rangers to conduct field research on polar bears in the Churchill area. The students work with Dr. Jane Waterman to learn how to non-invasively identify polar bears using their whisker print images and other morphological characteristics. They also learn to calculate and compare the body condition and body size of the bears from the photos by using a camera calibration.
The year begins with the Science Literacy workshops in September at the Assiniboine Park Zoo where the student-leaders teach other high school students the Whiskerprinting techniques. Here is an article to learn more about these workshops:
The trip takes place in late October when we travel to Churchill to study the polar bears. It is a fantastic time of focused research and fun activities. We stay at the Churchill Northern Study Center (CNSC) and spend two days on the tundra buggy to study the bears. The days are packed full with dog sledding, tours of the rocket range near the CNSC, walking around Cape Merry, driving around to see all the murals in the SeaWalls Churchill project, listening to talks from the Junior Rangers about their activities, learning about the history of the Sayisi Dene, and sewing mocassins and mitts. We have also spent time in Churchill enjoying bowling, skating, and setting up tents in the Town Center.
Then we spend time analyzing the results and present them at the scientific conference ArcticNet in December. The most recent presentation was in Halifax where the students presented: Biometrics of polar bears in a changing world: assessing body condition non-invasively near Churchill.
In May the high school students joined university professors and undergrad students at the University of Manitoba to teach younger kids at the Science Rendezvous event. Hundreds of kids came by to learn about the polar bear research.
And the final workshop for the year is back at the zoo for the NSERC Science Odyssey week. The students run the workshop for other Winnipeg high schools with a focus on Whiskerprinting techniques.