By Justin Lisaingo, Vancouver Aquarium biologist and diver

We got an early start to the day diving at a recently built dock in town — a new site for our Nearshore Ecological Surveys (NES) project in Cambridge Bay. We didn’t have high expectations for this dive, seeing as dock dives in general tend to be predominantly muck and sand. But, we were pleasantly surprised to find out this was on the contrary an excellent dive site.

The mud bottom extended out from the shore with a lush field of tube dwelling anemones, and led to a steep drop-off of about 25 feet, revealing a wall of shattered rocks with nice deep crevices. No matter where you are diving in the world, if you take the time to look into those cracks and crevices with a light, there’s a good chance you’ll discover some very cool critters taking shelter there. Here, we found a dazzling assortment of sponges, tunicates, and shrimp.

A few Cambridge Bay community members, who were going for a boat ride, came to watch us gear up for our dive and were very interested in the animals we were seeing in the water. One of the young boys even helped us collect a Gammaracanthus species of amphipod in the shallows. He taught me the Inuktitut word for them: Kinuq (my best attempt at the spelling).

Justin Lisaingo showing local children animals they collected during their dive.

Showing children the different aquatic animals we collected during dives.

At midday our little Arctic family of four grew by three. Takuji Oyama, our resident Japanese Aquarium biologist arrived with two aquarium biologists from the Osaka Aquarium in Japan. Shuji Shodeyama and Shota Matsumura don’t speak much English, so Takuji will be doubling as translator, while they collect specimens for their own aquarium.

We also ran a few errands around town including preparing for a community outreach event at the Elder’s Palace. I look forward to interacting with community members — it should be a lot of fun.

In the evening, as I filled the SCUBA cylinders we emptied today (a chore that has to be done daily), I took a little walk to a pond behind the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) where we are staying. I found many cool critters including the largest Triop we have ever seen. Triops are fascinating little voracious crustaceans that look prehistoric. Imagine a thumbnail that has grown a couple of eyes, legs, and a forked tail, and you have the general idea. It’s amazing what you can find in your backyard when you take a closer look.


The largest Triop we’ve ever seen.

With global temperatures on the rise, we’re racing against time to gain insight about one of the least scientifically understood regions on the planet: the Arctic. This month, scientists from Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre head north to expand upon innovative Arctic research projects started in 2015, in collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), the federal agency responsible for advancing Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic and for strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology. This blog series chronicles our scientists’ time and research efforts in the Arctic.

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