Arctic Species Conservation Fund | WWF-Canada
 
	© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

Helping wildlife thrive in a changing Arctic

The Arctic Species Conservation Fund supports research and stewardship actions to safeguard some of Canada’s most iconic species.
Beluga whales, bowhead whales, narwhals, barren-ground caribou, polar bears and walruses are among the many Arctic wildlife to benefit from high-quality research and stewardship through the WWF-Canada Arctic Species Conservation Fund. Through this research we seek to secure meaningful policies and legislation that are effective and appropriate for the conservation of Arctic species across their range, incorporate the best available science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and include the direct engagement of Indigenous peoples.
 
Since the Fund began in 2016, more than 35 projects have been supported across Canada’s Arctic. Results from these projects include:
  • The discovery of a novel way the narwhal tusk is used to feed in the area around Tremblay Sound.
  • The development of a non-invasive method of studying bowhead whale feeding habits and population demographics using drones.
  • Updated polar bear subpopulation estimates, as well as new information on polar bear movements and reproductive output in Western Hudson Bay.
  • Acoustic monitoring and aerial survey analyses to determine how increased ship traffic and ice-breaking along proposed shipping routes affect marine mammals in north Baffin Island.An awareness campaign in northern communities on the importance of barren-ground caribou conservation.
  • The development of a method to study the impacts of disturbance on barren-ground caribou.
  • Identifying productivity hotspots of barren-ground caribou calving grounds in Tuktut Nogait National Park.​

Arctic Species Conservation Fund projects

The Arctic Species Conservation Fund is now in its third field season. Our 2018/19 projects include research on the following:

Whales



Non-invasive research techniques, including the use of aerial drones, underwater microphones and aerial surveys will be used to:
  • Assess the impacts of ship noise on marine mammals in the western Arctic by cross-referencing areas of significant underwater noise with known locations of Arctic whales, obtained through hydrophones.
  • Using tagging and drones to observe patterns of behaviour in a narwhal nursery in Tremblay Sound.
  • Leverage archived aerial imagery to determine critical habitat for narwhal calving. This information will be crucial to ensuring disturbance to narwhals is minimal during calving and in any areas where narwhals are found to raise their young. 
  • Monitor marine mammal noise in Eclipse Sound off northern Baffin Island, one of Canada’s busiest Arctic shipping corridors. Underwater listening devices will be positioned to record the locations of important marine mammal species relative to passing ships.
  Polar bears

Polar bears from Hudson Bay to the Beaufort Sea are the subject of several research projects designed to:
  • Map all known polar bear denning sites across Canada and develop a model to predict denning habitat for areas that have not yet been surveyed.
  • Track problem polar bears from the Churchill region to better understand which types of bears are prone to conflict with northern communities.
  • Re-estimate the Davis Strait polar bear subpopulation. A heightened level of human-polar bear conflict in the region makes it particularly important to understand whether polar bear numbers have increased, or if bears are spending more time on land in search of food as their sea ice habitat diminishes.
  • Study polar bears at the southern end of their range to determine how two polar bear subpopulations are shifting in relation to sea ice loss.

 
Barren-ground caribou


With almost all of Canada’s barren-ground caribou herds in the midst of steep population declines, our supported research projects will:
  • Build a tool to measure the combined effects of multiple stressors, such as a changing climate, increased human presence and disturbance from mine development sites, on caribou herds.
  • Film a video to help explain caribou survey methods, important because too often the technical nature of aerial surveys makes it difficult for non-scientists to understand how population estimates are obtained.
  • Assessing the effect of mining infrastructure on barren-ground caribou. The team will observe the behaviour of the caribou, monitor their stress levels through an analysis of hormones present in feces and track the movement of collared animals. 
  • Increase community involvement in decision-making processes related to critical barren-ground caribou habitats by developing a Traditional Ecological Knowledge database for barren-ground caribou in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut.
  • Support the development of a locally-owned harvest monitoring program in Arviat to better understand how many caribou are being harvested annually as the herd is declining.

Who can apply

The Arctic Species Conservation Fund supports projects aligned with WWF-Canada’s priority Arctic species. Proposals from a variety of sources are eligible to receive funding, including universities, independent researchers, community organizations, consulting firms, government and non-governmental organizations. All fields of study (western science, TEK, social sciences, physical sciences, etc.) are eligible to apply. The types of projects the Fund seeks to support include:
  • Innovations in wildlife research techniques.
  • Development of non-invasive research methods.
  • Support for the development of community-driven marine or terrestrial protected areas and networks.
  • Quantifying the effects of environmental change on priority species.
  • Environmental characterization of barren-ground caribou calving ground habitat in a changing climate.
  • Quantifying the effects of disturbance on polar bears while denning.
  • Methods of reducing human-polar bear conflict in communities.
  • Quantifying the effects of ice breaking and underwater noise on marine mammals.
  • Identification and characterization of critical habitat for marine mammals.