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Researcher seeks marine tissue
Project in Cambridge Bay aims to understand marine food web

Stewart Burnett
Northern News Services
Monday, July 27, 2015

A PhD student from McGill University is in Cambridge Bay this summer and she wants blubber.

NNSL photo/graphic

PhD student Marianne Falardeau-Côté, left, and research assistant David Chen were on the water in Cambridge Bay last week taking zooplankton samples. Falardeau-Côté is studying the local marine food web and is looking for frozen blubber samples. - photo courtesy of Marianne Falardeau-Côté

Marianne Falardeau-Côte, studying in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences at McGill University under the supervision of professor Elena Bennett, is working on a research project to better understand the "marine food web" in the water around the Kitikmeot.

"The marine food web represents all the different species in the marine area and the interaction between the species, simply who eats whom," said Falardeau-Côte.

That goes right from tiny zooplankton species to fish and the larger mammals that eat them.

She said there is not enough research on this subject in the North yet, especially considering any impact climate change might have on the subject.

"There's a lack of knowledge about the marine food web," said Falardeau-Côte.

"It's really important to understand how it's structured. It's also to understand how climate change is modifying interactions between species. This is important for communities that rely on fishing and hunting."

To that end, she is seeking one-inch-square tissue samples from any and all creatures in the marine ecosystem, including seals, whales, polar bears and fish.

She's offering $30 per piece to local hunters who can deliver clean, frozen samples.

"It's really important that the tissues or blubber is frozen when people give it to me so that these molecules are still in good condition to analyze," said Falardeau-Côte, who will be studying them down to the finest detail.

She hopes to collect 10 to 15 blubber samples per species.

"I am going to have tissues or biomass of the different species and then I will analyze the samples in the lab to look at specific molecules, which will answer what they eat," she said.

This is Falardeau-Côte's fourth time in Nunavut. Previously, she studied how climate change is causing southern fish species to move farther north.

The blubber she seeks must have skin and muscle attached and be immediately frozen after harvest, preferably wrapped in foil.

She will be collecting samples until the end of 2016 and seeks one tissue sample per individual.

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