Diving surveys in Cambridge Bay record region's aquatic diversity for future research

A group of Vancouver researchers say the marine life around Cambridge Bay is "beautiful and surprising" after a month's worth of field work, performing diving surveys in and around the area.

Divers, researchers collect baseline data for climate change research

Members of the Vancouver Aquarium dive team test their regulators in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Vancouver Aquarium)

A group of aquatic researchers say the marine life in Arctic waters around Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, are "beautiful and surprising" after a month's worth of field work performing diving surveys in and around the area.

Danny Kent with the Vancouver Aquarium says the findings were incredible.

"The huge diversity of animal life, we didn't necessarily expect to find up there," said Kent, who's been to the area twice before.

"It was quite beautiful and surprising, probably, to a lot of southerners that there's so much life below the ocean up there."

The field work, in partnership with Polar Knowledge Canada, will serve as a resource for future Arctic research. It can also be a baseline to record and compare future environmental changes in the North, including climate change research.

Kent says the divers caught and recorded a variety shrimp, sea anemones, soft coral, crab, fish, kelp, worms, and zooplankton.

"There's a lot of similarities to diving off the coast of British Columbia... in fact, some of the same species range from B.C. right up into the Arctic," he said.

"There are some things that are radically different looking, or they get much larger in the Arctic than they would in southern waters. There are also similar looking species but they aren't the same species, so it's an interesting cross-section."

The researchers held an event at the Elders' Palace while they were in town to share their findings with the community. Kent says about 100 people came out to see photos, watch videos and check out the specimens the divers collected.

"It was really well received," he said. "Just people wanting to see the animals in their own backyard."

Donna Gibb and Justin Lisaingo of the Vancouver Aquarium show animals they collected from the dives to Cambridge Bay residents. (Vancouver Aquarium)