Ocean Wise Youth Is Working Hands-On In Lhù’ààn Mân (Kluane Lake), Yukon Territory
Nadja Smith Hanson is passionate about bridging the gaps in communication between culture, science, and other forms of knowledge. Her Bachelor of Science at Dalhousie University was focused on Environmental Sciences and Biology. Through her foraged tea enterprise and community involvement, she was awarded a grant to study Ethnobotany at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska. Nadja has held different positions under multi-governmentally funded programs across Turtle Island that work with local youth engaging land-based learning platforms for individual and group growth. Nadja is an Ocean Wise youth ambassador in the 2021 Ocean Bridge Direct Action program currently placed in the Yukon studying the climate change and hydrology on Lhù’ààn Mân (Kluane Lake).
Tucked away in the southwest corner of Yukon Territory, Lhù’ààn Mân (Southern Tutchone for Kluane Lake) is a centre point for the White River, Champagne and Aishihik, and Kluane First Nations. Renowned for its size, geographical and cultural significance, it’s an abundant hub for Inconnu, Grayling, Whitefish, Lake Pike, and Lake Trout with shores covered in River Beauty, Salix and other moisture-loving vegetation.
As part of the 2021 Direct Action cohort of Ocean Wise’s Ocean Bridge program, I sleep a mere 10 m from the shores of Lhù’ààn Mân at the Kluane Lake Research Station. A canvas tent accompanied by a woodstove provides shelter as the Yukon temperatures fluctuate, dipping below zero even in the height of summer. Kristina Miller (PhD candidate at the University of Calgary) is leading an extensive study of the water balance and carbon cycling in the lake. Miller’s hydrological study is a pursuit of investigative science, reflecting on the concerns over water availability by many locals. In 2016 the Kaskawulsh Glacier meltwater runoff was redirected through Kaskawulsh River and away from the ’A’ą̈y Chù’ (Southern Tutchone for Slims River). The rerouting of the glacier’s outflow led to a 1.7 m decrease in the lake water level during peak summer months.
Interning with Miller for a segment of her first field season has required constant adaptation and patience. Hydrology encompasses the movement, quality, and distribution of water; fieldwork on an 80 km long lake presents many challenges, one being weather. For deep water sampling, the collection of water samples requires calm water to safely use equipment over the side of a boat, and this lake is known for its rough conditions that come on quickly.
As part of Kristina Miller’s overall project, I am monitoring stream discharge at 15 locations that flow into the lake. Stream discharge or flow rate is calculated using the total volume of water moving through a stream cross section over a period of time. It is currently unknown how climate change will impact the water quality and quantity of the lake. Monitoring the movement of water through trail cameras allows calculating discharge which will help estimate an overall rate of discharge of the streams and help illustrate how the lake will evolve with changing climate conditions. Streamflow is supplied by snowmelt, glacial melt, precipitation and groundwater, and changes to streamflow will impact the organisms found within the Kluane watershed including in the lake and streams.
*The use of capitol plant and animal names follows the Robin Wall-Kimmerer defined tri-knowledge circle of blending Indigenous knowledge, scientific/ecological knowledge, and plant knowledge for overall respect and relations with non-human kin.
What is Ocean Bridge?
Ocean Bridge brings together young Canadians with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who are passionate about making a difference in their communities through the lens of oceans and waterway conservation. These Ocean Bridge Ambassadors from all across Canada work together, receive funding and learn from experts in marine conservation and education through an online platform and in-person learning journeys to develop service projects related to ocean health and ocean literacy in communities across the country. Ocean Bridge is an Ocean Wise initiative funded by the Government of Canada through the Canada Service Corps.
Ocean Bridge Direct Action is an exciting immersive program for in-depth learning and youth engagement with oceanic and aquatic conservation efforts across Canada. This national service-learning program will connect Canadian youth and young professionals with experts in marine and aquatic conservation organizations, empowering them with experiences in direct marine and aquatic conservation initiatives, adventurous opportunities for fieldwork, professional research projects, and educational and outreach programs.
Canada Service Corps
Canada Service Corps is designed to generate a culture of service among young Canadians; concrete results for communities; personal growth through participation in a diverse team of peers; and lasting impacts on participants. Visit www.canada.ca/CanadaServiceCorps to learn more and how to get involved in the way that works best for you.