© Paul Nicklen_National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada Narwhal A pod of male narwhal (Monodon monoceros) in Nunavut, Canada

Arctic Species Conservation Fund

The Arctic Species Conservation Fund supports research and stewardship actions, safeguarding some of Canada’s most emblematic species.

Helping Wildlife Thrive in a Changing Arctic

The Arctic Species Conservation Fund supports high-quality stewardship and research initiatives focused on wildlife and habitats in the Canadian Arctic. WWF-Canada relies on partnerships with Indigenous organizations and the best available information to jointly advocate for effective Arctic conservation policies and legislation. Established in 2016, the ASCF is proud to support applied conservation initiatives that focus on Arctic wildlife including Atlantic walrus, barren-ground caribou, beluga whales, bowhead whales, narwhal, polar bears, and ringed seals.

A History of Success

Since the Arctic Species Conservation Fund began in 2016, more than 70 projects have been supported across Canada’s Arctic. Results from these projects include:

  • Community-based monitoring that led to the discovery that narwhal stress hormones have increased 100% in recent years as shipping intensifies and the climate warms.
  • The mapping of all known polar bear denning habitat across the Canadian Arctic.
  • Updated polar bear subpopulation estimates including good news for the M’Clintock Channel and Gulf of Boothia subpopulations.
  • The mapping of calving grounds of the struggling Baffin Island caribou herd using Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit Knowledge) workshops.
  • A new method to study the impact of disturbance from mining activity on barren-ground caribou.
  • The discovery of a novel way the narwhal tusk is used to feed in the area around Tremblay Sound.
  • The development of drones as a non-invasive method of studying bowhead whale feeding habits and population demographics.
  • Acoustic monitoring and aerial survey analyses to learn how increased ship traffic and ice-breaking along proposed shipping routes affect marine mammals in north Baffin Island.
  • Mapping all known walrus haul-outs in Canada and advocating for the avoidance of these areas by ships through Mariner’s Guides and intervention in industrial development projects.

Applicants from all backgrounds (community groups, Hunters and Trappers Organizations, governments, universities, independent researchers, non-government organizations, etc.) and fields of study (Indigenous Knowledge (IK), Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ), natural sciences, social sciences, etc.) are eligible to apply.

The types of projects the fund seeks to support include:

  • Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area projects at any stage of development, including scoping
  • Initiatives that enable communities to participate in Land Use Planning, Environmental Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments, Species at Risk listing processes etc.
  • Studies on the resilience of Arctic habitats
  • Projects that demonstrate the potential of economic opportunities for northern communities through conservation programming
  • Nature-Based Solutions projects seeking to identify, restore or protect areas of carbon storage

  • Understanding the effects of underwater noise, ice breaking and oil spill events on marine mammals
  • Understanding the impacts of ship-based contaminants (black carbon, grey water, heavy metals, invasive species, microplastics, scrubbers etc.) on marine mammals and Arctic marine habitats
  • Research furthering our understanding of the effects of roads, development sites and other forms of disturbance on caribou and their habitats
  • Identification and characterization of critical habitat for caribou
  • Development and implementation of methods to reduce human-polar bear conflict in communities

How to Apply

Applications should be submitted in PDF format to [email protected]. For full fund criteria, please refer to the 2023 call for proposals available in English, Inuktitut and French.

Arctic Species Conservation Fund Projects

© naturepl.com / Sue Flood / WWF Beluga whales trapped at ice hole (Delphinapterus leucas) too far away to reach open sea

Arctic Whales

  • Assessing the impact of underwater noise from ships on bowhead whales in Foxe Basin, NU

A three-year project building upon existing data obtained from satellite tags will assist in a unique opportunity to combine movement and acoustic data to provide a detailed three-dimensional portrayal of how bowhead whales respond to underwater human-made noise. This project is strategically situated in an area slated for major shipping traffic in the future and will provide an invaluable tool in managing the anticipated impacts related to planned mining activities in the region.

Project partners – Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, Mitacs, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Igloolik Hunters and Trappers Organization

  • Analyzing Narwhal Camp data to determine where narwhal go and how they get there

In this project’s third and final year, this research continues analyzing decades of narwhal movement data to determine migration routes and important stopover habitats. Additionally, the work looks at how a warming climate and increased ship presence is affecting the whales. As it wraps up, this work will be applied to ongoing environmental review processes and protected area planning in the Baffin Bay region, home to 90 per cent of the world’s narwhal.

Project partners – University of Windsor, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Mitacs

© Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada

Polar Bears

  • Climate, Conflict, and Coexistence: Identifying the drivers of human-polar bear interaction in southern Hudson Bay

Increasing impacts of climate change at the southern extent of the polar bear range inform this project aimed at reducing human-polar bear conflict in southern Hudson Bay. With researchers working alongside northern Ontario communities to document their priorities and inform future conservation, this project will contribute to broader regional management efforts as well as develop and strengthen knowledge sharing and implementation efforts for the recently announced Mushkegowuk National Marine Conservation Area.

Project partners – York University, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Polar Bears International, POLAR Knowledge Canada

  • Reducing human-polar bear conflict in Whale Cove, NU

WWF continues its partnership with the Issatik Hunters & Trappers Organization in Whale Cove, Nunavut in an effort to reduce human-polar bear conflict in the community. As climate change continues to negatively affect the fragile ecological systems in western Hudson Bay, both bears and humans find themselves in dangerous situations more frequently than ever before. Under the direction of the Issatik HTO, the bear monitors and youth support worker work diligently to keep the community safe and document their observations of the drivers of polar bear behaviour.

Project partners – Issatik Hunters & Trappers Organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated

  • Tracking problem polar bears to increase community and bear safety

WWF is a longtime partner of the world’s most comprehensive telemetry study of polar bears, which occurs in the Churchill, Manitoba region. This year, the project continues focusing on the movements of polar bears that have caused problems in Churchill to better understand which types of bears are prone to conflict. This work will inform planning to minimize polar-bear human conflict and increase community safety.

Project partners – University of Alberta, Government of Manitoba Department of Conservation and Climate, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Government of Nunavut Department of Environment

© Lin Pepper Walrus in Poolepynton point in Svalbard, Norway

Seals and Walrus

  • Assessing walrus haulout behavior and disturbance using satellite telemetry and stationary cameras

This community-led research will document walrus reactions to disturbance such as passing ships, which have been shown to cause walrus to abandon their preferred haulout habitat. Working in collaboration with research technicians from Sanirajak, Nunavut, researchers will deploy tags on walrus to track their movements. Paired with camera traps at walrus haulouts, this combined data will deliver a better understanding of habitat use at different times of the day and how walrus are reacting to increasing ship traffic in the Canadian Arctic.

Project partners – Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Sanirajak Hunters and Trappers Organization

  • Preparation of a ringed seal monitoring plan for Baffinland’s Mary River project

Researchers and harvesters will work together to develop a gold-standard monitoring plan informed by local knowledge to examine the effects of industrial shipping on seals. This is a direct response to what was seen by the community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut as an inadequate plan by a mining company to properly address the protection of the vitally important ringed seal during their marine shipping season. This project speaks to the importance of partnerships between researchers and land users to serve the interests of northerners and ensure that the voices of local communities are heard during project monitoring and evaluation.

Project partners – LGL Limited, Mittimatalik Hunters & Trappers Organization

  • Investigating the presence of plastic-related contaminants in Atlantic walrus

Last year, researchers looked for evidence of microplastics in walrus stomach samples obtained from five different Nunavut community harvests. The initial findings prompted further analysis of blubber and livers from the same walruses to determine the presence of plastic-related and plastic-derived contaminants. The results will help inform Nunavut communities about long-standing concerns around contamination of traditional food sources.

Project partners – Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Carleton University, Gamberg Consulting, Amaruq Hunters and Trappers Organization

© Alexandre Paiement Barren Ground Caribou

Barren-Ground Caribou

  • Baker Lake barren-ground caribou monitoring program

Expanding on their existing wildlife monitoring plan of the Agnico Eagle Meadowbank mine all-weather road, the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization have created an opportunity for a local young person to gain valuable work experience in the environmental field while contributing to a better understanding of the impacts of the road on local wildlife, specifically barren-ground caribou. The Youth Wildlife Monitor will work alongside experienced wildlife monitors during patrols, collecting and reporting environmental information that will inform ongoing environmental assessments and mine operations.

Project partners – Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Organization

  • Co-Management for Caribou Conservation: Preparing for the next 10 years of Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board

The Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board (BQCMB) is interjurisdictional co-management board that works tirelessly to safeguard the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq barren-ground caribou herds, and to ensure the long-term conservation of these herds for the people who depend on them. A vocal advocate for caribou conservation and calving ground protections, WWF-Canada is proud to support the BQCMB with a grant this year as they undergo the development of a new 10-year plan to guide the actions of the board into the future.

Project partners – Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board

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