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University of Quebec at Rimouski looking into adaptability of snow bunting in Alert

A new student work opportunity has been made available in Alert.
A snow bunting on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. A study by the University of Quebec at Rimouski is studying the adaptability of the species in Alert. Photo courtesy of Colin Canterbury/USFWS

A new student work opportunity has been made available in Alert.

François Vezina, a professor of biology, chemistry and geography at the University of Quebec at Rimouski, and his team of researchers are conducting a study on snow bunting and their adaptability to climate change in the Arctic.

Vezina explained the chosen student could also do work on their masters’ degree while working at the research station.

“Our researches are on ecophysiology,” he said. “They are essentially about the physiological mechanisms which allow birds to live in cold environments, and the physiological consequences of climate change in the Arctic for these cold specialists.”

Vezina’s research activities are a part of project called ArcticWatts (previously called ArcticScope), which is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FQRNT), is studying aerobic scope in two Arctic birds across Northern Canada.

Alert, being the northernmost continuously inhabited place in the world, is perfectly suited to study birds who have adapted to cold living conditions.

The work opportunity is taking place over the summer to follow the migration route of the desired species of birds.

“The field season is typically from the end of May to August,” said Vezina. “Our projects on snow buntings are both in the Arctic during the Summer and in the region of Rimouski (Quebec) in winter.”

Although Vezina has been actively researching in Alert since 2015, the latest study opportunity has had to be postponed for the last three years due to COVID-19.

ArcticWatts’s latest study, published in August, showed that birds living at a higher latitude were especially vulnerable to climate change, which negatively affected their ability to provide for their chicks due to overheating.

“High-latitude birds faced entire, consecutive days when parents would be unable to sustain required provisioning rates,” the report stated. “These data indicate that Arctic warming is probably already disrupting the breeding performance of cold-specialist birds and suggests counterintuitive and severe negative impacts of warming at higher latitude breeding locations.”

Anyone interested in applying for the job opportunity is welcome to do so by following the job posting procedure.