Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

April 19, 2000

Students will help build an atlas of life in the Arctic

A group of U of G zoology students will spend part of the summer on Cornwallis Island, working on the first comprehensive survey of the diversity of animal and plant life in the high Arctic.

The exercise part of a three-year project will allow U of G to claim the title as a leader in northern biodiversity research, said Prof. Paul Hebert, chair of the Department of Zoology. The students will photograph plants and animals for a trilogy of products, including an extensive Web site, a DVD and a CD-ROM to add to the department's series of educational multimedia produced by CyberNatural, a group of multimedia writers, illustrators and animators.

Hebert says Canadians know next to nothing about life in a region that constitutes about one-third of their country's land mass. "We hope to send four or five students north each year to begin to build an atlas of life at this site."

The students will spend a few weeks in August in Resolute on Cornwallis Island. They will stay at a facility maintained by the Polar Continental Shelf Project, the main logistics base for research in Canada's high Arctic and the site of an Arctic ecology field course offered by the Department of Zoology every two years. They will also work in the Truelove Lowlands on nearby Devon Island that boast a variety of typical high arctic habitats. Last summer, four undergraduates stayed at the same based and worked on the first phase of the project, collecting video footage of terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals.

The students making the trip in August will spend two months preparing for the venture, including studying literature on arctic life and taking a crash course in video-recording. The information gathered will be used in the multimedia package that Hebert hopes will be delivered to every primary and secondary school and university in Canada by December 2001. "We want students to be able to join virtual field trips to our Arctic."

Part of the cost of producing the multimedia project is being funded through a grant of more than $200,000 from the Millennium Fund. That funding hinges on in-kind support from the University and matching support from private sponsors. Additional funding has been provided by the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and student ACCESS awards.

Contact: Prof. Paul Hebert, Department of Zoology (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3598

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338

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