Interactive Canadian ebook seeks to make Arctic climate science accessible

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A beluga surfaces for air as whale watchers head out in kayaks on the Churchill River in Churchill, Manitoba, in July 2018. A new ebook seeks to inform tourists about climate change in the Hudson Bay region. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)
An interactive ebook focused on research in Canada’s Hudson Bay area, and its wider connection to the Arctic, has been released in an effort to make climate science more accessible to the general population.

“Scientific information is quite often not accessible to the public or the policy makers  because none of them read peer-reviewed journals,” said David Barber,  Canada Research Chair in Arctic-System Science at the University of Manitoba and one of the people behind the project.

“So we took it upon ourselves to translate these very jargon-filled peer-reviewed publications and put it into an accessible format so that people could have the up-to-date knowledge [that] the scientific world has about the realities of climate change,” Barber told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview.

Feature Interview
For more on the challenges of communicating climate science, Eye on the Arctic talks with the University of Manitoba’s David Barber:

Interactive experience

The Expedition Churchill: A Gateway to Arctic Research ebook  is part of  Expedition Churchill, an outreach program from the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Earth Observation and Science.

Churchill is a town of around 900 people in north-eastern Manitoba on the Hudson Bay coast and is well known for its polar bear tourism.

Project partners include VIA Rail, The Town of Churchill, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC), Assiniboine Park Zoo and Travel Manitoba.

Special tables on the VIA Rail service will allow passengers on the resumed Churchill passenger rail service to explore the book’s interactive features, says David Barber. (Michael Woelcke/VIA Rail)

The book includes 10 chapters on everything from sea ice to the Arctic food chain and includes video, interactive graphics and audio of researchers explaining their science in plain language.

Besides the ebook, the Expedition Churchill project includes interactive kiosks across Manitoba and interactive tabletops in the VIA Rail passenger train between Winnipeg and Churchill.

“People from all over the wold travel [to Churchill] to see the belugas, the northern lights, to go birding on the Hudon Bay lowlands and, or course, to see the polar bears,” Barber said.

“These tourists are a valuable component  of our  society in terms of their engagement and involvement with the whole climate change arena. We wanted to make sure that tourists understood what it was they were  seeing and what the scientific realities of climate change are in the North.”

Hudson Bay, a model for High Arctic
The cover of the Expedition Churchill ebook. Understanding climate change in this region, can help people better understand how a warming climate will affect the Arctic Ocean, say researchers. (Courtesy University of Manitoba)

The research done in Canada’s Hudson Bay area is especially important as a model for how climate change may affect the Far North, says Barber.

As an inland sea surrounded by a continent, researchers say Hudson Bay provides an important model for what might happen in the Arctic Ocean as the climate warms.

“Hudson Bay is actually a very good analogue of what the near future of what the High Arctic system looks like,” said Barber. “And this ebook explores this concept providing details about how Hudson Bay functions.

“We learn from this sub-Arctic sea about what’s happening in the High Arctic.”

Passenger rail service resumes
An aerial view of Churchill, Manitoba, is shown on Wednesday, July 4, 2018.  (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The ebook was launched on Friday to coincide with the resumption of passenger service to northern Manitoba, with the first train leaving on Sunday.

The service was suspended in May 2017 after severe flooding damaged rail tracks.

The Expedition Churchill ebook is available on the App Store, Google Play or can be downloaded for desktop.

More information is available on the Expedition Churchill website.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Dramatic changes to Yukon glaciers a warning for the planet, researchers say, CBC News

Finland: Finnish parties find consensus at cross-party climate summit, Yle News

Germany: While Arctic melts, sweltering Germany hosts UN climate talks, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Norway: Arctic ecosystems face irreversible change without fast climate action, UN report says, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Monchegorsk, Russia: a mining town with green aspirations, Cryopolitics Blog

Sweden: Swedish delegation cautiously optimistic ahead of climate conference in Poland, Radio Sweden

United States: Permafrost thawing under Arctic lakes warming climate faster than expected, says study, CBC News

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Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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