Churchill Northern Studies Centre Blog

Friday, April 27, 2018

Science on the Sea Ice


Join us Sat. May 19 at 1pm behind the complex for our local community event as part of the Science Odyssey celebrations across Canada! 

Everyone is welcome to this family friendly activity where we will venture out onto the sea ice to learn about the frozen ocean water of Hudson Bay.

We will explore the sea ice physical characteristics, sea ice as habitat for marine species and life under the ice.

The event location will be subject to weather so watch our social media pages for any alerts on the day in case we need to move the event indoors!

Posted by Stephanie Puleo at 3:08 PM 0 Comments

Friday, April 13, 2018

Job Opportunity -Summer Student Seasonal Research Technician

Summer Student Position Seasonal Research Technician This is a paid summer student position with field and laboratory components and is minimum 12 weeks, maximum 16 weeks (tentative start date of May 18). This position will assist with CNSC in-house research, provide assistance harvesting food and maintaining the hydroponic growing unit at the CNSC, provide logistic or field support to visiting researchers, maintain equipment inventories and biological collections, and collect data under contract to Centre clients. This position will also support science outreach and the delivery of general education and youth programming. Experience working in a remote field setting, in excellent physical condition and a willingness to conduct field work through all seasons is necessary. Flexible scheduling and on-call duties required. Experience in specimen identification (plants, vertebrates and invertebrates), off road vehicle operation (ATVs and snow machines) and a valid firearms possession/acquisition license (PAL) would be a definite asset. Must qualify for Canada Summer Jobs funding including being between the ages of 18 – 30 and have been registered as full-time students in the previous academic year and intend to return to school on a full-time basis in the next academic year in the. Detailed job description and salary available by request. Please submit a detailed resume by email, fax or regular post no later than April 17, 2018 to the address indicated below. Hiring Committee Churchill Northern Studies Centre P.O. Box 610 Churchill, MB R0B 0E0 Fax: (204) 675-2139 Email:

Posted by Executive Director at 10:04 PM 0 Comments

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Job Opportunity - Program Coordinator

The CNSC is looking for a new permanent full-time employee to take on the managerial position of Program Coordinator. Check out the attached job posting for more info and a detailed job description is posted on our webpage here:

Posted by Executive Director at 12:47 PM 0 Comments

Saturday, November 25, 2017

2018 NRF Call for Proposals

Regular Call for Proposals Northern Research Fund (NRF) 2018

Northern Research Fund (NRF)Northern Research Fund (NRF) provides opportunities for research in the sciences, social sciences and humanities with emphasis on northern issues. The goal of this program is to enhance field research by professionals working out of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC). The NRF is available to research projects that will lead to increased knowledge relevant to the people living in the North, particularly in the Churchill region. The NRF is a matching funds program, meaning the award takes the form of matching user- and vehicle-days (as available) for successful applicants, to offset the cost of accommodation at the CNSC. Researchers from all disciplines are encouraged to apply; priority for funding is given to new researchers and students. The NRF 2018, available through the application process, is anticipated to consist of 250 user days and 100 vehicle days. For more information, including the application and program guidelines, please go to:

The application deadline is January 12, 2018. 

Special Calls for Proposals Northern Research Fund (NRF) 2018

In addition to the regular 2018 call for proposals, the CNSC is issuing a special call for research projects in the following category. Potential applications are eligible for the standard NRF program, as well as the special call. Please complete only one application per project.

1. Manitoba Conservation Polar Bear Research funding

As part of a long-term commitment to the Churchill region, Manitoba Conservation is partnering with the NRF program to support research programs regarding polar bears that meet the following criteria:

1)      The project should directly involve graduate students and funding through this special call is meant to provide financial assistance to graduate students

2)      The project should be applied research that relates to the function of the Polar Bear Alert program in the Town of Churchill and surrounding regions.  The project may also be curiosity based research if it is a component of a broader multi-year research project that results in a management application

3)      The project should focus on the sustainability of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population. 

Applicants will use the standard NRF application form. Please indicate in the relevant space that you wish to be considered for the “Manitoba Conservation” special call. Potential awards include accommodation (user days) and vehicle support (vehicle days) at the Centre and monetary support.

Successful recipients will be required to recognize the supplemental funding on publicly displayed materials and provide an NRF research report at the end of the annual funding cycle. 


Information about Funding Institutions


The goal of the Northern Research Fund (NRF) is to enhance research conducted by researchers using the facilities and services of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC). The fund is available to assist researchers in meeting the financial needs of projects that will lead to increased knowledge relevant to the people living in the North, particularly in the region around Churchill. The CNSC appreciates the long-term financial support of Manitoba Conservation for this program.  

Posted by Executive Director at 8:31 AM 0 Comments

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens

Not Throwing Away My Shot: Wildlife Photography and the Opportune Moment

By Karin Murray-Bergquist

                The click of cameras, and the splash of waves, sound through the air as the current Learning Vacation gets under way. Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens is a five-night-long whale adventure, combining photography and marine biology as means to observe these toothed, but hardly ferocious, animals. But observing the whales and finding the right photo opportunity are two distinct challenges, requiring both attention and skill.

                Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) are distinctive creatures: their ability to turn their heads from side to side is unusual in a whale, whose cervical vertebrae are usually fixed, and they can swim backwards, another rare trait. They are naturally playful, curious, and agile, not to mention talkative. Despite having no vocal cords, they can produce sound through their blowholes as well as through their mouths, using the fat deposits in their heads to direct it. Their nickname, ‘canaries of the sea,’ attests to their range of sound – the squeaks, chirps, and clicks by which they interact. On our estuary tour aboard zodiac boats the captain deployed hydrophones to broadcast the underwater soundtrack. The next water-based excursion the belugas’ characteristic noises were not noted as we kayaked around the Churchill River in search of them, but they did surface several times, playing with the rudders of the boats and blowing bubbles under the water.

                Being close to belugas in the wild is a study in surprises. Like any wildlife, their movements are only partially predictable, and their reaction to the presence of humans varies with many factors. Watching underwater wildlife adds an element of uncertainty, especially when water clarity is low, and belugas can surface seemingly out of nowhere. The young whales were curious: their grey backs broke through the waves right beside the kayaks, exhaling in a short puff of spray. The adults stayed, for the most part, further away, and with a bit of wishful thinking, every whitecap could be mistaken for the back of a beluga far off in the distance. (The temptation to cry ‘Flukes!’ is overwhelming but inaccurate – these whales only rarely lift their tails out of the water.)  

                The migration path of the western Hudson Bay beluga population takes the whales northward in the winter, to feed on Arctic and polar cod in Hudson Strait. Kristin Westdal, marine biologist and Learning Vacation instructor, has been working with this group of whales for several years, tracking individual animals to learn of their migration patterns.

                Just as illustrative are the accounts of elders in northern communities, who provide a link to previous generations through stories passed down from their parents. The presence of the predatory orcas, in the high arctic regions, goes back several generations, as evidenced in oral tradition and art. In the Hudson Bay region, however, these whales are a much newer phenomenon. With less sea ice to block their passage, and a tempting concentration of belugas to hunt, they have been seen far more frequently of late, and the stories about them are fewer and more recent.

                Belugas themselves have been hunted by Inuit communities for centuries, pursued among other things for their maktaaq – the blubber that makes up 40% of their bodies, and is often described as mamaqtuq, meaning ‘delicious.’ The whales’ preference for ice means that, like their close relative the narwhal, they are present in the Arctic throughout the year. Still, with their resemblance to the ice and the brief time they spend at the surface, they would make a difficult quarry.

                It certainly holds true when seeking them with a camera. Chris Paetkau, founder and CEO of Build Films as well as Learning Vacation instructor, encourages the group to rise to the challenge. Every evening, Kristin’s talk on the science of belugas is followed by Chris’s talk on photography, specifically of wildlife and whales. Seeing Chris’s spectacular underwater shots can seem daunting, but his instructions are clear: watch for your moment, and get up close. No matter what kind of camera you have from cell phone to professional, it’s possible to compose a good shot. Technique matters just as much as opportunity.


                Over the course of their stay, guests will hone the art of finding their moment. Every day brings new adventures, and with them, new points of curiosity. In photography and science alike, the power of observation counts for much, and there’s no better way to learn that than going out among the whales. 

Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens 

Photograph by Evan Roberts

Karin Murray-Bergquist is a writer, a sailor, and a Masters of Arts in Viking and Medieval Norse Studies. She is spending the summer in Churchill after studying at the University of Iceland.

The Churchill Northern Studies Centre has just opened registration for next year's Learning Vacation- Belugas in the Bay: Through the Camera Lens. The program will run from June 22 - 27, 2018. We also have another Beluga program running from July  Visit our website to enroll or email for further details: -20% of the program tuition is all that's required to ensure your reservation for an incredible experience! 

Posted by Executive Director at 1:38 PM 0 Comments