Meet Alex Borisenko

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Alex has been involved in ARCBIO from the beginning. He coordinates the project’s research logistics and leads the planning mission to identify sampling sites around Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, in anticipation of the upcoming field season. Alex was part of a team that traveled to Cambridge Bay in summer 2018 to do a pilot survey and to set up plots for future long-term monitoring.

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Q&A with project lead, Dr. Alex Borisenko

Q:  What is your objective for this first ARCBIO trip? 

We’d like to connect with people and organizations that may be interested or have a stake in our project, to inform them about the work we hope to do in the summer and to ask for their input on field sampling design. The local Hunters and Trappers Organizations are among our primary counterparts. We want to make sure there are no concerns and that we maximize the relevance of our planned activities to the questions that they may be asking.

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Q: What is the purpose of ARCBIO as a whole? Why is learning about Arctic biodiversity so important at this moment in time?

Global changes are particularly evident in the Arctic and it is expected that Arctic communities may be disproportionately affected by climatic shifts and increasing economic activity in the North. Fortunately, this is recognized by the Canadian government, which prompted the establishment of Polar Knowledge Canada and its Northern Science and Technology Program. ARCBIO will employ current DNA technology to develop a baseline for the state of arctic biodiversity and set the stage for long-term monitoring efforts. We want to make sure that our project activities serve the needs of communities living in the Canadian Arctic and are informed by them.

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We want to make sure that our project activities serve the needs of communities living in the Canadian Arctic and are informed by them.

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Q: What are you most looking forward to about this trip?`

I am excited to meet new people in Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk, to tell our story, to hear theirs and to learn the local perspective. A key element of our project is building relationships, and it is a great privilege to be here before the planned field season and to make this personal connection. I am absolutely thrilled by the hospitality of the people I met, their reading of the land and the depth of their understanding of issues around arctic biodiversity.


Q: You have a particular interest in small mammals. Is there something more you are hoping to learn about them through ARCBIO, and if so, what?

Definitely. Small mammals have been studied in these areas, but I hope to glean new information on possible range extensions associated with climate change. I expect that DNA analysis would provide new information about their parasites. Small mammals, such as lemmings or voles, are a critical food source for larger furbearers and some birds, and are also a food supplement for local dogs, meaning they are central to questions about wildlife health and disease, which may affect humans as well. In light of the potential for migration from the south, we might be expecting new parasites and pathogens. There are a few species of mammals in the area whose ecology is very poorly known and hopefully ARCBIO will allow us to start gathering new ecological information on these characteristic species of the Canadian Arctic.