Erika Hille, a special projects coordinator and librarian at the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) and a Queen’s University PhD candidate, has won a $10,000 scholarship to help her research in the North.
Working for ARI for nine years but originally from Toronto, Hille has “always been interested in the Arctic.” She came to Inuvik on an academic internship during her master’s degree and never left.
“The freshwater systems are so unique and dynamic, I just find them very interesting to study,” she said.
The Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies awards the Polar Northern Resident Scholarship based on academics, benefits of the research, originality, innovation, and commitment to polar studies.
Hille says the money will help to fund her research on the impacts of permafrost thaw on freshwater systems, focusing on the Beaufort Delta region.
“I was just really happy to be recognized by them and to have them think that I was a worthwhile researcher to support,” she said.
Her research looks at factors that influence water quality and permafrost landscapes, in addition to looking at how important permafrost thaw is to water quality.
Understanding the behaviour of permafrost as the climate changes is considered a vital part of efforts to cope with the NWT’s changing environment. The territory is said to be warming at about three times the average global rate.
“The gap my research is filling is what other factors are influencing water quality, and I think that understanding that will really help to mitigate the impacts of our changing landscape,” Hille said.
“It will give us a better idea of what factors are controlling water quality and permafrost landscapes, and how important permafrost is.”
Having to leave her position at ARI temporarily to finish her PhD, she says the help she is getting from the institute and the scholarship will allow her to focus on the research full-time without having to worry about her finances.
“It’s good for someone in my situation because I have two kids,” she said. “Living in the North is not cheap, so having that extra support is really nice.”