Canada Research Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology
Tier 2 - 2003-06-01
Natural Sciences and Engineering
514-398-4086, ext. 089457
Exploration and research of fossil animals as they pertain to evolution and paleontology.
Research on significant climate shift in the Canadian Arctic during the Mesozoic Era may have important applications to modern communities experiencing climate shifts.
How Ancient Ecosystems Tracked Shifting Climates in the Canadian Arctic
The Mesozoic (250 million years ago to 65 million years ago) witnessed a significant climate shift in the Canadian Arctic. During this era the continents separated and the Arctic climate transformed from hot savannah to tropical forest, and then to temperate forest. There were also major changes among fauna worldwide as a variety of animals-including dinosaurs and the ancestors of modern mammals-became extinct and most modern vertebrates such as mammals, birds, crocodiles, lizards, snakes and turtles came into being.
Dr. Hans Larsson contends that fossils lying undisturbed in the Canadian Arctic contain unique features not found in fossils in regions where the climate during this era was more stable. In addition to building our understanding of Mesozoic life in general, Dr. Larsson's research as Canada Research Chair in Vertebrate Paleontology may shed light on long-term trends in ecosystems related to climate change.
Over a period of five years, Dr. Larsson will lead expeditions to locations in Nunavut, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, including Axel Heiberg, Bank and Bylot Islands. If some of these previously uncharted regions are found to have outstanding fossil resources, plans will be made in consultation with local communities and government to preserve the scientific nature of the locality. A similar project resulted in UNESCO'S attribution of Heritage Site status to Alberta's Dinosaur Provincial Park.
While conducting his fieldwork, Dr. Larsson demonstrates concern for local heritage and the environment and looks to local individuals and communities for guidance and logistical support. In this way his fieldwork provides job experience for individuals in northern communities. Fossils recovered from the Arctic will be taken to the fossil lab at McGill's Redpath Museum for preparation. Although some will eventually be housed there, many will be returned to the communities where they were found. One of the goals is to encourage an interest in the area's natural history, as well as to provide educational opportunities for those who are interested. If the finds are important, it is hoped that public facilities will be built to support eco-tourism.