Station Manager:
Dylan McCart

TA/RA contacts:
Dylan McCart


Station Name: Churchill Northern Studies Centre
Station Owner: Churchill Research Centre Inc.


The CNSC is an accessible northern field research station, open year-round, in Canada. It is located in a transition zone where the northern extent of the boreal forest meets the southern edge of the arctic tundra; it is also near the Churchill River, where freshwater enters the marine ecosystem of Hudson Bay (58°44N, 94°49W). This convergence of ecosystems (forest, tundra, taiga, freshwater, estuary and marine) provides an incredibly wide array of representative environments for study. As a community-based organization in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, we serve Canadian universities, government agencies and international organizations.


Churchill, Manitoba, Canada is located on the west shore of Hudson Bay, 110 kilometres from the Manitoba-Nunavut. It is most famous for the many polar bears that move toward the shore from inland in the autumn, leading to the nickname “Polar Bear Capital of the World” that has helped its growing tourism industry. The landscape around Churchill is influenced by shallow soils caused by a combination of subsurface permafrost and bedrock formations.  Churchill is also located at the northern edge of the Hudson Bay Lowland ecoregion.  Churchill has a subarctic climate with long very cold winters, and short, cool to mild summers. The prevailing wind direction is from the northwest. Churchill’s winters are colder than a location at a latitude of 58 degrees north should warrant, given its coastal location. The shallow Hudson Bay freezes, eliminating any maritime moderation.


Established in 1976, the mission of the CNSC is “to understand and sustain the north.” This vision is implemented through the promotion of northern research, developing and supporting educational opportunities, and serving as a vehicle for dialogue about northern issues. As such, our client base is diverse. With respect to research, the Centre facilitates the work of between 100 and 175 researchers annually. In addition, we host citizen science research programs funded by Earthwatch Institute under the “Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge” program led by Drs. LeeAnn Fishback and Steve Mamet in all four seasons of the year. We deliver informal adult learning vacations focused on polar bears, birding, and northern lights. Institutionally, the CNSC has over 7,000 members, of which 2,400 are in good standing. Our membership draws from all Canadian provinces, US States, and over 50 other countries.

The CNSC operates year-round with 9 full-time year-round staff and 4-10 part-time and seasonal employees. With over 40 years of experience in arctic research, including science outreach, the Centre is well positioned to continue our operations in the Subarctic. The Centre operates primarily on a fee-for-services basis with less than 10% of its annual $1.5 million budget coming directly from government grants or subsidies.


Major research conducted through the CNSC include auroral research, climate change, climatology, greenhouse gas emissions, inland water quality, marine ecosystems, northern ecology, peatland and treeline dynamics, snow pack dynamics, and wildlife management.


The nearest community is the Town of Churchill.  It is located 23 km away from the CNSC. Churchill has a population of 899 people and is located on the west coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba. The town of Churchill grew from a gathering point (circa 4000 B.P.) to a remote outpost of the Hudson Bay Company on the west side of the Churchill River to a bustling seaport with the construction of the Hudson Bay Railroad and Port of Churchill on the east side of the river in the late 1920s. Through much of the 1950s and 1960s, the town was a thriving military community servicing Fort Churchill and the Churchill Research Range. Churchill’s economy today is based on four main pillars: tourism, transportation, health and research.

The community also possesses a rich cultural history with the intersection of three aboriginal peoples (the Caribou Inuit, the Sayisi-Dene and the Maskêkô-winniwak or Swampy Cree) and, following the establishment of a Hudson Bay trading post, become home to a significant Métis population. European settlers, the Canadian and US military, and currently a temporary labour force with ties stretching to Australia and Southeast Asia round out the population of Churchill. The connection with the land and the confluence of the marine, tundra and boreal biomes is strong in the region and has long attracted travellers.


Access to the station is by rail (using VIA Rail Canada from Winnipeg or Thompson, Manitoba) or by air (using Calm Air from Winnipeg or Thompson, Manitoba). Rail travel from Winnipeg is 36 hours whereas a flight is 2 hours on jet service provided by Calm Air. Freight can be shipped to Churchill using Gardewine North and arrives once per week via freight train or can be brought in by air transport. Field transportation once in Churchill can be done with vehicles using the approximately 50 km of road network in the regions. More remote use can be accomplished by ATV, snowmachine or helicopter. Camping and long-distance hiking is not recommended due to the presence of polar bears in the region.


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