Directory Profiles

Dr. David S. Hik


Over the past couple decades, David Hik’s research interests have been focused on the ecology and dynamics of Arctic and mountain environments; determinants of social-ecological resilience; and the interface between science and policy. First has been the long-term study of the adaptation and resilience of alpine mammalian herbivores to climate variability and warming. His team has documented how changes in winter temperatures, the phenology of snow cover, and an increase in woody shrubs can lead to behavioural and physiological shifts that may lead to a reduction in the populations of collared pika, hoary marmot, and alpine ground squirrels above the current treeline. Second, his team is investigating the role of invertebrate herbivores in alpine plant communities. The consequences of increased invertebrate herbivory in tundra and mountain environments are poorly studied and they have begun to unravel the various ways that they influence alpine plants and interact with other species. This work has been expanded to include collaborators across 12 countries through the Herbivory Network. Third, his team has conducted experimental studies to better understand the processes that contribute to the rapid increase in woody shrubs (Salix and Betula) above treeline, including the role of snow and mosses in mediating nutrient cycling in soils. Fourth, his team has been developing tools for scaling from plot and patch based observations to entire landscapes using a variety of optical remote sensing methods on the ground and from space. They have been paying particular attention to heterogeneity across the landscape associated with spatial, interannual, and seasonal variation in albedo, and the implications for feedback processes that contribute to amplification of warming in northern mountain environments. Finally, in 2013 they established the Kluane Lake Watershed Collaboratorium, and initiated a comprehensive series of measurements of the biophysical properties within the entire water column of the lake. The surface area of Kluane Lake is 400 km2 and consequently integrates the changes that are occurring within the entire watershed (glacier runoff, snow pack, surface hydrology and permafrost, vegetation changes, fish, contaminants, human activities). They have recently secured funding for 5 moorings that will deployed in winter 2017. This research is being led by PhD student Ellorie McKnight and conducted in collaboration with Kluane First Nation, Dän Keyi Renewable Resource Council, Yukon Government, Yukon College, the Arctic Institute of North America, and with Heidi Swanson’s group at U Waterloo.

David Hik also teach several courses on Mountains including “The Mountain World: An Introduction to Interdisciplinary Mountain Studies” (INTD280) and “Introduction to Mountain Backcountry Field Skills” (INTD284). He is also been part of the team developing a new MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called Mountains 101, that will be offered for the first time in January 2017 (

Featured Research Summaries

Plant Communities to Curb Climate Warming in Arctic and Alpine Environments

Recent Publications

The accuracy of satellite-derived albedo for northern alpine and glaciated land covers
Williamson SN, L Copland & DS Hik
Polar Science doi:10.1016/j.polar.2016.06.006 (online Jun 2016)

Phenology and species determine growing season albedo increase at the altitudinal limit of shrub growth in the sub-Arctic
Williamson SN, IC Barrio, DS Hik & JA Gamon
Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.13297 (online May 2016)

Herbivory Network: an international, collaborative effort to study herbivory in northern and alpine environments
Barrio IC, DS Hik, IS Jonsdottir, CG Bueno, M Morsdorf & VT Ravolainen
Polar Science doi:10.1016/j.polar.2016.03.001 (online Mar 2016)

Warming the tundra: reciprocal responses of invertebrate herbivores and plants
Barrio IC, CG Bueno & DS Hik
Oikos 125:120–128 (Jan 2016)

First records of the Arctic moth Gynaephora groenlandica (Wocke) south of the Arctic Circle – a new alpine subspecies
Barrio IC, C Schmidt, WD Cannings & DS Hik
Arctic 66:429–434 (Dec 2013)

Shrub canopies influence soil temperatures but not nutrient dynamics: An experimental test of tundra snow-shrub interactions
Myers-Smith IH & DS Hik
Ecology and Evolution 3:3683–3700 (Oct 2013)


UAlberta and Parks Canada Launch Mountains 101 – CBC NEWS / UAlberta / Gateway

A Life of Extremes – UAlberta (New Trail)

Caterpillars’ ‘Leftovers’ Delicious To Mountain Mammal – Inside Science