Alberta researcher dies working in Grise Fiord
University offering support to students, faculty; circumstances unclear
Nunavut RCMP have confirmed officers are searching for a University of Alberta professor who is believed to have died while working in the field in the high Arctic community of Grise Fiord.
Maya Bhatia, an Arctic researcher in the school’s faculty of science, died Wednesday, according to an email to faculty written by Verna Yiu, the school’s interim provost and vice-president.
“Dr. Bhatia has been an integral part of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the Faculty of Science for a number of years, and this is a devastating loss for the U of A community,” Yiu said.
“The loss of a community member is shocking and upsetting. The university is working closely with community services to support the family, their wishes and affected colleagues.”
The circumstances of Bhatia’s death are not clear at this point.
“The case is currently under the Presumption of Death Act and the researcher is presumed missing,” said Khen Sagadraca, Nunavut’s chief coroner.
“The coroner is not investigating the death until we have a body of the individual and is found deceased.”
Nunavut RCMP are involved in the search for Bhatia’s body.
“An aerial search commenced on Ellesmere Island southeast of Grise Fiord,” spokesperson Sgt. Pauline Melanson said in an email.
“The RCMP in Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay are supporting the Nunavut Emergency Management office on this search.”
No one at the Grise Fiord hamlet office could be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Yiu encouraged staff and students affected by Bhatia’s death to reach out to supports available. The university is offering counselling services.
Bhatia contributed to several research publications in her scientific career, according to her website. Much of her work in recent years has focused on the Grise Fiord area.
Grise Fiord is the northernmost community in Canada, and the smallest in Nunavut with a population of approximately 140.
It is located on Ellesmere Island, approximately 1,500 kilometres south of the North Pole.