After years of underfunding and neglect, Arctic research is being pushed up the national S&T agenda with the commissioning of a research icebreaker and the funding of a major study of the Arctic Shelf. The Research Icebreaker Project represents a commitment of $70 million in cash and in-kind to the initiative, which was made possible by the creation of an international program by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
Also playing a major role is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) which is devoting $10 million of its hard-pressed cash to support the multi-year Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES). It has a budget of $42 million including $11 million from international participants, as well as contributions from four federal departments.
At the heart of the initiative is the $27.7-million retrofit of the Sir John Franklin icebreaker into a scientific vessel with state-of-the-art research equipment. The CFI is covering 100% of the infrastructure costs through its International Joint Venture Fund, which was approved last year (R$, July 8/02). The vessel will be operated by the Canadian Coast Guard and makes its first journey to the Beaufort Sea this fall. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is contributing $3 million and providing the vessel’s retrofit.
The next 10 years will see the Sir John Franklin support multidisciplinary programs focused on climate change, oceanic circulation, sea-ice dynamics, biology, biogeochemistry, sedimentology, paleoceanography and geology. Dr Louis Fortin, Laval Univ, is the scientific leader of CASES and project leader of the Research Icebreaker Project, backed by a consortium of 15 Canadian universities. International partners are the Scott Polar Research Institute (Univ of Cambridge), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (Japan) and the US Geological Survey.
A major focus of the ASES study will be on variations in ice cover on the Mackenzie Shelf and its impact on the Arctic ecosystem. The study also has a major training component, designed to increase Canada’s small number of researchers devoted to the Arctic.