CFI and NSERC funding help to put Canadian Arctic research back on track

Guest Contributor
May 6, 2003

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.


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