Arctic research to expand
MCGILL BACKGROUNDER: McGill researchers join international consortium supported by refitted icebreaker.
McGill geochemist Alphonso Mucci and biologist Neil Price are joining a major international consortium of Arctic scientists which will benefit from a state-of-the-art icebreaker funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($27.7M) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada ($3M). An additional $10M from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) will support a multi-year project whose administrative centre will be at Laval University, to study the ecosystem and climate impacts of melting ice in the Arctic Ocean.
The multi-level funding was announced today in Quebec City by Allan Rock, Minister of Industry and the minister responsible for NSERC and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)., and Georges Farrah, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Ocean. The Sir John Franklin, which has been refitted to carry out work in the Arctic, is funded by the CFI under its International Joint Ventures Fund, and the research carried out onboard the ship will receive collaboration from scientists in Britain, the U.S. and Japan, as a start.
The icebreaker, a former Canadian Coast Guard vessel, will be the research platform for the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES), a network of Arctic researchers. Four federal departments (Fisheries and Oceans, Environment, Natural Resources, Defence), and the Canadian Museum of Nature are other members of CASES.
Professor Alphonso Mucci, who will be on sabbatical from McGill next year, leaves September 3, 2003 for a 42-day research mission aboard the Franklin. The ship will be away for a year, much of the time ice-locked in Arctic waters east of the MacKenzie River in the Beaufort Sea. Mucci will be analysing the carbonates in the sea water to see whether that area of the northern oceans is "a source or a sink of carbon dioxide", in his terms, and also how the carbon dioxide varies seasonally. His second project will examine sediment in the region.
There will be 38 scientists aboard the Franklin, and Mucci's graduate students will take over his project at the end of the first leg. Since global warming in the Arctic is of major international concern, analysis of the carbonates will increase our understanding of climate change.
Biologist Neil Price says his first use of the vessel will be "to study nutrient loading from the MacKenzie River to the shelf ecosystem and its relative importance for total and new primary production." He adds, "our long-term interests are in understanding the biological consequences of environmental change in the Arctic."
Today's announcement reflects in part the Government of Canada's recently announced commitment to the revitalization of northern science research.