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Initiative in the Arctic

Dr. Don Deibel will participate in an international scientific mission in the Canadian high Arctic in the fall of 2003. Dr. Deibel, research professor at the Ocean Sciences Centre of Memorial University, is a biological oceanographer who has been working in the arctic for the past 15 years. He is a co-principal investigator on the CFI award to Laval University to refit the Coast Guard icebreaker, the Sir John Franklin, for arctic marine research.

Dr. Deibel's research in the arctic deals with the role of zooplankton in the carbon and nitrogen cycles of polynyas, which are areas of open water in the midst of ice-covered seas. He is discovering that zooplankton are important in the sequestration of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, by polynyas, and thus is helping to put together a picture of the role of polynyas in global climate change. In 2003-2004, Dr. Deibel and his students will be part of an international team using the newly refitted scientific icebreaker to conduct an annual study of the impact of the Mackenzie River on the carbon cycle of the Beaufort Sea Shelf.

Memorial's participation is made possible following the announcement by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) of an investment of $27.7 million to retrofit an existing icebreaker supplied by the Canadian Coastguard. The research ship will be equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation to undertake environmental and marine sciences in Northern areas that were not previously accessible to international as well as Canada's research communities.

The new icebreaker's first international research mission will be to study the ecosystem impacts of melting ice in the Western Arctic. Funding for the multi-year, multi-university project - almost $10 million - was announced by Industry Minister Allan Rock on behalf of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The vessel will sail in August and over winter in the Beaufort Sea.

"This is welcome excellent news for all members of Canada's research community, but especially for researchers and students at Memorial University, where we concentrate on questions related to harsh, cold environments," said Memorial president Dr. Axel Meisen.


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