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REF NO.: 212

SUBJECT: Four Memorial University geographers to participate in ArcticNet,
DATE: Aug. 21, 2003

Four Memorial University researchers will be participating in ArcticNet, the latest National Centre of Excellence (NCE) announced by the Government of Canada. Alan Rock, minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Networks of Centres of Excellence, announced the funding – $25.7 million over the next four years – earlier today.

"This important investment in ArcticNet will propel Canada at the forefront of research aimed at developing national policies and strategies dealing with the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change in the Arctic, Minister Rock said, adding that "the direct involvement of northerners in the scientific process is a primary goal of the network that will enable northerners and their governments to benefit from the economic and social impacts of an Arctic meltdown."

"The participation of our geographers in this National Centre of Excellence speaks to the outstanding quality of research in Memorial’s Department of Geography," said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research) at Memorial. "It also strengthens our research involvement in an important and environmentally sensitive part of the world, and builds on Memorial’s growing interests in climate change."

Drs. Trevor Bell, Norm Catto, David Edinger and Donald Forbes of Memorial’s Department of Geography, will participate in the NCE, which will connect experts from the natural, medical and social sciences. The Memorial scientists, four among some 90 that will work on the project, will carry out multi-disciplinary cross-sector studies in the high Arctic where negative and positive impacts of climate warming will be felt first and most severely.

Dr. Bell believes that climate change will occur sooner and be more severe in the Arctic than elsewhere in Canada. He and other scientists wonder about how Arctic coasts will respond to such changes in climate and about the related effects. Together with the others on the Memorial team he will carry out research over the next four years to address this important question along a west-east transect from the Beaufort Sea to northern Baffin Bay.

"Our research will focus on the sensitivity of northern coasts to sea-level change, shifting storm tracks, and varying sea-ice conditions related to climate change," Dr. Bell explained. "We will also assess the vulnerability of coastal habitats, communities, and coastal infrastructure to these changes. For example, will changes in coastal dynamics affect traditional lifestyles, contemporary community economies, transportation, and other activities?"

"The knowledge we gain from an understanding of how northern coastal environments will be impacted by future climate change has some relevance to Newfoundland and Labrador," he said. "Our communities and economy, like those in the Arctic, are closely tied to the coast and adjacent marine resources. Although Arctic coasts differ in many ways from our own more temperate setting, our research results will help us to understand how coastal processes in Newfoundland and Labrador may be influenced by future climate change."

Dr. Bell also noted that there will be other benefits for the university by participating in this project. "Our involvement in ArcticNet builds on a broad expertise in Arctic science at Memorial and will increase our research capacity in climate change science," he said. "Our undergraduate and graduate students will benefit from hands-on field experience in Arctic environments and climate change research."

Dr. Tom Brzustowski, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Chair of the Networks of Centres of Excellence Steering Committee, explained: "ArcticNet includes Canada’s best researchers as well as other world-leading specialists. By involving Northerners in the scientific process, ArcticNet will train the next generation of scientists and Northerners urgently needed to ensure the stewardship of a new Canadian Arctic."

About ArcticNet

    Our climate is warming as the sustained combustion of fossil fuels increases the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases that trap solar energy. At the present rate, the complete burn up of the remaining accessible fossil fuels could raise the average temperature of the lower atmosphere by about 8oC in the course of the next two centuries.

    Societies must brace for the full potential impacts of human-induced climate change. Northern societies will be affected first and most seriously because of the Arctic amplification in climate warming. Significant temperature rise in the western Canadian Arctic, a reduction of sea ice over in the Arctic Ocean, and the degradation of permafrost over vast areas tend to confirm that the Canadian Arctic is already changing.

    ArcticNet will contribute the knowledge needed to formulate impact assessments, national policies and adaptation strategies to help Canada face the environmental and socio-economic consequences of an Arctic meltdown.

    The new network was selected following a rigorous and independent review process. Funding was based on a recommendation by the NCE Selection Committee–comprised of international leaders from the natural sciences and engineering sector, and the health and social sciences. An NCE proposal must meet high standards of excellence in each of the following five areas, i.e. how they:

      Carry out their research program in keeping with industry, user sector, university and government priorities;

      Innovate in training students, fellows and other highly qualified employees and market their trainees in the sector that would employ them;

      Contribute to better social and public policies, as well as exchange and exploit knowledge and technology;

      Develop strategies to network and partner with user sectors outside the university community; and

      Manage their activities.

About the NCE Program

    The NCE program seeks to mobilize Canada's best research talent in the university, private and public sectors and apply it to the task of developing the economy and improving the quality of life for all Canadians. It is based first and foremost on research excellence and the power of partnering and networking across the country to maximize impact. Last year, the networks stimulated outside investments of over $87 million, including more than $44 million by participating private-sector companies Prior to the addition of ArcticNet, the NCE program included 19 networks comprising 778 companies, 221 provincial and federal government departments and agencies, 63 hospitals, 155 universities, and more than 327 other organizations from Canada and abroad. For more information on the NCE program visit www.nce.gc.ca.

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