CARD chair in ice mechanics leads Canadian team in collaborative field research in the Barents Sea

Oct 31st, 2014

By Jackey Locke and Deirdre Greene

Dr. Rocky Taylor working with UNIS team on ice beam fracture experiments.
CARD chair in ice mechanics leads Canadian team in collaborative field research in the Barents Sea

Growing up in Raleigh, NL, a small picturesque town on the Great Northern Peninsula, Dr. Rocky Taylor was literally a stone's throw from the harsh North Atlantic Ocean.

From an early age, he had a limitless "fascination and respect" for his surroundings. It's little wonder that this childhood curiosity about the North is now central to his career as a respected researcher focusing the bulk of his work on the Arctic.

Earlier this year, Dr. Taylor was named the new CARD (Centre for Arctic Resource Development) Chair in Ice Mechanics in Memorial's Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

“It’s a real privilege to take a leadership role in this very important and interesting field of work,” said Dr. Taylor. “Ice loads are a dominant consideration for ships and structures designed for operations in ice-prone offshore regions, and our research spans multiple scales of the ice-structure interaction process. This work ranges from fundamental investigations of the physical mechanisms that limit ice forces during interactions to the development of robust probabilistic methods that can be employed in design practice.

“New frontier regions here in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as throughout the Arctic, hold vast resource potential and yet they also present engineers with some unique challenges. Working every day to build the research programs and to help train the personnel that will be needed to overcome these challenges is a very stimulating and rewarding experience.”

As the CARD Chair in Ice Mechanics, Dr. Taylor conducts research programs within CARD using full-time researchers and graduate students and develops collaborative relationships with other academic and industry-based researchers. 

One such program includes collaborative field work in the Barents Sea where Dr. Taylor led a team of Canadian researchers, who joined in a field program organized by Dr. Aleksey Marchenko based out of the University Centre of Svalbard (UNIS). Dr. Marchenko was a visiting professor at CARD in January 2014. During this field program, the team conducted on-ice field tests and carried out an intensive data collection campaign in an environment that is not only isolated and challenging, but also lacks the communications and transportation infrastructure of more southerly locations. The project was supported by the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Through support from RDC, we were able to take advantage of a great opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues from UNIS to gain valuable data and field experience in the Barents Sea region,” explained Dr. Taylor. “This is crucial in helping build on our capacity to conduct field studies here at home. As new frontier basins in Labrador and Northern Newfoundland begin to open up, having the data and capacity needed to support those developments is vital. That is why another key outcome from such field programs is the training of the next generation of Arctic experts. Opportunities such as this, which allow young engineers and scientists to get ‘boots on the ice’, are essential in providing them with context for their work and in informing their judgment as to whether or not results from lab experiments or simulations are realistic representations of what actually happens in nature.”

The data will be used to identify and document different types of ice features and to validate new techniques for interpreting satellite imagery for the purpose of ice environment characterization, as well as to assess the physical and mechanical properties of sea ice and ice ridges.

Collecting and analysing high-quality field data is a key element of CARD’s five-year research plan. Such data will help improve its understanding of the ice conditions in the Arctic and offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and aid the development of new models and technology to support the development of northern oil and gas resources. This field program’s on-ice data collection campaign will support a number of current and new research projects.

It is expected that the CARD/Memorial participation in the Barents Sea program will be the first of many opportunities for exchange, research and training with Arctic research projects and organizations around the world.

It all adds up to an exciting time in both ice and Arctic research, Dr. Taylor concludes.

"We need to tap into potential new resources," he said. "I want the same opportunities that exist today to be here for my kids in 20 years."




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