Historic investment creates Ocean Frontier Institute

Memorial researchers and graduate students are undertaking some of the world’s most ambitious research aimed at unlocking the secrets of the North Atlantic.

In September 2016 the federal government announced nearly $100 million for the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), an historic partnership between Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). The OFI is focused on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development.

[This] marks a truly unprecedented era in research innovation at Memorial as our university moves from world class to world leader.President Kachanoski

The federal funding will allow Memorial to leverage millions more from industry, government, other partners and the university.

Group Photo: Carey Bonnell, President Kachanoski, Dr. Mark Abrahams, Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Christopher Mitchelmore, Iris Petten, Nick Whalen and Marlies Rise

From left are Carey Bonnell, Marine Institute; President Kachanoski; Dr. Mark Abrahams, Faculty of Science; Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Faculty of Science; Minister Christopher Mitchelmore, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador; Iris Petten, Board of Regents; Member of Parliament Nick Whalen, Government of Canada; and Marlies Rise, Office of the Vice-President (Research) at the St. John's launch event for the OFI.

‘Unprecedented era in research’

Speaking at a launch event on Memorial’s St. John’s campus, Dr. Kachanoski said the initiative will have a transformative effect on Memorial University.

“Today marks a truly unprecedented era in research innovation at Memorial as our university moves from world class to world leader, engaging with global partners on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development,” he said. “This shared federal investment with Dalhousie and the University of Prince Edward Island will boost our partnership’s unmatched research strengths relating to oceans, including offshore fisheries, aquaculture and sustainable coastal communities.”

Unique partnership

Memorial, Dalhousie and UPEI will work together with four of the top five ocean institutes in the world, as well as partners in the Government of Canada’s federal laboratories, the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Film Board of Canada and national and international industry.

Through its unique partnership with its research partners, Memorial will lead breakthroughs in four key areas: sustainable fisheries; sustainable aquaculture; marine safety; and ocean data and technology.

Dr. Richard Marceau, Memorial’s vice-president (research) until his sudden passing in fall 2016, was a tireless champion for the OFI.

“The OFI will be the North Atlantic’s first transnational research organization and one of the world’s most significant ocean science research collaborations,” said Dr. Marceau at the time of the institute’s launch. “Its aim is to understand how climate change is affecting the ocean’s relationship with the atmosphere; how this is affecting the ocean ecosystem and the very rich life we find there; and break new ground in our quest for the safe and sustainable use of oceans resources.”

Prime real estate for OFI

Memorial’s OFI will be housed in prime real estate at the university, including on the main floor of the new Core Science Facility. There will be additional space for an aquatics facility where researchers will conduct important work on salmon species, as well as space at the Ocean Sciences Centre in Logy Bay and the Marine Institute.

Memorial’s joint OFI initiative with Dalhousie and UPEI will also help attract and retain world-leading research talent to Canada and advance the region’s position as a centre of ocean-related teaching and learning.

The investment was made through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). In total, the federal government announced $900 million in funding on Sept. 6, 2016, and the OFI received the largest amount of funding awarded in that round of competition. CFREF strategically invests in areas where Canada’s post-secondary research institutions have a real competitive advantage and can become global leaders in their respective fields.


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