Lab Canada

$22M funding supports specialized Arctic research facility

Churchill, MB – The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Manitoba’s provincial government are providing a total of $22.1 million to build a highly innovative research facility to be located in the Port of Churchill, Canada’s only Arctic deepwater port.

The Churchill Marine Observatory will be a multidisciplinary research facility where researchers will study the detection, impact and mitigation of oil spills in sea ice and investigate issues facing Arctic marine transportation. The research will help address technological, scientific and economic issues pertaining to Arctic marine transportation and oil and gas exploration and development throughout the Arctic with the goal of protecting the fragile northern ecosystem.

The special facility will bring together researchers from the universities of Manitoba, Calgary, Victoria, Laval, Dalhousie and Washington and from federal government departments. One of its key features will be two saltwater subpools designed to accommodate various scenarios of oil spills in sea ice simultaneously. Scientists will be able to study oil in actual Arctic seawater and sea ice. An environmental observing system will also be built on the Churchill estuary along the main shipping channel across Hudson Bay and Strait, providing a state-of-the-art monitoring system that will strengthen Canada’s technological capacity to protect the Arctic environment.

“The Churchill Marine Observatory will be a globally unique facility designed to support detailed investigations of oil, and other transportation-related contaminants, in Arctic sea ice using a purpose built Oil in Sea Ice Mesocosm, or OSIM,” said David Barber, project lead and Canada research chair in arctic-system science, University of Manitoba. These small scale OSIM studies will then be upscaled to the entire Arctic using a highly coupled environmental observing system. Taken as an amalgam, the Churchill Marine Observatory will provide new knowledge and environmental technologies required for the detection of oil or contaminant spills in sea ice and the mitigation of their impact, directly benefiting policy development and technological innovation in Manitoba, Nunavut, Canada and, indeed, the circumpolar world.”

The CFI will provide $12.4 million, while the province of Manitoba has committed almost $9.7 million over four years.