Canadian Polar Commission Annual Report, 2010-2011

 Anne Hamilton

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The Canadian Polar Commission encourages excellence in polar studies by offering an annual scholarship in cooperation with the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS).  The scholarship is awarded to an outstanding doctoral student whose research is interdisciplinary.

Throughout this report we feature our Polar Commission Scholarship winners as well as photographs they have taken during their work in the North.

The Honourable Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street
North Tower, Room 2100
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0H4

Dear Minister:

On behalf of the Canadian Polar Commission, I am pleased to submit to you the Commission’s annual report, which covers the period from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011.

Bernard W. Funston,

Table of Contents

 Hardy Granberg]
Researcher on the Antarctic ice with Emperor penguins;
icebreaker in background [photo: Hardy Granberg]


Established in 1991, the Commission has responsibility for: monitoring, promoting, and disseminating knowledge of the polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic); contributing to public awareness of the importance of polar science to Canada; enhancing Canada's international profile as a circumpolar nation; and recommending polar science policy direction to government.

In carrying out its mandate, the Commission hosts conferences and workshops, publishes information on subjects of relevance to polar research, and works closely with other governmental and nongovernmental agencies to promote and support Canadian study of the polar regions.

The Commission serves as Canada's primary point of contact with the  circumpolar scientific community, and is Canada's adhering body to the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR). In addition, the Commission maintains a liaison with research organizations and institutes throughout the circumpolar world. Work with the international polar science community not only complements the Commission's work with respect to domestic research activities but also provides a means of input into multilateral scientific projects relevant to Canadian interests.

 Marie-Andrée Fallu]Marie-Andrée Fallu won the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship in 2001. She studied microscopic algae and insect larvae from lake bottoms for clues to the effects of climate change. She is currently scientific liaison for the Group for Interuniversity Research in Limnology and Aquatic Environment at Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières. [Photo: Marie-Andrée Fallu].

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Key Accomplishments

Cooperation agreement between Canadian and Argentine polar scientists

The Canadian Polar Commission and Argentina's Dirección nacional del Antártico signed an agreement to facilitate cooperation and exchange between Canadian and Argentine polar scientists. This agreement will assist Canadian scientists in obtaining access to Argentine research infrastructure in Antarctica, and in return, will help Argentine scientists wishing to work in the Canadian Arctic.

Network of operators and managers of northern research infrastructure

Thanks to several years of Commission support and encouragement the operators and managers of northern research infrastructure are developing Terms of Reference for a formal network. By speaking with one voice on priority issues they will be able to bring greater coordination and efficiency to northern research infrastructure operations, reducing costs and improving access for northern researchers.

Interactive map of northern research facilities

The Commission developed a unique interactive map of northern research facilities in Canada that presents up-to-date information on over seventy facilities across the Canadian North. It is now used extensively by Canadian and international scientists.

Canadian National Committee for International Polar Year honoured by Royal Canadian Geographic Society

The outstanding work of the Canadian National Committee for IPY, established by the Commission in 2004, was recognized by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, which awarded it the RCGS 2010 Gold medal.

Canadian National Committee for the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)

The Canadian National Committee for IASC, which was formed by the Commission, has over 40 members from governmental, non-governmental, and indigenous organizations, as well as academic and research institutes. The committee provides a direct link between Canadian northern researchers and IASC, which fosters international collaboration and cooperation in arctic research.

Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship

For over a decade the Canadian Polar Commission has been encouraging excellence in polar studies by offering an annual scholarship to an outstanding doctoral student. The winners have gone on to take their places in the forefront of a new generation of polar researchers. Throughout this report we feature some of our Polar Commission Scholarship winners and their photographs from the field.

 Julie M. Ross]Julie M. Ross was awarded the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship in 2002. For her PhD dissertation, in anthropology, she used archaeological and environmental data to investigate the relationship between environmental change and cultural change in the Canadian Arctic. She is now Territorial Archaeologist for Nunavut. [photo: Julie M. Ross]. 

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Chairperson's Message

The Canadian Polar Commission is at a turning point. For the first 20 years of its existence the Commission has been a relatively low profile, science-oriented body.

However, the vision that led to its creation in 1991 foresaw a time when the polar regions would play a much greater role in national and world affairs. That era is upon us.

In the past five years awareness of the polar regions, particularly the Arctic, has grown exponentially. It is not only the states with Arctic territory and Antarctic research programs that have turned their attention towards the poles. A host of new interests in Europe, Asia and the southern hemisphere are now engaged in scientific research and a growing range of commercial enterprises in the Arctic and Antarctic.  Non-governmental organizations representing diverse interests are also advocating numerous environmental and governance regimes for these regions. 

And of course the people who live in the high North have their own aspirations for their homelands.  Their interests need to be at the forefront of any discussions about the Arctic especially. 

In this new age of polar awareness, where does Canada stand? Canada increasingly needs a national institution to help synthesize the emerging knowledge of the polar regions and to assist in translating this knowledge into relevant and timely services for policymakers, local people, business and industry, academic and scientific groups, and other interested individuals. 

Clearly there is a growing role for the Canadian Polar Commission. It is indeed a national institution dedicated to polar knowledge. Its broad mandate, set out in the Canadian Polar Commission Act, is to promote the development and dissemination of polar knowledge. It is important to note that knowledge is defined in the Act to include indigenous knowledge.  And while the first 20 years have focused mainly on encouraging and supporting science and scientific research, it is clear that in moving forward the Commission needs a broader perspective. 

Not only must we maintain the scientific dimensions of our work, we must embrace the larger scope of polar knowledge that includes social, cultural, economic, political and geopolitical elements. In addition the Commission must contribute to the cooperative efforts of many governmental and other bodies with responsibilities in the polar regions, both nationally and internationally. 

Our goal is to advance Canadian engagement, leadership and authority in the Arctic and Antarctic. As a polar power, Canada needs a national institution that can bring longer-term perspective and continuity to our efforts in this regard. At the same time we can assist in the development of a new generation of individuals to carry on Canada's increasing activities in polar affairs. 

We cannot do this alone. In coming years the networks and partnerships which the Commission builds in the Arctic/North, in Antarctica, in Europe, in Asia and in the southern hemisphere, will be the determinants of our success in advancing Canada's role as a polar nation. 

On behalf of the new Board of the Canadian Polar Commission, it is a privilege to accept these challenges.  We look forward to measureable success in ensuring that the Canadian Polar Commission is a relevant and respected national institution dedicated to development and dissemination of polar knowledge.

Bernard Funston

 E.G. Gregorich]
Tent camp with mountains and glacier in background
[photo: E.G. Gregorich]

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Executive Director's Report

This was a very eventful and productive year for the Canadian Polar Commission, once again due in large part to the Commission's strong partnership with federal departments and non-governmental organizations and the unwavering support of individuals volunteering their time and energy to help the Commission advance knowledge in respect of polar regions. 

In November 2010 the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), announced new appointments to the Canadian Polar Commission Board of Directors. The new members are Bernard Funston (Chairperson), Nellie Cournoyea (Vice-Chairperson) and Barrie Ford, Dr. Martin Fortier, Robert Gannicott, Dr. David Hik, Dr. Rob Huebert, Maxim Jean-Louis, Dr. John Nightingale, and Darielle Talarico. The new Board members bring a vast array of experience and expertise to the Canadian Polar Commission. Their longstanding commitment to developing a better understanding of polar issues will ensure that the Commission continues to be an effective agency on Arctic and Antarctic issues. 

In January the new Board of Directors held their first meeting in Ottawa, where they began to scope out a vision and set priorities for the Commission for the next three years. They continued this work at their second meeting, in March at the Canadian Circumpolar Institute (CCI) offices at the University of Alberta, Edmonton.  At this meeting they also discussed and assessed how the Commission could effectively undertake and deliver on a number of special projects requested by the Minister of AANDC that will help strengthen and advance the Government's Northern Strategy.

 Michael Kral]Michael Kral, a psychologist and medical anthropologist, was the 2003 winner of the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship. His PhD research focussed on suicide prevention among youth in Inuit communities. He is now Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. [photo: Michael Kral]. 

The Canadian Polar Commission undertook a variety of activities this year as part of its mandate to monitor, promote, and disseminate knowledge of the polar regions. Among these was an information session on Canadian Arctic and Antarctic research activities which the Commission held at its office for Mr. Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France. Mr. Rocard is currently Ambassador responsible for International Negotiations for the Arctic and Antarctic Poles.

The Russian Geographic Society hosted a two day conference entitled The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue. The conference focused on policies to support sustainable development in the Arctic and included discussions on the natural environment, economy, infrastructure, safety and security, geopolitics, social and other aspects. The event convened influential politicians and experts from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.  European scientists and public activists, and representatives from NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and other international institutions also participated. The Polar Commission had a key role in the session on the Arctic's natural wealth as a source of the region's prosperity and a reason for cooperation. The conference marked the start of an ongoing process of high-level dialogue among nations involved in the Arctic. Russia intends to build on this forum by making it an annual event. 

 Michael Kral]
An Arctic community [photo: Michael Kral]

The Commission supported and participated in a NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean that was designed to encourage international, interdisciplinary, and inclusive dialogue. Convened at the University of Cambridge, this was a timely opportunity for sovereign Arctic nations to discuss their perspectives and plans in a constructive manner, to seek objectivity in view of diverse interests, and to share insights that will stimulate balanced Arctic Ocean stewardship. 

The study of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and their roles in the Earth system has never been more important, given the changes, with global implications, that the region is experiencing. With this in mind, the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) held its biennial Open Science Conference and the XXXI SCAR Delegates meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August. As Canada's adhering body to SCAR the Commission ensured there was strong Canadian participation at the meeting. A highlight of the meeting was discussion of the new SCAR strategic plan through which the organization re-dedicates itself to its founding values, "to be the leading non-governmental, international facilitator and advocate of research in and from the Antarctic region, to provide objective and authoritative scientific advice to the Antarctic Treaty and others, and to bring emerging issues to the attention of policy makers". 

 Gita Laidler]Gita Laidler won the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship in 2004. She worked closely with Inuit to characterize the importance of sea ice processes, use, and change around three Nunavut communities. She is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University. [photo: Gita Laidler]. 

In 2004, as part of its mandate to contribute to public awareness of the importance of polar science to Canada, the Canadian Polar Commission established a Canadian National Committee for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (IPY). Consisting of 22 members from federal and territorial departments and agencies, indigenous organizations, universities, and research institutes, its role was to ensure that Canadian IPY activities addressed both Arctic and Antarctic regions, involved scientists from a range of disciplines, and maintained a focus on compelling scientific questions. The Commission obtained funding from 10 federal departments and agencies over a five year period to support the activities of the Committee and the operation of its secretariat, located at the University of Alberta. This year the outstanding work of the Canadian National Committee for IPY was recognized by the Royal Canadian Geogrpahical Society (RCGS) and it was awarded the 2010 Gold Medal at the RCGS Gala Dinner in November.  The Commission was proud to be the catalyst for this committee.

 Kate Hennessy]Kate Hennessy, the 2005 Polar Commission Scholarship winner, wrote her doctoral thesis on visual and media anthropology. She worked with northern First Nations communities on participatory web and video projects for language and culture education. She is now Assistant Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser University. [photo: Kate Hennessey].

As Canada's adhering body to the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), the Commission participated in the March 2010 Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) in Nuuk, Greenland. The ASSW's start was dramatic, following shortly after the April eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland and the consequent disruption of travel to many European cities.  Despite this the turnout for the meeting was good, although some had to participate by video link from Copenhagen.  During the IASC Council business meeting elections were held for positions on the Executive Committee. It is a pleasure to congratulate our Canadian Council member, Dr. David Hik, who was elected President. The 2011 ASSW took place in Seoul, Republic of Korea, in March, and the Commission ensured the participation Canadian experts. With a combination of business meetings and the biennial Science Symposium The Arctic: New Frontier for Global Science, the summit provided plenty of opportunities for international collaboration and combined arctic science, policy and management issues. It also provided an opportunity for Canadians involved in planning the 2012 IPY conference to ex change ideas with international partners.  The International cooperation that IASC fosters is essential to Canadian polar research.

The Polar Commission was also a key player in the Canada's and Europe's Northern Dimensions Seminar. Held in Edmonton at the Canadian Circumpolar Institute (CCI), University of Alberta, it was the second in a series of biennial international seminars on common perspectives and future challenges in the northern re gions of Europe and Canada. Canada and the Nordic nations have common concerns over circumpolar issues, international security and environmental protection, and display a strong sense of shared values and outlook. The seminar focused on geopolitical and legal aspects and provided an opportunity for Canadian and Nordic policy-makers and researchers to present their findings, discuss trends in policy, share their experiences, and offer their perspectives on future challenges. CCI and the Thule Institute were joined by Iceland's Stefansson Arctic Institute and the Northern Re search Forum for this seminar, thereby enlarging the participation of polar institutes and northern organizations. The seminar was supported by the Canadian Polar Commission, the Government of Nunavut, the Embassies of Norway, Finland, and Denmark in Canada, and the Government of Greenland.

As a key component of its mandate to communicate polar research information to Canadians and foster international co-operation in the advancement polar knowledge, the Canadian Polar Commission participated in and organized national and international meetings and workshops, and made presentations at national and international events. The Commission also continued its work with representatives from northern governments, indigenous and northern organizations, northern community members, leading scientists, and operators/managers of northern research facilities to ensure that Canadians see the long-term benefits of IPY: attracting the next generation of polar researchers, informing and increasing public awareness of polar issues, enhancing observation systems and research support facilities, sustaining multidisciplinary research networks, and increasing access to research information. 

In the context of the federal government's renewed focus on arctic science the Commission continues to increase its linkages with federal departments and agencies, and is renewing its efforts to work with indigenous organizations, university scientists, and representatives of territorial governments and northern communities to enhance long-term support of, and capacity for, polar research in Canada and abroad.

These are exciting times in polar science and technology and there are many opportunities to make a significant contribution to the advancement of polar knowledge both nationally and internationally. The Polar Commission needs to continue to lead the polar knowledge debate, and raise flags about important polar issues.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our new Board members on their appointment and welcome them to the Canadian Polar Commission.  I look forward to working with all of you as the Polar Commission enters its 20th year as Canada's national advisory agency on polar affairs.

Steven C. Bigras 

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International Polar Year Legacy

The Canadian Polar Commission has an ongoing commitment to promote, advise, and provide support to International Polar Year (IPY) legacy activities. The Commission participated in the 2010 IPY Oslo Science Conference Polar Science-Global Impact, which brought the polar research community together to celebrate the remarkable accomplishments of IPY 2007- 2008, to discuss research results, and to chart future directions for polar and global science. 

The Polar Commission is now involved in preparations for the third and final IPY conference, From Knowledge to Action, to be held in Montreal in April 2012. The conference will include four main areas: Science Highlights, Science Synthesis and Integration, Knowledge to Action, and Public Engagement.

Canadian Polar Information Network

The Canadian Polar Information Network (CPIN) includes the Researcher's Directory and the Polar Science Forum. The Directory is a who's who of over 2000 Canadian northern and Antarctic experts. Each listing contains contact information, specialty by keyword, and a list of recent publications.

The Polar Science Forum offers researchers a way to stay abreast of new developments, exchange ideas, and engage in online discussions and collaborations.  Membership has grown to about 1700. Subscribers use the Bulletin Board to post and read items of interest to the polar research community, including job opportunities, requests for proposals, new publications, conferences and workshops, field courses, funding, scholarships, and a polar events calendar. The Commission post new items to the Bulletin Board each day.

 Sonia Wesche]
A fishing net is hauled from under a frozen lake [photo: Sonia Wesche]


The Commission published two issues each of its polar science newsletters, Meridian and the Newsletter of the Canadian Antarctic Research Network. Both appear in print and on the Commission website. 

The Commission has developed Meridian into a reliable source of northern information that publishes timely articles written by northern specialists in all fields. Its articles have been used in classrooms, referenced in scholarly journals, books, and reports, and quoted on a variety of websites and blogs. This year leading Canadian polar experts and new polar researchers contributed a wide range of articles on such topics as the dwindling of Canada's arctic caribou populations, the social economy in Labrador Inuit communities, wetlands as a simple and effective wastewater treatment method in the Arctic, Canadian sovereignty rights in the Arctic Ocean, the effects of climate change on arctic storms and coastal erosion, and teacher education in northern Manitoba. Meridian also published reviews of new Canadian northern books. 

 Sonia Wesche]Sonia Wesche was awarded the 2006 Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship. For her doctoral research in Geography, Resource and Environmental Management, she collaborated with the Dene-Métis settlement of Fort Resolution, NWT in a study of traditional knowledge and community adaptation to environmental change. Sonia is now a postdoctoral fellow in Aboriginal environmental health at the University of British Columbia. [photo: Sonia Wesche].

The Commission has worked with the Canadian Committee on Antarctic Research (CCAR) to maintain the high quality of the Newsletter of the Canadian Antarctic Research Network, the voice of Canada's Antarctic science community. This year it presented articles and reports on topics including the Arctic-Antarctic research exchange agreements between the governments of Canada and the U.K. and between the Canadian Polar Commission and the Instituto Antártico Argentino; on the relationship between Antarctic ice, air currents, and climate; Antarctic logistics; Canadian artists in Antarctica; and Canadian place names in Antarctica.

Outreach and Collaborations

The Canadian Polar Commission collaborates with the university community through the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS) and scientists from institutions across the country.  The Commission sits on the committees of the Canadian Northern Studies Trust and the Northern Science Training Program, and works with research and educational bodies including the Arctic Institute of North America, the Canadian Circumpolar Institute, and ArcticNet. 

The Commission was a sponsor of ArcticNet's seventh annual scientific conference, held in Ottawa in December 2010. Canada's largest annual arctic science conference, the event this year included over 150 oral presentations and 165 scientific posters from all fields of arctic research, reflecting the multidisciplinarity of ArcticNet's program. The new Commission Chairperson Bernie Funston spoke to a plenary session on the final day on the search for balance in sustainable development in the Arctic.

The Commission continued as facilitator of the network of Canadian operators and managers of northern research facilities, and hosted the seventh meeting of operators and managers in Ottawa in February, in partnership with the Arctic Science Policy Directorate (AANDC). The first day of the two-day meeting was devoted to discussions on improving infrastructure capacity, and progress reports of the station renovations and upgrades made possible by the Arctic Research Infrastructure Fund (ARIF). On the second day participants discussed ways to increase scientific capacity in the context of regional research agendas. 

 Laurie Buckland]
Bloody Falls, Coppermine River, Nunavut [photo: Laurie Buckland]

Members agree that the Commission's support over the years has been instrumental in helping this network become effective. They are now looking to become a more formal network by developing Terms of Reference, and will speak as one voice to address priority areas. They continue to look to the Commission for support and encouragement.

The Polar Commission will continue in its role of facilitator for the network and to serve as its secretariat for the foreseeable future. The Commission will provide communication through the CPIN Forum, and maintain the interactive map of northern research facilities which appears on the CPC website and the website of the international Forum of Arctic Research Operators (FARO).

The Polar Commission has maintained its linkages with federal departments and agencies, and works with indigenous organizations, university scientists, and representatives of territorial governments and northern communities to enhance long-term support and capacity for northern research in Canada and internationally. The Commission has continued working on federal committees including the Interdepartmental Network on International Science and Technology and the Canadian High Arctic Research Station Experts and Users Group.

This year the Polar Commission again sponsored a student award at the doctoral level, in cooperation with the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies. The award honours excellence in interdisciplinary polar research, and the winner is expected to present his or her research results at a major national or northern forum. This year's winner was Colin Yates, a University of Waterloo Planning student who is investigating the use of wetlands to treat wastewater in arctic communities. His research is showing that wetlands are a simple, inexpensive, and effective alternative to sewage treatment plants in the North.

 Emilie Cameron]In 2007 the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship was awarded to geographer Emilie Cameron. Her research focussed on stories of the 1771 Bloody Falls massacre, an event reported by Samuel Hearne, and the influence they have had on society in the Central Arctic. Emilie is now Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University. [photo: Emilie Cameron]. 

Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research (CCAR)

The Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research (CCAR) held its Annual General Meeting in December, in Ottawa. One of the main outcomes was CCAR's continued commitment to the implementation of a national Antarctic research program. The Committee, in concert with the Polar Commission, has developed a Canadian Antarctic Research Program (CARP) which clearly outlines Canadian researchers' priorities in Antarctica and proposes a governance structure that includes government and non-government stakeholders.  The document also discusses the cost of such a program.

A key component of CARP is international partnerships and collaboration. It is important to recognize the bi-polar linkages that connect the Earth's global systems. There is great value in the extended knowledge provided by integrating scientific results from both polar regions. CCAR and the Commission are working to promote CARP, keeping in mind that the knowledge gained from Antarctic research contributes to our understanding of the Canadian Arctic.

 Tristan Pearce]Tristan Pearce was awarded the 2008 Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship.  For his PhD dissertation he investigated the generation and transmission of environmental knowledge and land skills in adaptation to climate change in Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories.  Tristan is now a Vanier Doctoral Scholar with the Global Environmental Change Group, Department of Geography, University of Guelph [photo: Tristan Pearce].


International Arctic Science Committee (IASC)

The International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), a non-governmental, international scientific organization, encourages and facilitates international cooperation in Arctic research. Representing Canada on the IASC council is Dr. David Hik, who was elected president of the organization at Arctic Science Summit Week in April. 

The Canadian Polar Commission supported and played an important role in an IASC workshop which brought together, for the first time, all the members of the five Working Groups - Social and Human, Terrestrial, Marine, Atmosphere and Cryosphere. These were established by IASC Council in 2010 to identify and formulate science plans, act as scientific advisory boards, and assist IASC in implementing its science mission. 

During the three day intensive workshop, held in January at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, Germany, headquarters of the IASC Secretariat, each Working Group was charged with summarizing the state of research in its field, discussing possible gaps in research, and identifying priority areas of attention.  They were also asked to identify emerging cross-cutting issues which may be of interest to more than one Working Group. A summary report of the workshop is now available.

The third meeting of the Canadian National Committee for IASC was held during the ArcticNet Conference mentioned above. The Committee fosters better collaboration and greater information exchange within the Canadian arctic science community, and ensures that Canada is well represented at Arctic Science Summit Weeks and that Canadian representatives appointed to the various IASC Scientific Standing Committees and Action Groups have sufficient resources to attend meetings and workshops. The purpose of the meeting was to provide members with an overview of IASC activities and new developments, and to discuss Canada's participation at the Arctic Science Summit Week 2011 in Seoul, South Korea.

 Anne Hamilton]
Field camp on the Arctic tundra [photo: Anne Hamilton]

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR)

The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) held its biennial Open Science Conference and the XXXI SCAR Delegates Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in August.  

SCAR holds delegates meetings to set research priorities, review progress, and conduct operational business. At these meetings the delegates, representing the 36 member nations and nine scientific unions interested in Antarctic research, approve finances and formulate policy and strategy. At the Buenos Aires meeting delegates reviewed and commented on a new SCAR strategic plan that covers the six-year period from 2011 to 2016. 

This meeting also marked an important milestone for the Commission and the Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research (CCAR) in the development and implementation of a Canadian Antarctic Research Program (CARP). One important aspect of CARP is the development of research partnerships with other nations doing research in Antarctica. At the Buenos Aires meeting the Canadian Polar Commission and the Instituto Antártico Argentino signed a Letter of Agreement to facilitate cooperation between Canadian and Argentine Arctic and Antarctic scientists.

Canada and Argentina have many areas of mutual interest in the complementary areas of Arctic and Antarctic science. Canada has a long and distinguished history of Antarctic research, but has no Antarctic facilities of its own. This agreement, concluded at the request of scientists from the Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research and the Instituto Antártico Argentino will assist Canadian scientists in obtaining access to Argentine science infrastructure in Antarctica, and in return, will help Argentine scientists wishing to work in the Canadian Arctic. There is great value in the extended knowledge provided by integrating scientific results from both polar regions.

 Anne Hamilton]Anne Hamilton, the 2009 Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship winner, is a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Manitoba. Through her research she seeks to understand where on Baffin Island the Paleo-Eskimos—the earliest inhabitants of the North American Arctic—found the stone for their tools, and whether they obtained it by travelling to the source or through trade [photo: Anne Hamilton].  

Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)

The Commission has been monitoring the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON) group, which seeks to develop an international network of longterm, coordinated, pan-arctic observing and data sharing systems that provide information on environmental systems and socio-economic change.

The SAON steering group includes representatives of the eight Arctic countries, permanent participants in the Arctic Council, and Arctic Council working groups, as well as members from IASC and the World Meteorological Organization. It is also connected to the arctic science, observing and data management activities and interests of the non-Arctic countries, as well as to global observing systems. Canada has produced a comprehensive inventory of arctic observing networks.

The Commission has agreed to provide organizational support to the Chair of the National SAON Coordinating Committee, which holds a meeting by teleconference once per year to prepare the Canadian presentation to the annual SAON Council meeting. Commission Board member David Hik is a co-chair of SAON.


The Canadian Polar Commission participated in meetings of the UNESCO Sectoral Commission on Natural, Social and Human Sciences, held by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCU). The CCU operates under the patronage of the Canada Council for the Arts, located in Ottawa, and carries out its duties on an ad hoc basis, meeting three to four times per year. The CCU has also expressed a strong interest in learning more about northern circumpolar science, and they have expressed interest in becoming involved in the IPY legacy in the areas of outreach and communication.  The Polar Commission is assisting with this initiative.

 Colin Yates]Colin Yates, a student in Planning at the University of Waterloo, was awarded the Canadian Polar Commission Scholarship in 2010. He is researching the use of wetlands to treat waste water in arctic communities [photo: Colin Yates].

Northern Research Forum

The Polar Commission has been an active member of the Northern Research Forum (NRF) since its establishment in 1999. The NRF facilitates research on issues and problems that are relevant to the contemporary Northern and Arctic agenda and have global significance. It provides an international platform for an effective dialogue between members of the research community and a wide range of stakeholders.  The 6th Northern Research Forum Open Assembly, "Our Ice Dependent World", will focus on the effects of reductions in terrestrial and marine ice, caused by global warming, on environments and people around the world. Hosted by the University of Akureyri, it will take place in Hveragerdi, southern Iceland, in September 2011.

Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum that provides a mechanism to ad dress the common concerns and challenges faced by the Arctic governments and the people of the Arctic. The Canadian Polar Commission continues to help Canada fulfill its commitment to supporting the Arctic Council (AC) by participating in the Canadian AC Core Working Group.


The Commission has a working relationship with GRID-Arendal, the key polar centre for the United Nations Environment Program. 

The Commission provides office space as an inkind contribution to help Canada meet its commitment to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project, ECORA: An Integrated Ecosystem Approach to Conserve Biodiversity and Minimize Habitat Fragmentation in the Russian Arctic. The overall objective of ECORA is to establish integrated ecosystem management (IEM) strategies and action plans in three model areas, Kolguev Island, the Lower Kolyma River, and the Beringovsky District. A report on the project results will be prepared for presentation to the 2011 Arctic Council Ministerial meeting. Plans are underway to develop a follow-up project proposal that will focus on conserving biodiversity in a changing Arctic.

 Tristan Pearce]
A person stands on a snow-covered esker [photo: Tristan Pearce]

The Ottawa office coordinates the Many Strong Voices program (MSV) which brings together people and organizations from the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The goal is to influence global climate change negotiations and ensure that adaptation measures are developed that manage the impacts of climate change on these vulnerable regions. Major achievements in 2010 include the Portraits of Resilience photo exhibit at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, and engaged students in Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Kiribati. MSV also held a successful side event at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun and launched comparative research on Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Climate Change and Food Security, and Human Rights and Forced Migration. 

GRID-Arendal and the Commission are collaborating on a global scale, UNEP-led project to provide a state-of-the-knowledge assessment of methane gas hydrates. One important area in this assessment is the Arctic, where Canada has become a world leader with Japan on the advancement of natural gas production from gas hydrates. The UNEP project will provide a multi-thematic overview of the key aspects in the gas hydrate debate for both the land-based Arctic deposits and those in the marine environment. Considerable progress has been made in the development of this project and the Commission is playing a key role on the project's international steering committee, as content provider to the chapter on social perspectives and as a liaison with Natural Resources Canada. The Commission has been providing expertise as an inkind contribution to the project.

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Bernard Funston (Chairperson)
Nellie Cournoyea (Vice-Chairperson)
Barrie Ford
Martin Fortier
Robert Gannicott
David Hik
Rob Huebert
Maxim Jean-Louis
John Nightingale
Darielle Talarico


Steven Bigras, Executive Director
Sandy Bianchini, Administrative Assistant
Jean-Marie Beaulieu, Senior Advisor, Polar Science
John Bennett, Manager, Communications and Information
Laurie Buckland, Polar Research Analyst
Tom Egan, Financial Consultant

Translation by Suzanne Rebetez

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