High Arctic Research Station focus shifts to climate change

Scientists using the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will now be focusing more on climate change than resource development, according to Polar Knowledge Canada.

Liberal government has led to new mandate, says Polar Knowledge Canada

Artist rendering of the design of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, to be completed in 2017. (science.gc.ca)

Scientists using the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will now be focusing more on climate change than resource development, according to Polar Knowledge Canada.

The research station is set to open in 2017 and will be managed by Polar Knowledge Canada, the federal agency that oversees Arctic research.

Polar Knowledge Canada president David Scott said its mandate has changed since the election of the Liberal government.

Under the Harper government, the priority was to study the environment in order to support the development of natural resources, he said. However, this focus has become less important since the decline in commodity prices.

"It has subtly changed towards sustainability rather than strictly resources development," he said.

Scott said the priority is now to study the effects of climate change in the Arctic. The Cambridge Bay station will be open year-round, unlike most research stations, he added.

"Several phenomena that are not well understood happen during winter," he said.

The station will enable scientists to further study flora and fauna as well as the marine environment during winter. Scott said the data gathered will benefit Northerners.

"The application of that new knowledge will be to help the people who live in the North adapt to their changing environment."

Scientists at the University of Alberta are interested by the human side of the research.

"I know there are people at the University of Alberta who will be very much hoping that [the research station] retains a strong focus on the communities of the North," said UAlberta North director Roger Epp.

"There is nothing like Northerners telling you exactly how [global warming] is changing their life."

Epp expects University of Alberta scientists to go to Cambridge Bay.

The construction of the High Arctic Research Station began in 2014.

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