Threatened Arctic lab aided by ordinary citizens
Federal government ended funding for PEARL research lab
If the Canadian government won't help to keep the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) open then hopefully ordinary Canadians will.
So far, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS) has received about $300 from ordinary citizens concerned about the closing of the research laboratory near Eureka, Nunavut.
"We've had donations that range from $25 to $125," says Dawn Conway, executive director of the CFCAS. "It won't keep the station open but enough of them would. It's a drop in the bucket but hopefully that bucket will be filled with other drops."
PEARL's yearly budget was about $1.5 million, the bulk of which came from Conway's foundation. When the federal government decided not to continue funding CFCAS, PEARL took the hit.
On Tuesday, PEARL's principal investigator told CBC News the station will have to shut down on April 30.
Jim Drummond, a Dalhousie University researcher, says the lab's equipment will be removed and the building will remain available only for intermittent, short-term projects. The station has been tracking ozone depletion, air quality and climate change in the High Arctic since 2005.
That development is of particular concern to some American scientists.
"I think everybody should understand that the data set that has been collected at PEARL over the last many years is extremely valuable. I think Canada should consider it to be a national treasure," argues Taneil Uttal, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Uttal worked with Drummond at the PEARL Station. The lab is part of a network of 10 around the High Arctic that monitors atmospheric data and take measurements of greenhouse gases, clouds and pollutants, among other things.
"There is really only three places in the Arctic right now where we have sufficient measurements to tell us about why the climate is changing," explains Uttal, and PEARL is one of them.
"It's really the gold-plated laboratory of the Arctic, right now," she adds.
Conway believes Canadians understand that — and that explains why they are reaching into their pockets to keep PEARL going.
"I think it shows that the ordinary Canadian is aware of the importance of science and research."