Churchill Marine Observatory a Reality

Beluga whale churchill,Manitoba

Beluga whales would be adversely affected by oil spills in the Arctic. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.

The Province of Manitoba provided the final piece of the funding puzzle this week with a $9 million dollar pledge toward the projected $32 million Marine Observatory in Churchill. The main focus of the research carried out at the center will be on oil spills in the north and subsequent mitigation as well as prevention. Fragile Arctic and sub – Arctic wildlife and ecosystems will depend upon protection provided through this research station.

Lead scientist David Barber, a professor at University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair in Arctic systems science, summarized the process leading up to this important announcement; “Everybody’s provided their funding, the project’s moving forward,” he stated. “We just need to finalize who’s going to build the thing. In the next 12 months we hope to get the building put together, functional and operating so it can be used for science .”

The funding will funnel through the University of Manitoba, the lead entity in this venture. A number of western Canadian universities and groups are involved in the massive coordination of budget and vision of the observatory. Manitoba’s commitment brings them all in line now.

With the recent closure of the Port of Churchill by US based Omnitrax, this announcement is a move in the right direction for the town of Churchill and prospective work – force. “This project is an important part of our vision for a strong, diversified northern economy,” stated Ian Wishart, the province’s Education and Training Minister.

Churchill Marine Observatory

Conceptual drawing of the Churchill Marine Observatory. Juliana Kusyk image.

“The Churchill Marine Observatory will create up to 21 permanent jobs, boost tourism and transportation in the region and enhance Manitoba and Canada’s reputation as a world leader in Arctic research,” added Wishart.

The project’s fundraising began in 2014 with three universities led by U of M applying to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation for almost 40 per cent of the needed $31.7 million. Manitoba, Aberta and British Columbia have contributed nearly $12 million with Manitoba being the stalwart at $9 million.

About 20 scientists will be based at the center in Churchill studying potential effects of oil and industry in the Arctic. Upon completion the Churchill Marine Observatory will provide a year – round base for new technology development and scientific research in the north. Universities from north America and Europe will utilize the center for student and faculty training and research as well.

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