The solution to one of the biggest global issues may be found here at home.
Memorial is playing a vital role in an extensive program aimed at curbing the effects of climate change.
Research teams from various disciplines are participating in the Transforming Climate Action (TCA): Addressing the Missing Ocean, a program recently awarded $154 million from the federal government’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF).
The program is led by Dalhousie University and brings together researchers from Memorial, Université du Québec à Rimouski and Université Laval.
They are embarking on the most intensive investigation ever into the ocean’s role in climate change.
Memorial’s unique location — in the North Atlantic with a rich living laboratory at our doorstep — provides plenty of inspiration.
Dr. Kelly Hawboldt, University Research Professor, Department of Process Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, says many coastal communities around the world, including those in this province, are feeling the impacts of climate change.
“My mother’s family made their life from the ocean, as many coastal communities have,” Dr. Hawboldt said. “I want to see those communities grow and thrive and the healthier the ocean is, the more likely this is.”
Dr. Hawboldt is part of the cross-disciplinary team examining ways to sustainably mitigate climate change impacts on the ocean and those communities that depend on it.
“In the past, researchers studied these areas independently and you really need to look at the whole if you want realistic solutions. Also, any policy development on ocean management requires this multidisciplinary approach. This project does this.”
Dr. Hawboldt says the research is important because for the foreseeable future, the world is going to keep generating carbon while people work on the ocean: whether for shipping, cruises or fish harvesting and processing.
She says we need solutions now to capture that carbon and not just store it, but use it.
“The ocean is critical in the carbon cycle, as well as every other nutrient we need for life. The impacts of climate change on ocean plants and animals are less visible to us but will be felt worldwide. If we don’t understand the potential and try to mitigate them, the outcomes are not just negative for sea life but for the Earth as a whole.”
Oceans’ essential role
Dr. Tyler Eddy, a research scientist with the Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research, Marine Institute, and his team work on sustainable solutions for fisheries and marine resource use in Newfoundland and Labrador and Arctic and global systems.
“Climate change is already affecting fisheries in Canada and an improved accounting of the impacts of climate change will build confidence in our projections of sustainable fisheries solutions,” he said.
Dr. Eddy says being involved with the TCA research will expand that work.
“We are trying to improve our understanding of the carbon cycle and the biological carbon pump, which is important to accurately calculate global carbon budgets and how our planet will respond under varying greenhouse gas emissions scenarios in the future,” he said.
He and a team plan to increase observation of the Labrador Sea and the Gulf of St. Lawrence marine ecosystems, increase resources to model the system and provide capacity for synthesis.
He says the North Atlantic plays an essential role in the ocean carbon cycle, which has absorbed approximately 40 per cent of fossil fuel emissions during the industrial era.
“An improved understanding of how this system works will allow us to more accurately predict our future oceans and future Earth.”
Dr. Kris Poduska, professor, Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography, Faculty of Science, is involved in two different parts of the team, one examining ocean-based climate change mitigation and another focused on adapting equitably.
“These sound like two very different kinds of issues, but they both need to work together to make meaningful change,” she explained.
Dr. Poduska says climate change mitigation and adaptation are urgent, worldwide issues, but each region of the world experiences different impacts.
The project is designed to pool ideas and knowledge from across Atlantic Canada, across many academic disciplines and academic institutions, to tackle these complex and urgent challenges, she says.
“The science research that I do tends to happen in a laboratory setting, so it’s very important to me that I engage with people who could benefit from or be adversely impacted by the technologies that could transpire from the science that I explore.”
For Dr. Poduska, one of the most impactful outcomes of the TCA program will be the highly qualified personnel that will be trained during the course of the research.
“These students and researchers will be the ones who will enter the workforce with creative ideas and teamwork experience in addressing complex challenges,” she said.
‘Transdisciplinary and integrative’
One of those early-career researchers is Dr. Evan Andrews, a post-doctoral research fellow in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“The goal of our cluster is to develop solutions for coastal mitigation and adaptation that advance equity and justice, with a focus on coastal communities and marginalized ocean users,” said Dr. Andrews.
He says there is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in ocean futures shaped by climate change, particularly when you take humans and their struggles for equity and justice into account.
Dr. Andrews will work with colleagues on the design and governance of coastal mitigation and adaptation solutions in Eastern Canada.
The research is unique, significant, and timely, he says, thanks to the focus on solutions and securing those solutions in coastal and ocean governance setting them apart from conventional research about climate change.
“We want to understand how to foster the governance that matters to coastal communities and other marginalized ocean users and leaders, addressing the shifting carrying capacity of the environment, as well as many different human dimensions.”
Dr. Andrews says the research is “truly transdisciplinary and integrative.”
“It is a privilege to ask these important questions together, working with the good theory and focusing on solutions for coastal communities. At Memorial, we have a special obligation to coastal communities in the province. This research takes that obligation seriously.”