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Nobel of the North

Dr. Trevor Bell named AIP laureate for ‘smart’ research

By Jeff Green

For the second time in three years, Dr. Trevor Bell has been honoured with the coveted Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP), becoming the only person from Memorial University to receive the accolade twice.

Dr. Bell, a noted field scientist and geographer, is one of three recipients of this year’s AIP who will share the $1.5-million national honour often known as the Nobel Prize of the North.

The prize recognizes research and projects that translate knowledge into action for the benefit of the people of the Canadian Arctic.

Watch a video where Dr. Bell discusses the project below.

Research excellence

“Dr. Trevor Bell has distinguished himself as a respected researcher whose work is having real impact on those living and working in Canada’s North,” said President Kachanoski.

“Dr. Bell’s pioneering research has bolstered Memorial’s international reputation for excellence in Arctic and Northern regions research. His vision and commitment to creating positive change for Arctic communities is truly inspiring. I offer Dr. Bell my congratulations and wish him much success as he takes his project to the next level.”

Memorial-led research project

Dr. Bell, University Research Professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and a Memorial alumnus, and his team were honoured for their innovative project known as SmartICE (Sea-Ice Monitoring and Real-Time Information for Coastal Environments).

SmartICE is a sea-ice monitoring system developed with coastal communities. It combines traditional ice knowledge with the latest satellite imaging and ice-sensing technology, allowing community members to plan safe passage on sea ice.

“The SmartICE Inc. business model commits to maximizing social impact and creating positive community change.” — Dr. Trevor Bell

Currently, SmartICE provides its service in two pilot communities – Nain, Nunatsiavut, and Pond Inlet, Nunavut – where, like many other places in the North, sea-ice is part of the winter highway — the travel route to country food and a fundamental part of culture and well-being.

Sea-ice conditions, however, are becoming less predictable for travel due to climate warming, Dr. Bell says. There is also a growing expectation that winter shipping may disrupt traditional travel routes.

Translating knowledge into action

SmartICE has the potential to make a big impact on those living and working in the North.

“A key reason for us winning the Arctic Inspiration Prize is our plan to create a northern social enterprise for SmartICE, so that in partnership with communities we can expand the service across the Arctic,” said Dr. Bell.

“It not only contributes to healthy communities, but also enables community economic development where sea-ice information is critical to business operations — for example, winter fisheries, coastal infrastructure — and reduces costs for community government services, such as sea-lift or emergency management.”

The view from the balcony during the Arctic Inspiration Awards in Winnipeg, Man., on Dec. 8.
The balcony view during the Arctic Inspiration Awards in Winnipeg, Man., on Dec. 8.
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Bell says part of the reason SmartICE is inspiring and novel is that it integrates leading-edge technology with Inuit knowledge, youth training and social entrepreneurship.

“One example of our social innovation is the production of SmartICE technology by at-risk youth in Nunatsiavut, who in addition to traditional sea-ice knowledge, will learn technical skills to help reduce employment barriers.” — Dr. Trevor Bell

He says the SmartICE Inc. business model commits to maximizing social impact and creating positive community change, while reflecting Inuit societal values and applying an entrepreneurial approach to sea-ice information services.

“One example of our social innovation is the production of SmartICE technology by at-risk youth in Nunatsiavut, who in addition to traditional sea-ice knowledge, will learn technical skills to help reduce employment barriers.”

Multidisciplinary team

The prize-winning SmartICE team is truly diverse, bringing together experts from communities, industries, governments, non-governmental organizations and universities.

Faculty, staff and students from across Memorial University are represented on the successful team, including the faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences; Business Administration; and Engineering and Applied Science, as well as Enactus Memorial, the Centre for Social Enterprise, C-CORE, the Genesis Centre and local community partners Choices for Youth and Going Off, Growing Strong.

Dr. Trevor Bell, second from right, with SmartICE partners during the Arctic Inspiration Awards ceremony.
Dr. Trevor Bell, second from right, with SmartICE partners during the Arctic Inspiration Awards ceremony.
Photo: Submitted

SmartICE, led by Dr. Bell, was one of eight projects shortlisted for this year’s fifth annual Arctic Inspiration Prize. He was nominated by Inuit business leaders Clint Davis, chair, Nunatsiavut Group of Companies, and Levi Barnabas, chair, Qikiqtaaluk Corporation.

Second AIP in three years

In 2013 Dr. Bell was the principal research partner of SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: The Sustainable Communities Initiative of the Nunatsiavut Government that was named one of three overall recipients of the Arctic Inspiration Prize.

That project focused on providing healthy housing solutions for Nunatsiavut communities that address changing climate, infrastructure requirements and Inuit housing needs and preferences.

The 2016 Arctic Inspiration Prize was presented to Dr. Bell on Dec. 8 by the Rideau Hall Foundation in conjunction with ArcticNet’s annual scientific meeting, scheduled for Dec. 5-9 in Manitoba. ArcticNet is a Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada. Memorial is a member institution.


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