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Northern ambassador

Memorial-led research shortlisted for $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize

special feature: Environment

Part of a special series showcasing faculty, staff and students’ commitment to placing the environment at the forefront of  research, public engagement and teaching and learning activities at Memorial.


By Jeff Green

A respected field scientist, who has spent his recent career championing Arctic research, is a finalist for a prestigious $1-million national honour often called the Nobel Prize of the North.

Dr. Trevor Bell, University Research Professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is one of eight people shortlisted for the fifth annual Arctic Inspiration Prize.

Dr. Trevor Bell
Dr. Trevor Bell

The honour goes to teams whose research and projects translate knowledge into action for the benefit of the people of the Canadian Arctic.

Dr. Bell was nominated by Clint Davis, chair, Nunatsiavut Group of Companies, and Levi Barnabas, chair, Qikiqtaaluk Corporation. The overall winners will be recognized during a ceremony in Winnipeg, Man., on Dec. 8.

‘Smart’ technology

Dr. Bell, a Memorial alumnus, and his team are shortlisted for their work with the project SmartICE (Sea-ice Monitoring And Real-Time Information for Coastal Environments), a Memorial-led sea-ice monitoring system developed with coastal communities. He’s the lead investigator for the project, which is a partnership between the university, industry and the federal and Nunatsiavut governments.

SmartICE provides locally relevant information for sea-ice travel in our two pilot communities — Nain, Labrador, 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.

Dr. Trevor Bell programs a SmartSENSOR in the sea ice off Pond Inlet in May 2016. The buoy logs temperatures through the air, snow, ice and water, as a means to determine ice thickness, and transmits the information via satellite to the SmartICE operator. Behind the buoy is a manual sea-ice thickness station for validating the SmartSENSOR.
Dr. Trevor Bell programs a SmartSENSOR in the sea ice off Pond Inlet in May 2016. The buoy logs temperatures as a means to determine ice thickness, and transmits the information via satellite.
Photo: Submitted

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

Safe passage

The SmartICE system combines traditional ice knowledge with the latest satellite imaging and ice-sensing technology, allowing community members to plan safe passage on sea ice.

“We are committed to maximizing social impact and creating positive change in Arctic communities.” — Dr. Trevor Bell

“Our primary goal is to transform the current community research partnership into a northern social enterprise — SmartICE Inc. — that will deliver an operational service generated by Inuit for coastal communities and industries across the Arctic,” said Dr. Bell.

“We are committed to maximizing social impact and creating positive change in Arctic communities while applying an entrepreneurial approach to sea-ice information services.”

Innovative partnerships

Dr. Bell says part of the reason why the SmartICE project is so innovative is that it integrates leading-edge technology with Inuit traditional knowledge, youth training and social entrepreneurship.

“For example,” he explained, “the SmartICE Inc. production hub will train vulnerable Inuit youth to assemble some of our technology products, such as the SmartSENSOR, in our production facility in Nain. Finished equipment will be distributed to service sites across the Arctic.

“To accomplish this component we are partnering with Choices for Youth — a local organization with substantial expertise in social enterprise development, specifically to create meaningful and diverse employment opportunities for at-risk youth — and Enactus Memorial — recently named World Champions for their Project Sucseed – to assist with social enterprise development that incorporates at-risk youth and marketing and production planning.”

Previous recipient

This is not Dr. Bell’s first time being associated with the Arctic Inspiration Prize. In 2013, he was principal research partner of SakKijânginnatuk Nunalik: the Sustainable Communities Initiative of the Nunatsiavut Government that was named one of three overall recipients. That project focused on providing healthy housing solutions for Nunatsiavut communities that addresses changing climate, infrastructure requirements and Inuit housing needs and preferences.

The 2016 Arctic Inspiration Prize is presented by the Rideau Hall Foundation in conjunction with ArcticNet’s annual scientific meeting, which will take place in Winnipeg from Dec. 5-9.


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