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Second sailing

MI researchers, students support Northwest Passage transit


By Leslie Earle

As the luxury cruise liner Crystal Serenity embarks on her second historic transit through the Northwest Passage, a team from the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) is once again preparing for the important roles they’ll play onboard its escort ship during the 32-day voyage.

The escort ship will take the Crystal Serenity through the passage, providing logistics support, research capabilities and ice-breaking assistance as necessary.

Members of the Marine Institute team pose for a photo with the escort vessel crew.

Together, MI’s School of Fisheries, School of Maritime Studies and School of Ocean Technology are providing their expertise in research, university education and community engagement. Along the transit, three researchers from MI’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) will build upon the previous year’s efforts to collect oceanographic and biological data, two nautical science cadets will assist in navigating the route and performing tasks on deck and a student from MI’s ocean mapping program will have an opportunity to survey the Northern waters.

Uncharted research

CFER’s research plan is developed in partnership with Tactical Marine Solutions Ltd., a British Columbia-based marine management group, and will further strengthen the 2016 efforts. CFER research scientist Dr. Jonathan Fisher will lead the work with graduate students Brynn Devine and Devin Flawd. The research will be conducted in transit and during visits to various northern communities.

Representatives from the Marine Institute and the escort vessel gathered in St. John’s prior to departure.

“Last year, we had the unique opportunity to collect and analyze oceanographic and biological data in the remote waters of the Northwest Passage,” said Dr. Fisher. “My team and I are pleased to be part of this second transit and are looking forward to the opportunity to build on our efforts to study sub-Arctic to Arctic phytoplankton and zooplankton.”

Financial support for this initiative has been made available in part through the Research Support Fund of the Ocean Frontier Institute. A partnership led by Memorial University, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island, OFI brings together researchers and institutes from both sides of the North Atlantic to understand the changing ocean and create safe, sustainable solutions for development.

Work term wonders

The research team will connect with nautical science cadets, Claude Beaudoin and Lucas Hillier, who joined the vessel earlier this summer in Denmark and have been part of the crew preparing the vessel for this upcoming mission. During the expedition, the two cadets will assist the ship’s officers with navigational tasks, perform deck work and help with maintenance duties.

“The Northwest Passage is a unique area to navigate and will provide a practical classroom for our students to broaden their skill-sets.” — Bernie Brockerville

Sarah Porter, an ocean mapping student with MI’s School of Ocean Technology will also join the escort vessel in St. John’s for the voyage north. Thanks to a partnership between the School of Ocean Technology, Canadian Hydrographic Service and MI’s Centre of Applied Ocean Technology, Ms. Porter will have an opportunity to survey the very remote and sparsely mapped areas throughout the Northwest Passage.

“This experience is a tremendous opportunity for our students,” said Bernie Brockerville, senior placement officer with MI’s Office of Career Integrated Learning. “The Northwest Passage is a unique area to navigate and will provide a practical classroom for our students to broaden their skill-sets.”

Dermot Loughnane, CEO of Tactical Marine Solutions Ltd. says 2017 was an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between his company and the university.

“We’re very pleased to continue our partnership with Memorial University and provide these opportunities courtesy of the generosity of Crystal Cruises. It was such a great success last year that there was no doubt we wanted it to continue and in fact broaden,” said Dermot Loughnane, CEO of Tactical Marine Solutions Ltd.

Crystal Serenity departs Alaska on Aug. 15 and will arrive in New York, N.Y., in just over a month.

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