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Cold Ocean and Arctic Science, Technology and Society at Memorial

Part of a special feature showcasing Memorial's leadership and expertise in cold ocean and Arctic science, technology and society (COASTS).

By Rebecca Cohoe

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador know a thing or two about water and ice.

While a sunny day in this province is a beautiful thing, it’s the weather in between that has contributed to our character and grit, and that has helped forge our creative and tenacious character.

The climate and geography of this place have also shaped our cultures and our communities — in too many ways to list.

Cold, wet and wonderful

They’ve also shaped our university.

In faculties, units and locations across Memorial, our faculty, staff and students are conducting work and research related to the cold, wet, and wonderful places in the province, and beyond.

The Cold Ocean and Arctic, Science, Technology, and Society Initiative, or COASTS, positions Memorial as a world leader in all things cold and wet by co-ordinating between groups internal to the university, communicating our abilities and successes, and finding new and exciting ways to support and build Memorial’s work related to cold oceans and the Arctic.

“More than 40 per cent of Memorial’s R&D activity is related to COASTS, along with often overlapping work in teaching and learning, and public engagement,” said President Kachanoski.

“We have a deep and broad understanding of both the north and the cold ocean. This didn’t develop by accident. This place is steeped in the sea and cold, and Memorial’s deep understanding of these areas is in direct response to the needs, opportunities and challenges of living in this place.”

A key aspect of COASTS is that, at Memorial, our cold ocean and Arctic expertise is wide-ranging, with deep strengths in all faculties.

Other universities have capacity in some specific areas — oceanography or marine law, for example — but no other institution in Canada has Memorial’s deep cold ocean and Arctic expertise across such a wide range of subject areas, from science and engineering, to education, medicine and the humanities and social sciences.

For example, at Memorial, there are individuals undertaking scientific research into the causes of climate change in the North.

Others are looking to develop technology to adapt. There are researchers dedicated to working with the people who it will affect, in order for communities and individuals to thrive. Memorial has the ability to look at an issue from all angles.

In many situations, diverse groups of researchers are working together, bringing multiple perspectives and disciplines to bear on some of the most crucial issues facing our oceans and Arctic regions.

As an extensive, inclusive, interdisciplinary strategic initiative, COASTS advances Memorial’s academic mission across the entire university, supporting the goals of the institution’s three core strategic frameworks: teaching and learning, research and public engagement.

COASTS provides senior administrators a compelling story to share with potential funders — nearly 150 meetings with decision-makers, including cabinet ministers and MPs have taken place since the inception of COASTS, leading to countless opportunities, relationships, and projects — creates a community of knowledge and practice for faculty and students and Memorial’s locations across the province, and provides a cohesive vision for everyone at the university with an interest or involvement in cold ocean and Arctic work.

Multiple successes

The past year has been a significant one for COASTS.

While there are literally hundreds of COASTS-relevant research, teaching and learning and public engagement projects at Memorial, approximately 30 have been identified as COASTS signature projects.

One of those projects, the Ocean Frontier Institute, has been incredibly successful. A year ago, the Government of Canada announced nearly $100 million in funding for the creation of the institute, an historic partnership between Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island.

Another success was the 20th biennial Inuit Studies Conference, held at the St. John’s campus last fall, and hosted in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government. More than 400 Inuit, researchers, tradition-bearers, community leaders, artists and students engaged in 200 discussions and workshops focused on the theme of Inuit traditions. The participants discussed issues ranging from sustainable housing to the Inuktitut language to tourism.

The Marine Institute (MI) is a crucial element of Memorial’s COASTS strength, and this year marked a significant milestone at MI: the introduction of its first PhD program. The program is focused on fisheries science and is intended to foster the next generation in fisheries scientists for this province, and Canada. One unique element of the program is that all students will have mandatory training in science communication, ensuring that not only will they be able to provide knowledgeable opinions on the state of fish stocks, they’ll also be able to share that knowledge with the people who need to understand it.

“Given our location, history and areas of strength, it only makes sense than COASTS-related work should be a focus for Memorial.” — Dr. Rob Greenwood

“Public engagement is a guiding principle at Memorial, and given our location, history and areas of strength, it only makes sense than COASTS-related work should be a focus for Memorial,” said Dr. Rob Greenwood, executive director, public engagement and the Harris Centre at Memorial.

“COASTS has been, and will continue to be, a collaborative exercise in Newfoundland and Labrador, positioning not just Memorial as a leader in this type of work, but also the province itself. This is an area where we shine, both nationally and internationally.”

To learn more about the COASTS initiative, visit the website.

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