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World leader

Memorial-led SmartICE project receives high honour from United Nations

By Jeff Green

An innovative research project that originated at Memorial is the only Canadian recipient of a prestigious international award.

SmartICE is the world’s first climate change adaptation tool to integrate traditional knowledge of sea ice with advanced data acquisition and remote monitoring technology.

It is led by Dr. Trevor Bell, University Research Professor in the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and a Memorial alumnus.

SmartICE allows Inuit to adapt to unpredictable sea-ice conditions, shortening ice seasons and thinning ice by providing information to aid in the planning of safe routes on the ice, thus reducing travel risks.

First Arctic project honoured

The project is one of 19 winners worldwide of the United Nations (UN) Momentum for Change Climate Solutions Award.

The recipients were announced earlier this month during a ceremony in Berlin, Germany. It is the first time an Arctic project has been honoured with the award.

Research led by Dr. Trevor Bell has been recognized by the United Nations.
Research led by Dr. Trevor Bell has been recognized by the United Nations.
Photo: Chris Hammond

Dr. Bell says he’s humbled by the award, considering some of the global winners.

“There are some big names on the winner’s list, including British retailer Marks & Spencer, the Aviva insurance company and Procter & Gamble,” noted Dr. Bell, “but SmartICE is also a world leader in its own right. We are being recognized not only for the innovative, practical, climate change solution we offer, but also the community-led, social enterprise approach we take in offering it.”

Mobilizing action

The Momentum for Change initiative is headed by the United Nations Climate Change secretariat.

It shines light on some of the most innovative, scaleable and practical examples of what people around the world are doing to combat climate change.

According to the UN, recipients underscore how global climate action, in support of governments’ national plans, is accelerating two years after the Paris Climate Change Agreement was universally adopted.

Selected initiatives, known as Lighthouse Activities, demonstrate the unprecedented amount of climate action taking place throughout the world.

SmartICE's SmartSENSOR is seen here after deployment in Nain in 2016.
SmartICE’s SmartSENSOR is seen here after deployment in Nain in 2016.
Photo: Trevor Bell

Arctic award

The UN recognition brings further recognition to the SmartICE project.

Last year, Dr. Bell was honoured with the coveted Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP), becoming the only person from Memorial University to receive the accolade twice.

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

Dr. Bell acknowledges that the AIP  has given SmartICE the real opportunity to evolve from a community research partnership to a fully operational social enterprise.

Development trials of the SmartQAMUTIK on the sea ice off Nain (Nunatsiavut).
Development trials of the SmartQAMUTIK on the sea ice off Nain (Nunatsiavut).
Photo: Trevor Bell

“SmartICE is adopting an entrepreneurial approach to the delivery of its sea-ice information services,” he explained. “We plan to expand to eight communities across the Canadian Arctic this winter and have enquiries from a dozen more.”

SmartICE will be showcased at a series of special events during the UN Climate Change conference in Bonn, Germany, from Nov. 6-17.

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