Canada and the Antarctic

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Canadian involvement in Antarctic activities

Canadians have been involved in Antarctic research for more than 100 years. Canadian Antarctic researchers are based at more than 15 different Canadian universities and four federal government organizations. Primarily in partnership with the national Antarctic programs of other countries, Canadians have conducted physical sciences, geosciences, life sciences, and human and social sciences Antarctic research. Canadians have also been involved in technology development to facilitate and support Antarctic science and operations and test the performance of technologies in extreme environments.

Canada ratified the Antarctic Treaty as a non-consultative party on May 4, 1988. Canada ratified the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Environmental Protocol) as a full party on December 13, 2003. To implement the Protocol, Canada enacted the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act, which is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). This Act prohibits certain activities in the Antarctic unless a permit is granted.

Canadian tourism and education/outreach organizations operate regularly in the Antarctic. In 2015/16, Canada was the sixth highest country in terms of tourists, with Canadians accounting for approximately 5% of Antarctic tourists (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, 2016).

Canadian companies operate and maintain aircraft used to support Antarctic research and other activities. Many Canadian products are also used in Antarctica, including skidoos and snowcats and apparel.

Polar Knowledge Canada’s Antarctic mandate

Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) is Canada’s lead federal agency to strengthen Canadian leadership in polar science and technology. POLAR’s Antarctic mandate is established in POLAR’s enabling legislation, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station Act. POLAR participates along with Environment and Climate Change Canada in the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM) and meeting of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). As a non-consultative party, Canada can participate in Antarctic governance discussions, but cannot vote on decisions.

POLAR is Canada’s adhering body to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), which initiates, develops and coordinates international scientific research in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean and provides scientific advice to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. POLAR appoints representatives to serve on SCAR’s Standing Scientific Groups and Committees on behalf of Canada.  Canada (via POLAR) is also an observer of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), which serves as an international forum to develop practices that improve the effectiveness of activities in the Antarctic in an environmentally responsible manner, and facilitates related information exchange and international partnerships.

POLAR is working to develop a Canadian Antarctic Research Program to better coordinate, increase and expand Canadian Antarctic research to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the Antarctic, global systems and polar linkages. POLAR is exploring opportunities to operate this program through partnerships with the national polar programs of other countries to facilitate Canadian access to existing Antarctic research infrastructure and logistics. POLAR will be hosting a Canadian Antarctic Research Workshop on October 3-4, 2016 in Ottawa to explore opportunities to strengthen Canadian Antarctic research activities.

POLAR’s Canadian Committee on Antarctic Research (CCAR)

POLAR’s Canadian Committee on Antarctic Research (CCAR) provides advice and guidance to POLAR on Antarctic matters including opportunities to strengthen Canadian Antarctic research activities, and serves as Canada’s National Committee under the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR).

Current members of CCAR

Tom James (Chair)

Thomas James is a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada of the federal Department of Natural Resources. He holds a Ph.D. in geophysics from Princeton University and is an adjunct professor at the University of Victoria. Dr. James studies glacial isostatic adjustment, which is the response of the solid Earth to ice sheet and glacier changes, and is particularly interested in sea-level change of the past, present and future. He has worked on models of glacial isostatic adjustment for Antarctica that are used in the analysis of satellite data to discern the present-day Antarctic contribution to sea-level change. In the 2005/06 Antarctic field season, Dr. James was based at McMurdo with American colleagues and carried out field work in the Transantarctic Mountains to measure crustal motion. He has been a Canadian representative at meetings of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research since 2004.

Dermot Antoniades

Dermot Antoniades is a Canada Research Chair and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Université Laval. His current research is focused on the effects of environmental change and anthropogenic processes on aquatic environments, including those in temperate, subtropical and polar regions. These effects are assessed using proxy indicators including diatoms, algal pigments, and sediment geochemical properties. Dr. Antoniades holds a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto.

Nathan Gillett

Nathan Gillett is a research scientist and manager at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis in Victoria, British Columbia. His research is focused on understanding, attributing and predicting climate change through analysis of climate model simulations and comparison with observations. He has worked to establish the causes of observed changes in variables such as temperature, pressure, precipitation, humidity and stratospheric ozone. He also has an interest in stratosphere-troposphere coupling and the effect of stratospheric ozone depletion on Antarctic climate.

Dr. Gillett served as a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports, and as a lead author of the 2014 World Meteorological Organization/United Nations Environment Programme’s Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion. He holds a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Physics from the University of Oxford.

Thayyil Jayachandran

Thayyil Jayachandran is a Professor at the University of New Brunswick. His research focus is on the Solar wind – Magnetosphere – Ionosphere (SW-M-I) System. The research measures the ionosphere to understand the relationships between the SW-M-I, using a number of ground-based radio and optical instrument located in the Canadian Arctic. Dr. Jayachandran is the principal investigator of the Canadian High Arctic Ionospheric Network and a member of different Canadian and International Satellite Missions. He is also the current Chair of Commissions G (Ionospheric radio and propagation) and H (Waves in plasmas) of the International Union of Radio Science’s Canadian National Committee. Dr. Thayyil Jayachandran holds a Ph.D. from Andhra University, India.

Anita Dey Nuttall

Anita Dey Nuttall is Associate Director of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute at the University of Alberta. She holds a Ph.D. in Polar Ecology and Management from the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on the interface between science and politics in the polar regions, and in particular how a nation's science policy and strategic interests influence and determine the development of its national Antarctic program. She is also developing new research on Canada's strategy for polar science and its place in Canada's national science policy. Additionally, Dr. Dey Nuttall is interested in exploring the leadership of Nordic countries in setting the scene for cooperation in the polar regions in the global context, in particular, their approach to promoting the notion of 'comprehensive security'. She is co-editor of International Relations and the Arctic: Understanding Policy and Governance (Cambria Press, 2014).

Wayne H. Pollard

Wayne H. Pollard is a Professor at McGill University. His research centers upon the field investigation of water and ice in cold polar desert environments of the high Arctic and Antarctic. Dr. Pollard’s long-term goals are to understand and explain the hydrological and physical processes that shape and define cold arid landscapes and to identify niche environments in permafrost that are capable of harboring microbial life at or near the limit of its habitability. His research ranges from the field observation and measurement of natural processes at the landform and landscape scales to the microscopic examination of soil pores, ice crystals and intra crystalline brine films.

Central to his research are: (a) the investigation of the dynamic interaction between water and cryotic ground, (b) the formation and degradation of surface and subsurface ice and (c) the interpretation of the environmental significance of landforms related to permafrost, ground ice and ground water. Dr. Pollard holds a Ph.D. from the University of Ottawa.

Peter Pulsifer

Peter Pulsifer is a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Pulsifer resides in Canada where he is a visiting research fellow at Inuit Qaujisarvingat: The Inuit Knowledge Centre. Before moving to NSIDC, he was a doctoral candidate and postdoctoral fellow working under Professor Fraser Taylor at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa where he continues to act as a research associate. During his doctoral studies he was the lead researcher for an online atlas portraying, exploring and communicating the complexities of the Antarctic continent for education, research and policy purposes.

Since 2002, Dr. Pulsifer has been an active member of what is now the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research’s Standing Committee on Antarctic Geographic Information where he has contributed to the conceptualization and development of the Antarctic Spatial Data Infrastructure. In 2003, he became the Canadian representative to what is now the Standing Committee on Antarctic Data Management. He participated in the International Polar Year Data and Information Service, and is currently a member of the International Arctic Science Committee’s Standing Committee on Data Management and the Chair of the Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks program data committee.

Peter Suedfeld

Dr. Peter Suedfeld, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of British Colombia. His research focuses on how human beings adapt to and cope with novelty, challenge, stress, and danger. The research has three major aspects: laboratory and clinical studies on restricted environmental stimulation (REST; for example, in flotation tanks); field research on psychological and psychophysiological concomitants of working in extreme and unusual environments such as space and polar stations; and the archival and experimental study of information processing and decision making under uncertainty and stress.

Dr. Suedfeld has been President of the Canadian Psychological Association and the Western Association of Graduate Deans. He was the founding President of the International REST Investigators' Society, and has been Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Antarctic Research Program. In that capacity, he represented Canada at the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). He represents both Canada and the International Union of Psychological Science in the SCAR Joint Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine.

Diana Varela

Dr. Diana Varela is an Associate Professor at the University of Victoria, with a joint position in the Department of Biology and the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. Her main areas of interest are marine biogeochemistry and ecological physiology of phytoplankton. Her research program seeks to understand variations in marine primary productivity and cycling of nutrient elements in the oceans. Dr. Varela’s long-term research goal is to link physiological studies on phytoplankton to larger marine phenomena, so as to better understand the effects of unicellular algae on earth's biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystem structure and global climate change over geological times. Studies are conducted in the laboratory and on oceanographic cruises to coastal and open ocean waters in the equatorial and north Pacific Ocean, in the Arctic Ocean, and in the Antarctic.

Dr. Varela holds a B.Sc. from Universidad Nacional del Sur , Argentina, an M.A. from Boston University, and a Ph.D. from the University of British Colombia. She was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of British Columbia, West Vancouver Laboratory (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), University of California at Santa Barbara, and Simon Fraser University.

Julie Friddell

Dr. Julie Friddell is the Director of the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network (CCIN) and the Polar Data Catalogue (PDC), Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Friddell is the Canadian national representative to the Arctic Data Committee of the International Arctic Science Committee and Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks. Since graduate school, during which she produced records of 11,000 years of paleoclimatic change from a North Pacific sediment core, she has been committed to the proper stewardship of research data for public use. Since 2010, Dr. Friddell has co-led the successful evolution of the CCIN/PDC to be one of Canada’s primary repositories and online sources of Arctic and Antarctic data and information. Dr. Friddell, an experienced cryospheric and climatic researcher, is a member of the Canadian Tri-Agency Data Management Policy Advisory Committee, is one of four international scientific advisors to Environment Climate Data Sweden, and served as Chair of the Local Organizing Committee of the international Polar Data Forum II held at the University of Waterloo in October 2015.

Denis Lacelle

Denis Lacelle is an Associate Professor with the Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics at the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on the investigation of near-surface permafrost disturbances on water quality under changing climate; the origin, stability and habitability of ancient ground ice and permafrost; polar environments as planetary analogues; worked in the Murdo Dry Valleys, Lake Untersee oasis and Queen Maud Land, primarily in partnership with the US and Russia.

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