Canada's largest IPY research project sets sail
Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2007 3:14 PM
Dr. David Barber, left, speaks with Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board, far right, and Kerri Irvin-Ross, minister of healthy living for the province, at the CFL launch on July 11.

Sounding very much like an Arctic explorer on the eve of a momentous expedition, the University of Manitoba’s David Barber said that more than anything, he 'couldn’t wait to get going.'

Barber, Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science, and director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science at the University of Manitoba, leads the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System (CFL) Study, a 15-month adventure aimed at understanding the effects of global climate change in the Arctic. The project will begin later this summer.

The CFL study, which involves more than 200 scientists from 16 countries, was officially launched at the University of Manitoba on July 11. Based aboard the Canadian Coast Guard research icebreaker, CCGS Amundsen, the CFL study is the largest project in Canada's International Polar Year (IPY) research program, and one of the largest IPY projects in the world.

For the official launch, Barber was joined by Vic Toews, president of the Treasury Board, Kerri Irvin-Ross, minister of healthy living for the Province of Manitoba, and Joanne Keselman, vice-president (research) at the University of Manitoba.

“The Circumpolar Flaw Lead System project will provide us with vital scientific knowledge regarding the interactions between climate change and the ocean ecosystem,” emphasized Toews, on behalf of Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.  “Our new government’s support for this initiative is part of our ongoing commitment to Canada's Northern region. This project will help us make informed decisions to protect our oceans, the environment and the well-being of all Canadians.”

The CFL Study will receive a total of $20.5 million from the Government of Canada Program for IPY, including $6 million in research funding and $14.5 million in logistical ship support. Over the next four years, the project team will also receive $768,000 in research funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and $4.2 million in infrastructure support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Manitoba Research and Innovation Fund.

"Funding innovative research helps retain our brightest minds in Manitoba, attract more world-class research and researchers, and enhances Manitoba as a centre of innovation," Irvin-Ross said. “The funding we are providing for this research project supports the province’s commitment to scientific research.”

“The CFL study is a tremendous undertaking that will provide vital new insight into the effects of global climate change on the environment and peoples of the circumpolar Arctic,” said Keselman. “We are extremely proud of Dr. Barber and his team, and we congratulate every one of the more than 200 researchers who will play a part in this unprecedented collaboration.”

Along with Barber, the project is co-led by Gary Stern, DFO / University of Manitoba and Jody Deming from the University of Washington. CFL researchers will be studying “flaw leads,” areas of open water created when the central Arctic ice pack moves away from coastal ice. Scientists consider flaw leads to be early indicators of what the Arctic will look like in the coming decades, but Barber said they have never before been studied in such a detailed way.

“Our project is looking at the flaw lead system from virtually every angle,” Barber said at a media presentation following the official announcement. “When you consider that we are now losing Arctic sea ice at a rate of about 70,00 square kilometers each year, we really need to understand how this will effect the entire circumpolar region. We will be studying the entire ecosystem, from viruses to whales, and developing new models for accurately predicting future conditions.”

The CFL study will examine the importance of climate processes in changing the nature of the flaw lead system in the Northern Hemisphere, and the effect these changes will have on the marine ecosystem, the transport of contaminants, and the exchange of greenhouse gases. The project will also include a cultural component, with researchers relying on the knowledge and first-hand experience of northern residents to help guide their work.

To learn more about the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study, please visit the project’s Web site:

To learn more about Canada’s International Polar Year initiatives, please visit the Government of Canada’s International Polar Year Web site:

Homepage photo of the CCGS Amundsen.

For more information, contact:
Leah Janzen
Communications Manager
Public Affairs
Phone: (204) 474-8034
Related Links (Internal):
  •Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study
Related Links (External):
  •International Polar Year website