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On board for the Arctic March 17, 2008

Posted by eyegillian in arctic, Canada, environment, explore, global warming, nature, science, world.
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Amundsen in the Arctic

Concerns about climate change and interest in polar ecosystems go hand-in-hand in the Canadian Arctic, and this year, students, journalists and scientists around the world are participating in a global research program. The classroom is the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen, a scientific research icebreaker locked in the ice in the Beaufort Sea near Banks Island.

The CCGS Amundsen is hosting one of the largest IPY research projects being conducted in the Canadian Arctic during International Polar Year (2007-2008): the Circumpolar Flaw Lead (CFL) system study. The $40-million project is examining the circumpolar flaw lead system — areas of open water in the ice — which is expected to show how the Arctic might change as the global climate grows warmer.

What makes this project unique is that, not only does it involve more than 200 scientists from 15 different countries, but also high school students, teachers, and Inuit youth leaders from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Scotland, England, Germany, Spain, China, Russia, and Greenland. The students and teachers have the opportunity to board the icebreaker and participate in an experiential science education program aimed at introducing them to the scientific and indigenous knowledge related to climate change research in the Arctic.

I first heard about the Schools on Board program from a blog written by Emily Chung, the CBC.ca’s regional journalist for Ottawa. She is one of 15 journalists from around the world selected and sponsored by the World Federation of Science Journalists invited to spend seven days on the Amundsen. Her trip is finished, but another group will be joining the Amundsen from April 12 – 27, 2008. A final program, designed for Inuit and Indigenous students and educators, will run from July 15 – 27, 2008.

Schools on Board is an outreach program of Arctic marine science and research, based out of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg, Canada). It was developed to bridge Arctic research with science education in high schools across Canada; to increase awareness of issues related to climate change in Canada, and to excite young Canadians about the challenges and career opportunities of Arctic research. The main thrust of the program is the Field Program “on board” the CCGS Amundsen.

Programming “onboard” includes presentations, group projects, lab activities, fieldwork, and lectures with graduate students and scientists. Students are introduced to subjects such as: oceanography, physical geography, biology, chemistry, meteorology, zoology, geology, and climatology.

The educational program also introduces participants to “two ways of knowing” – the traditional and scientific approaches to understanding the complexities and interconnectedness of the Arctic environment. Each trip includes at least one northern community visit to introduce participants to northern culture and knowledge.

This program is a wonderful example of international cooperation between Canada and our northern neighbours. Let’s hope this trend continues as the Arctic region ecosystem faces increased warming as part of climate change, and the circumpolar countries face increased pressure for access to traffic and resource extraction.

Schools on board logo

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Related Links:
Schools on Board
Arctic Climate Change: CFL study

CBC: “Aboard the Amundsen”

CCGS Amundsen

CBC: “The Big Melt”


1. Lucette Barber - May 27, 2008

Hi there, this link was just sent to me in an email from a co-worker. I’m the program coordinator of the Schools on Board program and i’m very curious to know what motivated you to write about our program. I think that it’s wonderful that you did! I was fortunate to be on the icebreaker with our first International field program and got the opportunity to meet Emily Chung (CBC). Thanks for promoting our program to others through your blog and most of all, thanks for taking an interest in the ‘big picture’ of Arctic climate change.
Lucette Barber, Schools on Board

2. eyegillian - June 29, 2008

Thanks, Lucette, for dropping by (sorry it’s taken me a while to respond). I’ve always been fascinated by the Arctic, the way its harsh landscape is teeming with life, and the resourcefulness people need to survive there. So I thought this program sounded amazing — I wish I had that kind of opportunity when I was in school. I hope Schools on Board continues!

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