Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 9/10/2020 (425 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The faculty of science at the University of Manitoba is playing a big part in setting up a database for use by researchers who focus on Canada’s Arctic.
The Arctic Research Foundation recently announced the partnership with the U of M and Red River College’s applied computer education department, with the goal of unlocking "the big data secrets previously hidden in Canada’s Arctic."
Dr. Carson Leung, a U of M computer science professor who runs the database and data mining lab, said this is the beginning of a long-term project that will see the university and college build a searchable database and also help researchers and those living in the arctic to deal with the changing climate in the north.
"We’re very excited to be working on this project," Leung said. "This is an example of how the university can help further connections in research being done in the Arctic. It’s also an opportunity for us to use data mining to help provide solutions for people living there."
Tom Henheffer, vice-president of the Arctic Research Foundation, said research in the Arctic effectively is stored in silos.
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"It’s time to bring it all together so communities, governments, and research institutions can effectively share data and better co-ordinate work," Henheffer said. "We’re excited to create this database and expect it will be a huge step-forward in improving Arctic research, environmental stewardship, and economic development, and in creating a greater public understanding of the north."
The resulting Arctic Research Database will enable insight on everything from mapping shipping routes to the development of natural resource projects, plus the growth of food sustainability programs and improvement of local economies, Henheffer said.
Through research and development across U of M and RRC, the project team will catalogue data from across the Arctic through leading-edge methods in data labelling and database design, making them publicly accessible through a universally readable, easily searchable database with a highly usable interface.
The project will provide students with work-integrated learning opportunities through the Mitacs Accelerate internship program, an initiative within a Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence dedicated to supporting applied and industrial research in mathematical sciences and associated disciplines. Project funding includes $120,000 from Mitacs and $30,000 from ARF.
RRC and U of M graduate students will design a back-end database, develop a user interface and integrate the two for an enhanced user experience, Leung said.
Foundation creates scientific infrastructure
The Arctic Research Foundation is a Canadian non-profit organization creating new scientific infrastructure in the Canadian Arctic.
It works with governments, universities and research institutions to provide access to its Arctic program initiatives and is working to build relationships with Arctic Indigenous people to advance understanding of the region through traditional knowledge.
ARF has collected a huge volume of “big data” from cutting-edge research vessels and mobile labs including hydrographic and bathymetric assessments, soil and salinity samples, changing ice conditions, animal stock assessments and data collected through their Naurvik plant production pod. The latter is a solar and wind-powered greenhouse located in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, that provides fresh vegetables to the community.
“We knew we needed a single repository for the data. And we also need a place for the data being produced by the universities and other researchers in Canada,” Henheffer said, adding the Arctic Research Database timeline is at least 20 years.
“During the course of this, we will continue to ask the communities what they need. The Indigenous self-governments will be able to use the data in managing how they interact with the land,” he said, adding there is potential down the line to include data from other arctic researchers around the world, including the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden. “No one has attempted a project of this scope before.”