ArcticNet director Louis Fortier gets Northern Science Award

ArcticNet grew with funds from many sources, including oil and gas industry


Louis Fortier, the scientific director of ArcticNet, photographed in 2006. (FILE PHOTO)

Louis Fortier, the scientific director of ArcticNet, photographed in 2006. (FILE PHOTO)

Louis Fortier, the scientific director of the ArcticNet research network, is the 2015 winner of the Northern Science Award, Polar Knowledge Canada announced Nov. 19.

“He has inspired and fostered the creation of knowledge that directly benefits northern societies and communities,” the federal agency said in an announcement.

Fortier, a marine biologist at Université Laval in Quebec City, has been involved with ArcticNet since it began around 2003, when the federal government spent $37 million to convert the icebreaker CCGS Amundsen into a research vessel for use as a platform to do marine science work in the Arctic.

Under Fortier’s leadership, the ArcticNet network has aggressively pursued funding from a variety of sources and is now a consortium that brings together researchers from 30 Canadian universities.

That work often involves partnership with Inuit organizations and private industry, including research funded, in part, by the oil and gas industry.

In 2009 and 2010, ArcticNet worked with oil companies like Imperial Oil and BP to do research from the CCGS Amundsen in the Beaufort Sea aimed at collecting environmental baseline data for future use in applications to the National Energy Board.

“Some of the revenues derived from these collaborations in 2009 and 2010 were reinvested in the re-capitalisation of the Amundsen’s scientific equipment and in the funding of 12 new ArcticNet projects focusing on Inuit education, health, and culture,” ArcticNet says on its website.

“These novel research collaborations between ArcticNet and the Oil and Gas industry for the collection of publicly available environmental data, guarantee that the decision to go ahead (or not) with exploration drilling is based on the best scientific information available shared by all parties,” ArcticNet said.

The Northern Science Award comes with a cash prize of $10,000.

Fortier received the honour Nov. 18 at a dinner hosted in Ottawa by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.

“Through his leadership and his innovative approach to research, Dr. Fortier, a marine biologist at Laval, has made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of northern knowledge,” Polar Knowledge Canada said.

Polar Knowledge Canada — which has been merged with the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay — is the new name for the agency that used to be called the Canadian Polar Commission.

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