World-leading UVic climate research gets a $4M boost

Social Sciences

Mara Neudert (AWI Germany), Constanza Salvo (INRS Quebec), Trevor Bell (SmartICE), Andrew Arreak (SmartICE), and Grant Macdonald (UVic) load an electromagnetic ice profiler into the qamutik. Credit: Kali McDougall

Climate change has been recognized as the single most important threat to the future well-being and prosperity of people and our planet. From helping to convert seaweed overgrowth into benefits for the blue economy, to improving travel across sea ice, two international project teams led by the University of Victoria received nearly $4 million in federal support to advance climate solutions.

The projects are part of nearly $60 million announced in Ottawa on Monday for the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to support 32 interdisciplinary research teams across Canada.

“New Frontiers in Research Funding supports the kind of highly innovative, engaged and impactful research at which UVic scholars excel,” says Lisa Kalynchuk, UVic’s vice-president of research and innovation. “By funding these two projects, the Government of Canada is helping UVic advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals to make a difference in the lives and livelihoods of people from the Amazon to the Arctic.” 

The research reflects UVic’s commitment to the UN goals that focus on decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), climate action (SDG 13) and life below water (SDG 14).

UVic geographer Maycira Costa will receive almost $2.5 million to help convert a problematic seaweed overgrowth in the Amazon and Mesoamerican reef into benefits for the blue economy, which the World Bank defines as “sustainable use of ocean resources to benefit economies, livelihoods and ocean ecosystem health.”

The seaweed Sargassum blooms into enormous blankets far offshore in the Atlantic. When currents bring them ashore, they swamp beaches and cause health problems ranging from respiratory irritation, nausea, headaches and vertigo to confusion, memory loss and neurocognitive impacts. Safely harvested, Sargassum can be used to make products like construction bricks.

Costa will use satellite imagery to track the Atlantic-born seaweed and warn communities when it will make landfall.

Randall Scharien, a UVic geographer, will receive $1.5 million to support Inuit communities improve the maps that allow them to travel more safely over sea ice.  Sea-ice travel is central to Inuit cultural well-being and food security through hunting and fishing. For generations Inuit have applied their elders’ knowledge to travel routes, but Arctic warming, shifting ocean currents and changing weather patterns have made historic knowledge and current maps less useful.

Scharien’s research will provide Inuit with access to advanced environmental data-based tools that they urgently need to update their maps and knowledge—and thus to travel more safely over sea ice that is continually changing.

The New Frontiers in Research Fund supports world-leading interdisciplinary, international, high-risk and high-reward, transformative and rapid-response Canadian-led research.

The projects are a part of the 2023 International Joint Initiative for Research in Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation funding call that is a collaboration between research organizations from Brazil, Canada, Germany, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The initiative aims to leverage international expertise to tackle the global challenges caused by climate change.


Learn more about Costa and Scharien’s research

Read the Government of Canada news release

Learn more about UVic’s climate traction


In this story

Keywords: People Place Planet, community, Indigenous, international, sustainability, climate, environment, health, education, partnerships, oceans, funding, biodiversity, SDGs, SDG8, decent work and economic growth, SDG13, climate action, SDG14, life below water, research, science

People: Maycira Costa, Randy Scharien, Lisa Kalynchuk

Publication: The Ring

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