The Canadian Antarctic Research Program

Project Description
An expectation of Canada’s full membership in SCAR is the development of a Canadian Antarctic research program. In its strategy document “Antarctic Science and Bipolar Linkages “ (CPC 2002) the Canadian Committee for Antarctic Research (CCAR) identified the creation of a Canadian Antarctic Research Program (CARP) as one of its highest priorities. In 2003 CCAR organised an international workshop (Polar Connections) to identify areas of Canadian scientific expertise that will form the basis of CARP. During IPY, polar science will be in the national and international spotlight and it will be an ideal time for Canada to launch CARP. A Canadian Antarctic Research Program will provide support for Canadian research activities in Antarctica and will compliment traditional sources of research funding (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR).

Canadian scientists have conducted research in Antarctica for decades, but in the absence of a national program Canadians participate as part of national programs of other countries. CARP will allow Canadians to design and lead their own research projects and participate in or even lead international projects. Canada does not intend to build a research base in Antarctica but through CARP Canadian researchers will buy space and support from other countries.

At the heart of CARP is a science program emphasising (but not limited to) three scientific themes where Canadian researchers are already active:
Theme 1, Contaminants, biota and polar microbial ecosystems,
Theme 2, Ice observations, ice sheet dynamics and environmental change,
Theme 3, Polar desert landscape ecology and geomorphology.
The research team involved in contaminants, biota and polar microbial ecosystems is the most advanced in its research planning with Antarctic partnerships and active field programs with France, UK, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Contaminants in polar environments are a serious problem and are an area of science where Canada is a recognised world leader. This research is truly bipolar in nature and has tremendous value for the people of northern Canada. Canadian researchers and technologies also have international recognition in the area of ice observations and environmental change. For example RADARSAT is one of the most widely used remote sensing platforms in the analysis of Antarctic ice sheet and ice shelf dynamics. Several Canadians are involved in ongoing ice research in both Polar Regions as well as ice sheet modelling, reconstruction and neotectonics. This research will compliment activities in the Canadian Arctic that is included in several other IPY proposals. Research activities in various aspects of Antarctic landscape ecology; geomorphology and paleoenvironmental reconstruction is underway by several Canadian researchers in partnership with New Zealand, Italy, USA, UK and Bulgaria. The main focus of this theme will be an investigation of landscape relationships along an environmental gradient in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region. Research outside of these theme areas will also need to be supported by CARP. Data management is also a key component of CARP and plans include the use of innovative GIS tools developed by Canadian researchers involved in the Cybercartographic Atlas of Antarctica.

CARP will provide the basis for a co-ordinated program of Canadian Antarctic research. CARP will serve as a focus for Canadian Antarctic research, working with relevant agencies and organisations to articulate science objectives that reflect Canada’s need for information about Antarctica. CARP provides a vehicle for grouping all Canadian IPY proposals with bipolar and antarctic activities.

The Earth’s Polar Regions drive many global systems and with uncertainties about global climate change looming large the need for information about both Polar Regions has never been greater. As a polar nation Canada needs to be concerned with both the Arctic and the Antarctic as part of the global system.

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