Research Area 1 - Innovative Research Approaches Adapted to the North


Research Area 1 - Innovative Research Approaches Adapted to the North

The understanding of the current state of northern geosystems and ecosystems requires the development and application of new innovative approaches adapted to extreme conditions (e.g., cold, isolation, lack of light in winter). The CEN develops and operates an automated instrumental network to monitor long-term, and often real-time, changes in climate, physical environment and northern biodiversity. CEN researchers are innovating by developing new approaches to environmental monitoring, sample processing techniques as well as robust and efficient data analysis. The application of molecular, biochemical and genetic methods of analysis allows to investigate the living world and in particular the northern microbiomes in a way it has never been done before. New technological tools are used to make knowledge available to users and decision makers and to support participatory science. The integration of these data with innovative analytical methods allows the establishment of a network to monitor the response of northern environments to global changes. In the prospect of sustainable development and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the CEN is testing and evaluating the performance of alternative renewable energy sources and other green technologies for northern infrastructure. This research focus includes four themes.

Project leaders: Jasmin Raymond and Alexandre Roy

Theme 1.1: Tools and indicators for monitoring environmental changes

Monitoring and studying environmental changes require access to an instrumented infrastructure and the application of state-of-the-art analytical methods. To meet these needs, the CEN operates the SILA network of automated environmental monitoring stations. This unique network is maintained by a qualified technical staff that ensures a constant technological survey in order to quickly implement new technologies and validate their performance. Through their leadership in projects such as FORSCE and Sentinel North, the CEN members are actively involved in the development of equipment and instrumentation adapted to the unique harsh conditions of cold environments. New technologies for monitoring environmental and surface variables such as the physical properties of snow are also being developed. Emerging measurement technologies (e. g. unmanned aircraft, automated cameras, moorings with automated micro-sensors in lakes, satellite remote sensing coupled with state variable models) are being employed by adapting them to northern conditions in order to improve the research of spatio-temporal changes in terrestrial, coastal and aquatic environments, glaciers and in vegetation and snow cover. The CEN innovates in the study of movement patterns, land use and physiology of wildlife using state-of-the-art terrestrial and satellite telemetry equipment deployed on animals. Furthermore, sophisticated analytical methods are being developed for numerous environmental proxies such as dendrochronological series, lake and peat sediment cores or satellite images.

Project leader: Alexandre Langlois

Team: Allard, Michel; Antoniades, Dermot; Arseneault, Dominique; Bernatchez, Pascal; Bernier, Monique; Berteaux, Dominique; Bêty, Joël; Boucher, Étienne; Chokmani, Karem; Côté, Steeve; Couture, Raoul-Marie; De Lafontaine, Guillaume; Dominé, Florent; Fortier, Richard; Galvez, Rosa; Gauthier, Francis; Gauthier, Gilles; Kinnard, Christophe; Laurion, Isabelle; Legagneux, Pierre; Ouarda, Taha; Pienitz, Reinhard; Rautio, Milla; Roy, Alexandre; Royer, Alain; Sonnentag, Oliver; Vincent, Warwick F.; Vézina, François.

Theme 1.2: Renewable energies and green technologies

Decreasing the dependency on fossil energies and minimizing the carbon footprint for heating and lighting buildings and infrastructure is a priority for northern communities. However, the North presents particular challenges in this regard due to climate, extreme variations in sunlight hours and thermal insulation. Diesel fuel is transported by boat in a fragile environment where a spill might have irreversible consequences. The CEN members are experimenting and evaluating the performance of alternative energy sources (e.g., geothermal, solar, wind, biomass) for communities as well as for industries, mainly mines, or isolated camps, employing our research stations as test facilities. The researchers intend to use these stations, which are almost all already equipped with solar panels, to test new heating technologies such as geothermal heat pumps. Furthermore, the CEN contributes to the development of engineering concepts appropriate for northern environments, such as underground and seasonal thermal storage of solar energy or increase of energy efficiency of buildings through home automation and construction techniques which are optimized and adapted to arctic conditions. Other examples of green technologies being studied by CEN members in the North include the management of waste as a source of energy when burned, the treatment of effluent and wastewater using decentralized technologies and the decontamination of soil polluted by industrial activities or accidental spills of petroleum products.

Project leader: Jasmin Raymond

Team: Allard, Michel; Amyot, Marc; Couture, Raoul-Marie; Fortier, Richard; Galvez, Rosa; Larivière, Dominic; Lemieux, Jean-Michel; Khasa, Damase; Mercier, Guy; Molson, John; Therrien, René; Didier Haillot.

Theme 1.3: From biomolecules to nordic microbiomes

Molecular approaches have become essential for quantifying variations in biodiversity and assessing the physiological state of food webs, especially in the microbiome. The application of new molecular, biochemical and genetic analytical methods allows to investigate northern environments from biomolecules to microbes and multicellular organisms to a level that has never been reached before. The use of metagenomics provides a deeper insight not only of the structure of the microbiome but also of its function by identifying metabolic pathways and gene expression of key organisms. Collecting and preserving samples in isolated northern environments, however, presents significant challenges and often requires innovative techniques that are developed and refined with the collaboration of the CEN researchers. They are experimenting in situ the deployment of new biosensors developed in collaboration with Sentinel North which are able to detect the presence of microorganisms in the range of viruses to microbes. The CEN contributes to biotechnology by searching for new molecules unique to northern organisms through bioprospecting while at the same time respecting the knowledge of northern peoples. The CEN is partnering with the National Biodiversity Cryobank of Canada to create a long-term archive of northern environmental microbial samples. Molecular approaches are also being used and refined to better understand plant and animal ecology (e.g., evolutionary ecology of species, genetic structure of populations) and employed as new tools to determine changes in northern ecosystems from the past to the present.

Project leader: Alexander Culley

Team: Amyot, Marc; Antoniades, Dermot; Comte, Jérôme; Côté, Steeve; Couture, Raoul-Marie; de Lafontaine, Guillaume; Greer, Charles; Lovejoy, Connie; Moore, Jean-Sébastien; Pienitz, Reinhard; Rautio, Milla; Villarreal A., Juan Carlos; Vincent, Warwick F.; Voyer, Normand.

Theme 1.4: Knowledge mobilization and participatory science

The rapid mobilization and sharing of knowledge is a valuable decision-making aid as much for northern communities as for governments and industries. The development of innovative methods of acquisition, sharing, transfer and perpetuation of knowledge allows to make the expertise generated by the CEN accessible and to maximize its benefits. The data are archived and spread to the international community via the Nordicana D, an open access data portal, created and maintained by the CEN. Furthermore, the participation of the CEN in the Canadian Consortium for Arctic Data Interoperability (CCADI) will help to improve the accessibility of these databases. Web portals are also being created to publish information for decision-makers, in particular geotechnical data used for land use planning in the communities. To promote the co-production and sharing of knowledge with northerners as well as the social acceptability of research work, the CEN has established joint scientific committees in the communities where its research stations are located. CEN members organize intergenerational camps, which serve as platforms for exchange between researchers and communities and help to integrate traditional knowledge in many projects. Participatory science is being promoted through the development of technological tools such as smartphone applications adapted to the specificities of the North. These initiatives facilitate the collection of unpublished observations made by northerners in the field and promote the sharing and valorization of this information in a way that respects knowledge of both Indigenous peoples and kowledge holders.

Project leader: Esther Lévesque

Team: Allard, Michel; Bernatchez, Pascal; Bernier, Monique; Bêty, Joël; Buffin-Bélanger, Thomas; Bhiry, Najat; Lasserre, Frédéric; Legagneux, Pierre; Marie, Guillaume; Moore, Jean-Sébastien; Raymond, Jasmin; Rodon, Thierry; Tremblay, Jean-Pierre; Vincent, Warwick F.

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