Jamie Cassels, UVic president and vice-chancellor, said the new Ocean Climate Building near the University of Victoria will help Ocean Networks Canada deliver ‘ocean intelligence’ to scientists, communities, governments and industry. (Wolf Depner/News Staff )

Feds pump $3.5M into UVic climate research centre

Federal minister says investment strengthens scientific research, economic development

One of the world’s leading oceanographers says the creation of a new ocean and climate research centre at the University of Victoria will create intellectual and economic spin-offs.

“Where disciplines interact, innovation explodes,” said Kate Moran, president and chief executive officer of Ocean Networks Canada (ONC).

It monitors the west and east coasts of Canada and the Arctic to deliver at no charge real-time data scientific research to other scientists, communities, governments and industry through two large ocean-based observatories among other facilities. By way of example, its monitoring of sea-surface currents informs maritime navigation and emergency responses that range from distressed ships to oil spills, while its acoustic data measuring underwater noise helps authorities protect marine mammals such as killer whales from underwater noise.

Overall, it manages 400 instruments containing over 5,500 sensors.

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But ONC is not just a clearing house for data, but also a technological incubator, at is currently developing Canada’s first early warning system for earthquakes, among other items for public and private uses.

Officials from the network, the university, as well as senior spheres of government cited this history during the official opening of the network’s new Ocean Climate Building on Arbutus Street, just off the University of Victoria’s main campus.

The centre has previously housed a senior care facility run by the Sisters of St. Ann.

Moran said the centre will physically unite researchers, who had previously worked across separate buildings in one locations, thereby sparking innovation.

Funding for the $9.5 million facility comes from the University of Victoria ($5.15 million), the federal government ($3.5 million) and the provincial government ($850,000).

The federal government represented by Jonathan Wilkinson, federal minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, also announced $12.6 million over four years to help monitor ocean conditions that impact endangered orcas and expand ONC’s ability to supply to real-time data on ocean currents, informing better information navigation and emergency response.

RELATED: Canada invests $46 million in University of Victoria ocean science facility

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When asked about the state of the local orca population, Moran said she is not a biologist, but added that the local population is clearly endangered. With the additional investment from the federal governments, scientists in both Canada and the United States will be able to work on ways to help the population, she said.

During her officials remarks, she also noted that the investment will not help Canada met its goals to mitigate climate change, but also develop what she called a blue economy.

The official speakers list during the Jan. 10 official opening also included Jamie Cassels, UVic president, and Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver-West End. Local MPs Murray Rankin (New Democratic Party) and Elizabeth May (Greens) also attended the official ceremony, which drew some 100 people, including Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff, and former councillor Vicki Sanders.


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