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The Arctic, although an extremely important region of Canada, may not be well-known among all Canadians, but there’s an initiative that is working to change that. The Arctic Inspiration Prize is in its second year of annually awarding multi-disciplinary teams who have made a substantial contribution to the gathering of Arctic knowledge, and who have future plans to put this knowledge into action to benefit the Arctic, its communities, and ultimately, Canada as a whole.

Tonight, one such team – Ikaarvik: Barriers to Bridges, consisting of researchers and community members from the Vancouver Aquarium, Arctic communities, Fisheries and Ocean Canada (DFO) and ArctiConnexion, as well as partner zoos and aquariums – was a proud recipient of the Arctic Inspiration Prize, awarded at the 9th Annual ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting in Halifax, N.S.

With this prize, Ikaarvik aims to build stronger, more effective collaboration among partner Inuit communities and scientific researchers, improve public discourse about the Arctic, and increase leadership capacity among young emerging Inuit leaders.

The Ikaarvik team receives the Arctic Inspiration Prize on December 11, 2013 at the annual ArcticNet meeting in Halifax, NS.

The Ikaarvik team receives the Arctic Inspiration Prize on December 11, 2013 at the annual ArcticNet meeting in Halifax, NS.

Each year, the Prize Committee awards a total of $1 million CAD to one to five teams. This is the second annual year for the prize, which was awarded to three teams, each of which will receive $325,000 to put their plan into action.

It was a Vancouver Aquarium Arctic Connections program that led to Ikaarvik to be one of the recipients of this award. In 2011, Solomon teamed up with Shelly Elverum, Arctic College instructor in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, to bring a group of students from Pond Inlet to meet with government agencies and researchers, and to work with staff and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium. The program was tremendously effective, and has had a significant impact on the Pond Inlet community, researchers, and Aquarium staff and volunteers.

This collaboration improved the relationship between scientists and the community of Pond Inlet, built local capacity to further engage in relevant scientific research, and provided a voice for the community to reach a large southern Canadian audience through the Vancouver Aquarium. It also inspired graduate students at the Centre for Northern Studies (University of Laval) to form a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to improving the relationship between scientists and Canada’s Arctic communities.

Based on the success of this initiative – the 2011 Arctic Connections Southern Expedition – the Ikaarvik team was formed, and was one of three teams selected for this recognition today, based on its work to date to remove barriers to communication and cooperation between northern communities and scientific researchers, and to reframe the Arctic dialogue in Canada.

Moving ahead, the Arctic Inspiration Prize will be used to expand key components of the successful 2011 Southern Expedition to four additional communities and four additional zoos and aquariums in Canada. It will also involve the Canadian Rangers Ocean Watch program (a research partnership between the Department of National Defense, DFO and the Vancouver Aquarium) as both a case study and a practical application of Ikaarvik’s bridge-building.

The $1 million CAD Arctic Inspiration Prize is awarded annually and is made possible through the generous endowment of the S. and A. Inspiration Foundation, the commitment of ArcticNet to voluntarily manage the Prize, as well as the contribution of numerous volunteers and partners.

The Vancouver Aquarium Arctic Connections initiative works to bridge southern and northern perspectives, knowledge and ideas. Its goal is to create greater awareness and understanding of important issues that affect both northern and southern Canadians, and to create a place for respectful, solutions-oriented dialogue. Learn more here.

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