By John Nightingale, President & CEO, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

Our journey on the One Ocean research/expedition vessel travelling from Greenland, through the Northwest Passage to Cambridge Bay began in Ottawa – a central gathering point. Our 27 guests and two staff spent the day before the departure touring displays at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Located on Metcalf Street in downtown Ottawa, the Museum is a Canadian treasure. The downtown public Museum facility is backed by an even larger and amazing service facility housing most of the large collections of preserved plants and animals, scientific research programs and related offices just outside of downtown. Unfortunately, we only had time to visit the Museum.

The Canadian Museum of Nature is developing a new major display on Canada’s North – set to open in 2017.  Like the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, the Museum of Nature in Ottawa has actively conducted research in the North for decades. Dr. Mark Graham, the Museum’s Vice President of research and collections is a former Vancouver Aquarium curator. Our two institutions share the conviction that more research, better science, much more data, and ongoing monitoring is needed in order to understand the changes taking place – particularly in Canada’s North.

The Vancouver Aquarium and the Canadian Museum of Nature are in the process of signing a Memorandum of Cooperation to expand together the work on the Museum’s displays, interpretation, digital communications and research. The Aquarium is providing the Museum with living Arctic fish and invertebrates from its collection and its Arctic Propagation Laboratory in Vancouver, as well as species directly from the Arctic.

Urtricina species of Arctic anemone. Photo credit: John Healy

Arctic anemone. 

While the Aquarium does not have a large service centre like the one backing the Museum of Nature, many of the animals we’re sending come from our small but productive Arctic Propagation Laboratory where our team hatches and rears a number of Arctic species – many of them world firsts.  We are excited to know that people visiting the Museum will be able to see living Arctic animals because we know how engaging and inspiring that will be. We look forward to a productive and expanding collaboration with the Museum over the coming years.

We have come here to look, learn and begin the process of observing and asking questions that will naturally lead to worthy conversations — a process we will all be involved in for the next two weeks. We get to hear from Meg Beckel, the Museum’s president and CEO on why Canadians should pay more attention to Canada’s Arctic. Seeing the displays and talking with Museum staff is a great way for all of us to begin “thinking Arctic.”

With global temperatures on the rise, we’re racing against time to gain insight about one of the least scientifically understood regions on the planet: the Arctic. This month, scientists from Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre head north to expand upon innovative Arctic research projects started in 2015, in collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), the federal agency responsible for advancing Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic and for strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology. This blog series chronicles our scientists’ time and research efforts in the Arctic.

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