- Canada holds a wealth of research opportunities — and research challenges.
- ArcticConnect enables data sharing in the extremes of Canada's North.
- New research network has tools to make science and policy decisions easier.
The peoples, wildlife, and unique terrain of Northern Canada are a priceless part of our shared human heritage. Research in Arctic biodiversity, natural resources, and climate can preserve the culture and improve the lives of those that live there.
However, the remoteness and climate that make the Arctic special also make it challenging to measure and monitor. Furthermore, rapid change is impacting Arctic dwellers today, so timely research is more crucial than ever.
There is no shortage of information from Canada’s North, but the datasets — from satellite reports to personal photographs of the landscape — are not linked and therefore not easily accessed or shared.
As a result, scientists can spend 80 percent of their time finding data and only 20 percent doing actual research. Indeed, data sharing and interoperability are two of the most pressing challenges in Arctic research.
Innovative contributions and accessibility
To rectify this situation, researchers at the University of Calgary and the Arctic Institute of North America have launched ArcticConnect, an online platform designed to improve the monitoring of Canada’s North and to provide readily accessible information on changing conditions.
All ArcticConnect data is linked to a web-based map that uses Arctic-specific map projections, reducing the extreme distortions of the Arctic that are prevalent in mapping systems designed for temperate latitudes.
See how digital cartographers are overcoming the Mercator distortion in our feature "Mapping the Vizzies."
ArcticConnect collects data from temperature and dew point sensors at research stations throughout the Arctic Circle — including those that provide near-real time data — for visualization, information sharing, and collaborative analysis.
It includes a biodiversity database that enables researchers and residents to contribute observations on Arctic animal species for the purpose of monitoring, management, and education. The platform also includes geo-mapped images of publications, research reports, photos, field notes, public commentary, and even artwork.
Important global initiative
ArcticConnect not only makes it easier for scientists to manage and access information worldwide about changing conditions in the Arctic, but it also helps governments make policy decisions and public agencies respond to emergency situations. What’s more, it empowers individuals to contribute to an important global initiative through its crowd-sourcing approach to data gathering, referred to as ‘citizen sensing.’
With the Arctic Web Map tool, researchers can customize map projections for scientifically accurate visualization and analysis, a function that is critical for arctic research but missing in existing web mapping platforms. It provides a visually appealing tool for education and outreach to a wider audience.
ArcticConnect allows residents, the research community, the private sector, and government agencies in the Canadian North to submit and access a variety of types of information online.
Through its Arctic Scholar component, ArcticConnect enables researchers, educators, interested private sector entities, government agencies, and the general public to access and share Arctic data and information contained in assorted formats including publications, research licenses, photo archives, field notes, and project metadata from Arctic field stations.
ArcticConnect’s Arctic Sensor Web component enables research stations around the pan-Arctic region to connect their sensors, including those that provide near-real time data, to a central cloud service for visualization, information sharing, and collaborative analysis.
Cycle of software reuse
ArcticConnect builds upon on earlier CANARIE-supported initiative, the GeoCENS Research Platform. In addition to GeoCENS and the ArcticConnect platform, three new services have been contributed back to the CANARIE software registry for re-use by other researchers:
- Biodiversity Sightings Management Service for collecting wildlife sightings from mobile clients
- Multi-Projection Web Mapping Service for Arctic Regions provides map tiles with no Arctic region distortion
Because of extreme weather conditions, vast spaces, and costly transportation, collecting data in Canada’s vast north can be a challenge. But even though the weather outside might be frightful, ArcticConnect is warming up data exchange in Canada.