Dr. David G. Barber

  • On April 15, 2022, Dr. David G. Barber tragically passed away. Dr. Barber was the founder of the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) and held the Directorship of CEOS from 1994 – 2011, as well as the position of Scientific Director from 2018 – April 2022. He was a visionary researcher with a passion for the Arctic, a scholar with an entrepreneurial spirit, and a generous mentor. During his career he supervised over 100 graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, creating a vast network of climate change scientists. His leadership was instrumental in the development of many large international multidisciplinary networks for Arctic research, including the Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet, the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES), the International Polar Year – Circumpolar Flaw-Lead study (IPY-CFL), and the Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys). Dr. Barber’s dedication also helped secure major Arctic research infrastructure, such as the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, and the Churchill Marine Observatory (CMO).

  • CEOS became a flagship for excellence in Arctic research attributed to his vision, abilities and energy. He will be sorely missed both personally and professionally.

    As we look to the future of CEOS and plan for the next decade of Northern and Arctic System Science and Global Climate Change research, we keep in mind Dr. Barber’s vision to work across academia, industry, governments, non-profits, and Indigenous rightsholders. To address complex interconnected issues, it is imperative that we continue to collaborate across disciplines and transcend their traditional boundaries with non-academic partners. At CEOS we strive to create an environment that continues to enable transdisciplinary research, while fostering a research culture that encompasses collaboration and inclusion.


"Although I am now nine years removed as a student of David, I feel like I have lost my most influential mentor -- I joined the IPY-CFL program in 2007, only one year after losing my own father to cancer. Dave felt like more than a PhD supervisor to me; a father-like figure that was missing from my life. During my time at CEOS, I came to think of him in this regard; not just for me, but for the whole CEOS family. Dave changed my life in so many good ways, and touched so many people in Manitoba, Canada, and around the world.

David gave me the opportunity to pursue a career that would honour my own father's legacy and I am forever grateful. I owe my career to his guidance, and I hope I can live up to his high expectations for my career."

Matthew Asplin
Metocean & Arctic Project Manager
ASL Environmental Sciences Inc.

"David inspired me to become an Arctic researcher. I met him as a wayward undergraduate student in 2000, at a time when I was trying to understand how to get involved in science, and how to do something meaningful with my degree. I took a class of his called Earth Observation Science, when the Centre of the same name he established was a rather small and not yet the large, internationally recognized, research facility that it is today thanks to David's hard work.  

I never strayed far from David's positive influence. I did my Masters with John Yackel, a PhD graduate of his, and my PhD was co-supervised by John and David together. David also supervised my postdoctoral research and even sent me to Antarctica in 2010 to participate in a British Antarctic Survey project called IceBell. I couldn't believe my luck! I think my participation had something to do with him not being available, but I never did ask. I just thanked my lucky stars. I am grateful to him for that opportunity, and so many others, over the years.

It takes a combination of special talent, a relentless passion and commitment, and truly visionary thinking, to do the type of work David did. David's legacy speaks for itself. Thankfully the work is well documented and lives on in his absence. My life has been touched by David Barber the academic and, most importantly, the person."

Randy K Scharien
Associate Professor, Department of Geography
University of Victoria

I have worked with David for over twenty years, with a common interest to transform Arctic research through respectful and meaningful engagement with Inuit. David understood that only through mutual respect would we understand how Arctic systems work and how the Arctic is being affected by climate change, globalization, and industrialization. David valued the importance of respecting the communities in the Arctic and the knowledge the communities and elders held. He believed that both knowledge systems held value in a full understanding of a complex system under unpredictable forces of change.

Stephanie Meakin
Senior Science Advisor
Inuit Circumpolar Council

"I overlapped briefly with Dave in my PhD at Waterloo. Ellsworth was also my supervisor - Dave was finishing as I was starting. My primary area was forestry but I did fieldwork in the Arctic [Resolute / SIMMS] in May-June 1993. Dave visited us briefly at the sea ice field camp. He was so excited to see us, and to see the melt. I otherwise never worked directly with Dave or CEOS but kept in touch. In 2019-20 I was guest-editor of an Arctic Science special issue of Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing and gave overview presentations in Germany & Estonia on Canada’s role. It was in researching this that I really saw the amazing extent, depth, breadth, reach and innovation coming from CEOS and led by Dave. We all knew for many years how accomplished Dave’s work was, but to then really look at it in detail, and to present it along with that of many others, it was a true honour.

I’ve been a Geography professor for ~25 years. When I look at what Dave has achieved, I can truly say in complete unbiased objectivity, that anyone would say it is truly, absolutely remarkable. I think it redefines what is possible. From whatever metric, Dave stands out far above all else [including non-Arctic / all] in terms of capacity, infrastructure, real impact.

Dave chose to direct his efforts in an area of global importance. He made a real difference. I think his most lasting legacy will be the generations of students and colleagues that he mentored and trained. They bring forward not only his brilliance and high standards, but also the interpersonal interactions as an example of how to treat each other in this world. It’s truly an amazing legacy."

Derek R. Peddle
Professor, Department of Geography & Environment
Director of Alberta Terrestrial Imaging Centre (ATIC)
University of Lethbridge

"We in the ARCTOS network in Tromsø and Svalbard received the sad news about the passing away of our dear colleague and friend, Dr. David G. Barber, or Dave as we knew him. He had a truly outstanding record for research and leadership in Arctic research and become a world-leading scientist in his field. His research team made significant and ground-breaking contributions in the field of sea ice and understanding of climate change in the Arctic. Because of the international reputation of his sea ice research and leadership of large Arctic programs, Dave was an invited keynote speaker at the International Polar Year (IPY) conference in Oslo, in 2010. Many of us had then already been involved in collaborative research with his group, and some of us had joined the CCGS Amundsen in the Circumpolar Flaw Lead System Study (CFL) in the Canadian Arctic.

Dave had the charisma and personality necessary for team building and outreach to scientists, managers, and Indigenous peoples. He was a great inspiration to young scientists, both university students and younger pupils through the “Schools on board” program. With enthusiasm, determination, and ingenuity he acted as a strong supporter of research in and for the Arctic Ocean. He was outgoing with a large network of contacts, and he was very much open for international cooperation. He had a long and productive collaboration with us in Arctic Norway and was central for linking up our respective research networks Arctos and ArcticNet. This made it possible for scientists in Canada-Norway to work closely together in several Arctic research projects for more than a decade. He became a close friend to many of us and visited our homes and families. Thus, he will be sorely missed on both professional and personal levels."

Members of the ARCTOS network (Norway)

D.G. & V.E. Barber Memorial Fellowship in Arctic Research

To honour Dr. Barber’s commitment to the next generation of Arctic researchers, the V.E. Barber Memorial Fellowship in Arctic Research has been renamed the D.G. & V.E. Barber Memorial Fellowship in Arctic Research.

Please consider contributing to the D.G. & V.E.  Barber Memorial Fellowship in Arctic Research  to honour Dr. Barber’s commitment to the next generation of Arctic researchers. It was Dr. David Barber’s wish to also honour his father, V.E. Barber, a strong supporter of science and an amateur historian and naturalist, with this combined award. The fund supports graduate students and postdoctoral fellows at the University of Manitoba who are conducting or have conducted research pertaining to the Arctic, and thereby recognizing students and fellows who are contributing to a greater understanding of these regions.