The Churchill Marine Observatory (CMO)

A new national marine research base
On the shores of Hudson Bay



The Churchill Marine Observatory (CMO) will be a globally unique, highly innovative, multidisciplinary research facility located in Churchill, Manitoba, adjacent to Canada’s only Arctic deep-water port. The CMO will directly address technological, scientific, and economic issues pertaining to Arctic marine transportation and oil and gas exploration and development throughout the Arctic.

CMO will include an Oil in Sea Ice Mesocosm (OSIM), an Environmental Observing (EO) system, and a logistics base. OSIM will consist of two saltwater sub-pools designed to simultaneously accommodate contaminated and control experiments on various scenarios of oil spills in sea ice. The EO system will be located in the Churchill estuary and along the main shipping channel across Hudson Bay and Strait. The EO system will provide a state-of-the-art monitoring system and will be used to scale process studies conducted in OSIM to Hudson Bay and the larger Arctic environment. The logistics base will underpin all CMO research.

CMO will position Canada as a global leader of research into the detection, impacts, and mitigation of oil spills in sea ice and the effect of climate change and water regulation on freshwater-marine coupling in the Arctic. Knowledge gained through CMO will strengthen Canada’s technological capacity to protect the Arctic environment. Partnerships with indigenous organizations will ensure knowledge exchange; the private sector will provide market-driven uptake of technology; and various levels of government will transfer knowledge into policy and regulation.

Anticipated Outcomes

CMO is specifically designed to investigate a variety of contaminants under both landfast first-year sea ice and mobile ice types. Three mutually supporting core research and technology elements are proposed: 1) the Oil in Sea Ice Mesocosm (OSIM); 2) a fully integrated Environmental Observing (EO) system; and 3) a Logistics Base. Anticipated outcomes for CMO include the following:

  • A newly developed suite of remote sensing and modeling tools for detecting contaminants across a range of space and time scales.
  • Procedures to mitigate environmental impacts from a spill using conventional techniques such as dispersants and in situ burning, in addition to novel techniques such as cold temperature-adapted bioremediation.
  • Advanced capacity to monitor for and quantify potential impacts from shipping and development activities in the Arctic while also providing advanced information required by operators for safe shipping, exploration and development.

The true strength of the proposed program is the full integration of OSIM research and technology development with the state-of-the-art EO system. The EO system directly supports OSIM by supplying in situ data on the natural range and variability of the key environmental factors that define ocean/sea ice/atmosphere (OSA) climate states (e.g., ocean salinity, temperature, ice thickness, roughness, and biological productivity). By deploying identical instruments in both OSIM and the EO system, equivalent observations will be made in the upper ocean, ocean-ice interface, through the ice volume, and the ice-atmosphere interface. This level of coordinated cross-disciplinary environmental monitoring is unprecedented in Canada’s Arctic.

OSIM will address research of how crude oils, distillates, fuel oils, herding agents, dispersants and residues from in situ burning, liquefied natural gas, and other transportation-related contaminants affect processes across the OSA interface. The OSIM science objectives are organized under three broad categories to develop an understanding of what effects various contaminants have on Arctic ecosystems, and on the thermodynamic and dynamic evolution of snow-covered sea ice:

i) detection (remote sensing from under, within above and from space)
ii) impacts (physical, biological and chemical impacts across the full ocean-sea ice-atmosphere system)
iii) mitigation (scientific and technological solutions required to mitigate effects)

Links to downloadable pdf files with additional information:

1) Executive summary of the proposal funded
2) Full CFI proposal
3) The CFI review panel results for CMO
4) NSERC Industrial Research Chair positions
5) Joint ECE/CEOS faculty position

 Video: CMO Announcement