On September 6th, the federal government announced $94 million in funding for the creation of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI), a historic partnership between Dalhousie University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and the University of Prince Edward Island. This funding, offered through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), is matched with an additional $125 million in funds committed from various partners, including a $25 million gift from philanthropist John Risley to support OFI operations. This $220-million project has been called a game‑changer for ocean research. Rightfully so.
OFI represents a transformative partnership between these three universities in Atlantic Canada. The partnership also includes eight international ocean research institutes (including four of the top five in the world), three departments of the Canadian federal government, the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Film Board, and 19 industry partners ranging from local small businesses to international corporations like IBM.
This will be the North Atlantic region’s first transnational research organization and one of the world’s most significant ocean science research collaborations. OFI will bring together elite researchers and institutes from across the globe to understand our changing oceans and create safe, sustainable solutions for ocean development.
This international hub for ocean science is built around 17 interlinked research modules, each taking an interdisciplinary perspective to tackle a different ocean topic or challenge. Through these, OFI will provide funding to support research and deliver data science and technology tools to policy-makers, scientists, and industry. Some of the areas where OFI hopes to make an impact include: improving prediction and mitigation of major storms; better management of the ocean’s living resources; more sustainable approaches to aquaculture; marine transportation policy and risk reduction; and new data capture and IT tools to monitor the ocean.
TBTI is especially pleased that its project director, Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee, is one of the 10 lead investigators on this initiative. She will lead social science research on a range of issues, from healthy ecosystems to sustainable fisheries and ocean governance. Together with colleagues from Memorial and Dalhousie, governments, and international partners, they will explore questions related to community values, vulnerability to change, health and safely, community planning, risk mitigation, and science-policy interface. The research sites will include Atlantic Canada, the Canadian North, and the North Atlantic.