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Ocean circulation is critical in setting the distribution of ocean temperatures, sea ice, biological productivity and species distributions. Ocean circulation is poorly observed in coastal Nunatsiavut, a region undergoing significant ocean climate change in recent decades. Several projects (see right) will increase the density of scientific observations in the region, record and transfer traditional knowledge, and perform outreach and educational activities with community youth. The data arising from these projects will be useful to community and governments plans for marine management and climate change adaptation, as well as in the development of ocean models for the region which will provide our best estimates of future change in the region.

The region lies in the critical transition zone between the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and adjacent to areas of deep convection in the Labrador Sea, which are important for global climate dynamics and biogeochemical cycling. The region is also home to the southernmost Inuit communities in the world in Nunatsiavut. A predictable marine environment is important for food security and the preservation of culture in Nunatsiavut. Yet this region has experienced significant climate change recently, including an air temperature rise of 2 degrees Celcius since 1993 and 75% loss of sea ice cover since 1969. Locals have recently reported an increasing number of incidents of people breaking through sea ice while travelling in winter. Changes are also occurring in marine ecosystems which have impacts on northern fisheries and harvesting practices. This has led to great uncertainty around the safety of traditional travel routes as well as the sustainability of traditional wintertime hunting and fishing activities.



Community-based Observing of Nunatsiavut coastal Ocean Circulation

This project will improve our knowledge of coastal ocean currents using ocean drifters. These drifters move with the near-surface ocean circulation and relay their position via satellite. Drifters will be built and deployed by community youth, as part of annual summer schools which will involve a science learning component, thereby educating and empowering local communities through direct involvement in collecting and using ocean observations. In addition, workshops will be held alongside the summer schools to record and transfer traditional knowledge of coastal ocean currents from community elders.

Maps and data (Ocean Drifters)

Maps and data (Inuit Knowledge)

Summary report (Inuit Knowledge)

More information



Coastal Ocean Monitoring in Nunatsiavut

This project will establish regular oceanographic monitoring, through a Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS), along coastal Labrador, in northeastern Canada. The VOS will be based on the local ferry, which serves several communities along the coast and transits a range of environments including estuaries, arctic fjords, and open ocean coastline and shelf zones. This project will provide frequent measurements of ocean physics and chemistry along the regular ferry route with a weekly repeat cycle.

More information



Community-based Observing of the coastal Nunatsiavut Ocean in Winter

The proposed project will partner with communites in Nunatsiavut to perform regular observations of the coastal ocean in winter. During regular travel over sea ice, for hunting and fishing activities, opportunistic under-ice seawater sampling will be undertaken. Currently a pilot project is proposed which would be based in and around the Rigolet Inuit Community of Nunatsiavut, with observation locations focused in the Lake Melville and Groswater Bay area.

Plots and data

More information



Meet the people involved


Eric Oliver

Assistant Professor, Oceanography, Dalhousie University

Nunatsiavut Beneficiary, roots in Rigolet


Breanna Bishop

Research Assistant, Oceanography/Marine Affairs, Dalhousie University


Clark Richards

Research Scientist, Bedford Institute of Oceanography


Claudio Aporta

Associate Professor, Marine Affairs, Dalhousie University


Laura Avery

Training Program Coordinator

Marine and Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response


Douglas Wallace

Professor, Oceanography, Dalhousie University


Dariia Atamanchuk

Research Associate, Oceanography, Dalhousie University


Waylon Shiwak

Rigolet community member

Rigolet Community Shed Coordinator


Funders and Partners

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Dalhousie University

Nunatsiavut Government

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Pure Ocean

Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response


Contact Us


Project lead: Eric Oliver

Give me a ring, send an email, or swing by for a cup of coffee.

  Halifax, Nova Scotia

  (902) 494-2505