The federal government has given Aurora College almost $1.69 million to help with its warehouse expansion project.
The project will see the creation of a steel warehouse that will contain an unheated space for long-term equipment storage, a heated loading bay and marshalling space to support field research projects, and a heated garage and workshop.
According to Aurora College, this will allow the institute to further support researchers with the Western Arctic Research Centre (WARC).
“This will enable WARC to meet the increased needs of the research community in the western Arctic and will also support the on-going growth of regional research activity by making it easier and more efficient for researchers to do their work,” a press release from the college reads.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic began, WARC would host up to 200 users annually. That number is expected to grow due to increased international interest in northern research and climate change, according to the college.
At a press conference on Monday, NWT MP Michael McLeod announced the funding, which comes from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s 2020 Innovation Fund.
“The benefits of investing in research infrastructure are countless. It creates space to train the next generation of STEM professionals, it brings together scientists and entrepreneurs who can jumpstart innovation and it helps Canada remain at the forefront of scientific discoveries,” McLeod said.
The warehouse project still needs two-million dollars – about 60 percent of its total cost – before it is fully funded. Aurora College President Andy Bevan, said once that funding is secured, he expects construction to begin within one year.
The proposed location for the project is on the facility’s existing lot on Mackenzie Road in Inuvik. Some smaller structures will be removed from the yard to make space for the warehouse.
The college is currently in transition to becoming a polytechnical university, with plans to open in 2025.
According to the Aurora College transformation progress tracker, 27 goals have been completed, 28 are in progress and 51 have yet to be started.
‘A win-win situation’
Bevan said this new funding will be significant as the college transitions, and will also help the research community in the NWT.
“I think we have a proud history of being very supportive of and helping the research community more broadly, but obviously expanding these facilities will greatly enhance our ability to do so,” he said.
The institution also announced in November that it will have a climate change adaptation research chair based in Inuvik.
Joel McAlister, the vice-president of research for Aurora College, said community-driven research has always been a “driving initiative” of the college and he hopes it will help to further build local capacity.
McAlister said the funding and increased research activity at the WARC will allow the college to increase opportunities for local residents to be trained as researchers, field assistants and environmental monitors.
“This just builds on the breadth of their traditional experiences and their traditional knowledge in actually conducting and going out on the land,” he said.
“It’s just a win-win situation. We help them build on the platforms that are there and established.”
When will international researchers be welcomed back?
McAlister said any Canadian or international researchers who are looking to come back to the NWT to complete research, should reach out to territorial health officials and the appropriate federal agencies.
He suggested that they also reach out to communities they plan to work in to discuss their concerns about teams coming back to the NWT.
“It’s fluid, it’s changing with the times. But we will support researchers that come into the territory so long as they’re Covid compliant and their licenses are up to date,” he said.
Virtual support is still being offered as a way to help researchers who currently are not allowed back into the territory.