Sentinel North represents an unprecedented strategy in the history of northern research in Canada. This scientific initiative from Université Laval is based on a multisectoral and cross-cutting approach that relies on more than 60 years of northern research, numerous Canadian experts and an extensive network of international collaborations. The goal is to improve our understanding of humanity, its environment and the impact environmental changes are having on humans and their health. We will do so by undertaking a real-time mapping of the Arctic, sub-Arctic and northern ecosystems and geosystems on the human being-environment axis, using new and powerful transdisciplinary scientific tools.
Our climate is changing and nowhere else on Earth are those changes as extreme as in the cold expanses of the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Northern exploration, with its promise of socio-economic modernization, offers many opportunities, all while exerting significant pressure on the environment, the health care and education systems, and the cultures of our societies.
Sentinel North is based on a convergence of strategic research fields in which Université Laval plays a national and international leadership role: Arctic sciences, optics-photonics, cardiometabolic and mental health. Sentinel North is a broad synergistic initiative that brings together several cutting-edge research programs—particularly in the fields of neurophotonics and dysmetabolic gut microbiota—for which Université Laval is already a recognized leader, with existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs Marcel Babin (Remote Sensing of Canada's New Arctic Frontier) and Younès Messaddeq (Photonic Innovations).
Under the direction of Université Laval, the leadership of Sentinel North’s scientific strategy will be entrusted to two world-class researchers:
- Marcel Babin, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada's New Arctic Frontier, and Director of the Takuvik Joint International Laboratory (Université Laval/CNRS); and
- Dr. Yves De Koninck, Scientific Director at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec and Director of Research at the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Capitale-Nationale.
The approach provides for the establishment of an international scientific panel; the creation of new international research chairs and new joint international research units; the recruitment of new world-class professors; the development of a new transectoral doctoral program at the crossroads of the environment, the life sciences and optics-photonics; a scholarship program; the organization of international schools; calls for discovery-based research proposals; the creation of a new centre for instrument design and a knowledge mobilization plan. Governance structures and a performance measurement plan are also being developed, to ensure that Sentinel North is directed from a perspective of both effectiveness and accountability.
With Sentinel North, both Canada and Canadians will be able to anticipate changes in tangible ways and reduce the impacts of the climate conditions currently changing across the entire planet. This strategy puts Canada in a strong position, because it forms an ecosystem of reliable scientific information capable of documenting the complex geopolitical, socio-economic and health-related environment of the Arctic region.
The move—from understanding the challenges to studying new possibilities for building a sustainable future in the circumpolar region—is a small one, and Université Laval, with help from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, has begun that journey.