The Knowledge Sharing Centre features technology for live translations between local experts, visitors and CHARS researchers and — like the building’s other spaces — major artworks by Inuit artists. (Photo: Alex Fradkin)
At the heart of the facility, which is operated by Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), are its scientific laboratories, including a refrigerated room for analyzing snow and ice, a growth chamber where scientists will study living Arctic insects and plants, a genomics lab, an imaging lab and more. While most of the CHARS campus is now operating, the laboratories are being gradually phased into use as staff undertake the complex task of preparing the specialized equipment.
POLAR biologists Ian Hogg and Simona Wagner are in charge of the laboratories. Setting up a new lab facility from scratch, especially in the Arctic, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that’s both challenging and rewarding. “It’s very satisfying to be enabling applied science and technology research in the North,” says Wagner. “The main challenge is the location. In Cambridge Bay, all the equipment has to come in by air or water.”
Because transportation is expensive and easily disrupted by bad weather, self-sufficiency and flexibility are key. “We’re a bit like a ship,” says Hogg. “Every piece of equipment has to have some redundancy built in. If we need two microscopes of a particular type, we have a third as a backup.”
One of the more impressive research spaces is the necropsy lab, essentially a 40-square-metre-plus operating room where veterinarians will be able to do research on animal carcasses. Wildlife health is an important area of inquiry at the CHARS campus, as wildlife is an essential food source for Inuit, and an animal’s condition can reveal much about the environment in which it lives. Equipped with a crane, the necropsy lab can handle anything from lemmings to polar bears to whales.