Equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives at Canadian universities

Canada’s universities play an essential role in building back better post-pandemic, both in Canada and abroad. They are dedicated to improving and enriching lives through research and innovation, teaching and skills development, and serving as key pillars of their communities. They engage in critical work across the country and internationally to foster a resilient and equitable future and to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In this blog series, university presidents from across the country share their thoughts and highlight some of their institution’s initiatives to contribute to a sustainable, inclusive future.


March 30, 2022

Life below water: Ocean research for a sustainable future

Published by
Vianne Timmons, O.C.
President of Memorial University of Newfoundland

Newfoundland and Labrador is a place shaped by cold water, wind and ice. As the province’s only university, the impact of the ocean on Memorial University’s research, teaching and learning, and public engagement goes deep. In fact, more than 40 per cent of research at Memorial is ocean-related.

Our strength is rooted in this place: we are located on the edge of the North Atlantic, easily accessible to more ocean zones than any other university in Canada. And it’s not just our physical place that makes us strong. Our relationships with the people and organizations of the ocean sector are crucial to our success.

Over the years, Memorial built solid world-renowned expertise in cold oceans, harsh environment engineering, ocean engineering and technology, marine transportation, energy and natural resources, fisheries and aquaculture, and sustainable coastal communities, among many other areas.

And through it all, there is a strategic focus for the future, targeted towards sustainability and stewardship of the resources that surround us and supported internationally by the United Nations (UN) Sustainability Development Goals, in particular, No. 14 — Life Below Water.

Embracing the UN’s Ocean Decade (2021-30), researchers play a critical role in informing policy to address large-scale, international challenges, such as getting to net zero carbon and achieving a sustainable blue economy. Through our partnerships with governments, industry, Indigenous groups, coastal communities and international leaders, Memorial University is well-positioned to provide evidence-informed solutions for the future of our oceans.

Our commitment to intensifying responsible ocean research was given a major boost with the creation of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) following a $227-million investment from the Government of Canada and private and public sector organizations. The OFI, a partnership between Memorial University, Dalhousie University, the University of Prince Edward Island and eight major international research institutes, is the North Atlantic’s first transnational research organization and one of the world’s most significant ocean science research collaborations.

OFI is converting research findings into meaningful information and placing it in the hands of policy-makers, industries and communities, particularly related to the blue economy and achieving Canada’s goal of net zero by 2050. The research at OFI will live on for decades as our communities adapt to changes.

With our history and physical location to bolster our position, we have emerged as full participants in the global blue economy. Our assets are numerous, our areas of expertise vast and our memories long —– the 1992 cod moratorium shows us what can happen when a resource isn’t properly managed.

Green ship technology research in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science aims to reduce energy consumption and environmental impacts; aquaculture can address global food insecurity and provide much needed jobs in remote, coastal areas of the province; building artificial reefs in Placentia Bay is creating new fish habitats; and millions have been invested in minimizing the impact of oil spills.

Our Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University is one of the most respected centres of oceans education and applied research in the world. The Launch in Holyrood, N.L., is the Marine Institute’s cold ocean innovation centre and Memorial’s portal to the ocean. It is designed to support a comprehensive approach to ocean research and development, by providing access to vessels, technology, technical expertise and collaborative partnerships for an ideal environment to further the development of new technologies, approaches and practices.

Genesis, Memorial’s pre-eminent innovation hub, has always supported our tech industry, and combining technology and the blue economy is a natural fit. Through the Ocean Startup project, Genesis is collaborating with five other Atlantic Canadian organizations with the original goal of creating 30 high-potential ocean technology companies. Already, 79 startups have received funding and more than 500 individuals or companies have received support.

The project is one of approximately 50 projects sponsored through Canada’s Ocean Supercluster, an industry-led, national ocean cluster that’s growing the ocean economy in a digital, sustainable and inclusive way that includes Memorial as a partner.

Much of our work in oceans research is conducted in our new $325-million Core Science Facility. Built to resemble an iceberg, the facility is designed to be a catalyst for collaboration and new discoveries, and is home to one of the world’s only blue whale skeletons that we hope will serve as an inspiration to young, hopeful scientists.

On N.L.’s west coast, the Bonne Bay Marine Station and Public Aquarium, part of our Grenfell Campus, aims to become a blue economy accelerator. This will include green, environmentally friendly space for new regional entrepreneurial and social enterprise ventures. It will also promote coastal community collaboration and support entrepreneurs in the blue economy sector with targeted resources, skills and knowledge critical to revitalization.

I often say that universities should not reflect the world in which we live, but the world in which we want to live — a world where there is peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Canada should be a leader in the blue economy. Memorial can help make it happen.