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Louis Fortier

Biologist and oceanographer, Canada / Scientific Director – Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet / Directeur de la science et de l’innovation – Institut Nordique du Québec, Université Laval, Quebec City

The rapidly changing Arctic Ocean: a new scientific, geopolitical and economic frontier

At 15 millions km2, the Arctic Ocean is the smallest of the 5 oceans. For at least 3.7 million years, a 2-3 m thick sea-ice pack has permanently covered the Arctic Ocean and its ancillary seas. It has dictated the evolution of unique plants and animals able to survive some of the most extreme environmental conditions on our planet. With global warming, the sea-ice cover is shrinking rapidly and the Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in summer by 2030.
From the ineluctable decline of sea ice to the transformation of arctic marine ecosystems, from the opening of new sea lanes to the mapping of the arctic seafloor, from the reconstruction of past climate to the delineation of new international boundaries, Louis Fortier summarizes the environmental, geopolitical, economic and social consequences of a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean. Spectacular images and videos will enable you to join the scientists on board the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen in their quest to understand the changing Canadian Arctic. In conclusion, Louis Fortier recapitulates our efforts to curb global warming in the wake of the Paris agreement on greenhouse gases emissions.


Graduated from Laval (MSc 1979) and McGill (PhD 1983) universities, a NATO Postdoctoral Fellow (Plymouth, UK 1984-1985), and Professor at Université Laval, Louis Fortier is a specialist of the ecology of marine zooplankton and fish. In 2001, he founded Québec-Océan, le Groupe interinstitutionnel de recherches océanographiques du Québec. He holds the Canada Research Chair on the response of arctic marine ecosystems to climate warming. He was member of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada from 2005 to 2008.
Earth’s climate is warming and the most alarming signs of this warming are felt at high northern latitudes. An indefatigable promoter of a multidisciplinary and cross-sector approach to the ecosystem-level concerns raised by the warming of the Arctic, Louis Fortier has coordinated the Canadian participation to several international arctic research programs such as the Saroma-Resolute Study (SARES) and the Northeast Water Polynya Study (NEW). Since 1997, he has led the International North Water Polynya Study (NOW) and the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES), two NSERC Research Networks on the response of the Arctic Ocean to climate warming. He is heading the pan-Canadian consortium of Arctic specialists who mobilized the CFI-funded Canadian Research Icebreaker Amundsen in 2002. Under his leadership, the best northern specialists in the natural, social and health sciences formed Canada’s Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet (2004-2018) with the objective to anticipate the impacts of climate warming and development on the economy and societies of the Canadian Arctic. He developed the Canada Excellence Research Chair on the Remote-sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier, and the Unité Mixte Internationale Takuvik of the French Conseil national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). In 2014, Fortier and his collaborators buttressed Quebec’s leadership in northern sciences by founding the Institut Nordique du Québec, of which he is the scientific and innovation director.
Scientist of Year 2004 (Radio-Canada) and Scientific Personality 2005 (La Presse and Radio-Canada). Grand Diplomé and Gloire de l’Escolle Medal of the Alumni Association of Université Laval 2006. Officer of the Order of Canada 2007. Honorary Ph.D. University of Manitoba 2007. Officier de l’Ordre National du Québec 2008. Scientific Personality 2008 (Le Soleil and Radio-Canada). Stefansson Medal of the Explorers Club 2009. Quebec Prix Armand-Frappier 2010 for Excellence in Research and Research Development. Governor General Northern Medal 2011. W. Garfield Weston Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in Northern Research 2012. Timothy R. Parsons Award for excellence in Ocean Sciences 2012. Northern Science Award and Centenary Medal Commemorating IPY1882-1883, 2015. Canadian Museum of Nature Inspiration Award 2017. French Légion d’Honneur 2017.