Science in Canada's North 


The Weston Family Prize

The W. Garfield Weston Foundation is delighted to announce Dr. John Smol as the annual recipient of the Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research. This $50,000 Prize is given in recognition of significant contributions to northern science and the broad impact of a career devoted to research in the Canadian north. Previous winners have included Dr. Serge Payette (2011) and Dr. Louis Fortier (2012).

For the past 30 years, Dr. Smol has been helping to write a “history book” of Canada’s northern environment through his research on global climate issues and the effects of contaminants on the Arctic environment. A leading international authority in the field of Arctic limnology and paleolimnology, his work focuses on the impact of environmental change on Arctic freshwater ecosystems, which examines below the surface of lakes and rivers to uncover secrets of our environmental history.

Click here to read Dr. Smol’s full biography

Click here for full press release


Our Approach

Canada’s North is a unique and sensitive landscape, facing unprecedented challenges.  Scientific knowledge is needed to understand and predict the effects of climate change on the physical and biological environment, ecosystems and human population of the North, as well as on all Canadians.

The launch of the International Polar Year in 2007 was a response to a widespread concern about the decline of northern research.  It was at that time that the Foundation entered into a dialogue about Canada’s great North.  The Foundation has responded to the growing concerns by adopting a goal of advancing natural science research in Canada’s North as part of its mandate.

Through its Science in Canada’s North mandate, the Foundation aims to champion the greatest body of privately supported northern research in Canada by positioning Canadian scientists to contribute in ways that are timely, pertinent and innovative.

Program Areas

The Foundation has identified three areas of focus where we believes grant-making efforts will help to meet program goals:

  • Enabling leading scientists to pursue rigorous research
  • Encouraging collaborations that lead to conservation outcomes
  • Creating innovative ways to communicate knowledge to new audiences

Interactive map of research conducted by Canada’s most promising northern scientistsThe Foundation is proud to enable leading scientists to pursue rigorous research in the country’s sensitive northern regions. Through a competitive process, more than 90 awards at the Masters, Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowship level have been presented to outstanding students.

Click here or on the map to learn more about these leaders and their challenging work.

A number of programs have been developed by the Foundation to support Canada’s most talented natural science researchers across all stages of their careers: 

The W. Garfield Weston Awards for Northern Research, administered by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS), are granted to graduate students who demonstrate leadership in northern natural science research.   By offering substantial support and recognition to Canada’s next generation of scientists, the Foundation hopes to sustain and advance expertise in northern research and increase the quantity and quality of research being done in the North.  

“I have been able to spend a good deal of meaningful time in the North, thanks in part to the generous support of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. My initial excitement of researching in the North has developed into a strong commitment and connection to the North and its people.”  Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman, W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research Recipient, Ph.D. Candidate   

In 2012, the Foundation created the W. Garfield Weston Postdoctoral Fellowship in Northern Research to support northern natural science researchers as they transition into research careers.  This program, also administered by ACUNS, is the first named postdoctoral program in Canada specifically focused on northern science. This fellowship provides opportunities for researchers to contribute in Canada and on the international stage. 

Support to northern research stations such as the Churchill Northern Studies Centre (CNSC) provides the resources necessary to conduct focused research and enhance the study of critical issues facing Canada’s North.  Through a challenge grant to the CNSC, an internationally recognized centre of excellence for Arctic research and education, the Foundation enabled leveraging of matching funds required for the facility’s renewal. The new 27,000 sq. ft. sustainable facility is a key northern hub and supports more than 50 different scientific research projects annually.   Researchers are greeted in the Weston Family Welcome Centre as they embark on each field season.

In addition to strengthening science capacity, targeted support to organizations that foster collaborations creates opportunities for critical research to be shared broadly and contribute to conservation outcomes in Canada’s North:

Wildlife Conservation Society-Canada ensures that scientific data is available to guide decisions and planning for the protection of both species and ecosystems.  The Foundation’s focus is on projects that enable conservation scientists, research associates and the W. Garfield Weston Fellows to work in Northern Ontario, the Yukon/Northern British Columbia and the Western Arctic. These researchers are contributing to our understanding of the ecology and conservation of these northern regions.

The Foundation addresses the dissemination of research not only within the field of scientific research and conservation, but also to audiences who otherwise may not have the opportunity to learn about issues that threaten their country’s northern landscapes.  Programs include:

  • The Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) is coordinating a nation-wide series of Café Scientifiques that will connect the public with arctic science researchers though meaningful discussion and learning.  Café Scientifiques are public engagement events that take place in an informal setting like a science centre, pub or restaurant where the public, scientists, and other researchers can come together to share their perspectives on important questions facing society today.  The Science in Canada’s North Café Scientifique Series features researchers and topics that focus specifically on Canada’s North.

  • Earth Rangers' Bring Back the Wild (BBtW) campaign educates children and their families about the importance of protecting biodiversity and raises funds to support the acquisition and restoration of endangered habitats across the country.  BBtW is promoted year-round to over a million children and their families across the country through live shows, a national television presence, website and social media promotions. Since 2010, Foundation support has enabled the promotion of science and research in the north.  This year, one of the BBtW projects will focus on the Polar Bear and funds raised by children will be directed to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre and Polar Bear Research being conducted at the facility.
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