Tag Archives: fieldwork

Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty

The Harper government has recently been touting a number of new initiatives in the High North of Canada as a way to assert Canadian sovereignty over the region. (The CBC has a nice summary map of where a number of these projects are planned to occur) I think it’s interesting to note though, that while the government has been proposing all these new plans, those of us actively involved in Arctic research know that the Harper government has been steadily cutting back on ways for scientists to access the region. For example, Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP) this past year had half the fuel of past years to distribute to researchers for logistical support, which meant if you wanted to work in the Arctic you had to come up with a lot more money than in the past. Admittedly, this was partly due to an increase in fuel prices and not just cutbacks, but what about other research funding? NSERC has seen a large number of cuts to its programs, at both the professor and student level. This means that costly field work in the Arctic simply cannot be done for lack of funds. For years scientists have been establishing our sovereignty in the region by doing research to find out what is actually there. While the Harper government is worried about using the military to assert our power over the region, wouldn’t it be just as (if not more) important to send researchers up to see what’s there? It makes both scientific (knowledge) and economic (resource exploitation) sense, while at the same time showing the world that we have a vested interest in our own land.

Field computing solutions

I have been eyeing up the Nokia n810 tablet recently, thinking about how useful it might be in a field setting.  The n810 is essentially a small, slimmed down computer running on an ARM processor (versus your typical Intel chip in most computers). ARM chips are used in most low-power devices such as mobile phones, where battery life is an important consideration. Likewise, out in the field we don’t always have easy access to electricity, although we have started to experiment with solar panels and battery packs. There are similar (and likely more computationally powerful) devices that use Intel chips, but at this point their price is a fair bit higher, and from what I could see the power draw is greater as well. The thing about the n810 is that it can be charged from a USB port, versus the much higher power requirements of something like a laptop. While the n810 comes with a Linux distribution called Maemo, people have recently managed to port Ubuntu to the device (as well, Ubuntu has been working up an ARM distribution). By using something like Ubuntu on the n810, we have a full suite of applications that we can use, from word processing (although I think OpenOffice on it would be a little unwieldy) to GIS.

While ths seems like a neat idea, the question becomes also, why? While some of the things like GIS might be nice, so that we could be updating our databases in the field, they’re probably not necessary. I have thought about whether it would be useable for reading pdfs or books, to cut down on weight, but how much weight would we really cut out if we need portable power solutions? I still would like to try it out for writing things like manuscripts, but the small keyboard size may make this a problem too.

Nonetheless, I think that it could be a worthwhile thing to try, as the costs to try it out are always coming down.