Aurora Research Institute Moves to New Home

Aurora College's headquarters for scientific research in the NWT moved to new and better digs in April.

Aurora Research Institute - which previously operated out of a building in Inuvik dating back to the 1960s, when the: institute was administered by the federal government - will now have as its new home the federally-funded Western Arctic Research Centre. The centre was one of several institutes, including the Nunavut Research Institute in Iqaluit, that received a total of $8 million in federal money under Canada's Economic Action Plan, unrolled in 2009. Aurora Research Institute received $11 million for its new headquarters.

Digital modelling of new facilities

The new building, which was constructed directly behind the institute's former home beside the Inuvik post office, will allow the institute to better accommodate research groups working out of the community. Pippa Seccombe-Hett, director of the institute, explains, 'We had labs in our old building, but they were old and outdated." she said. "So (now we have) brand new, beautiful labs for people to work from, much more efficient allocation of spaces. We're going to have a much larger loading bay area For warm storage and staging in the winter, to support research programs, you need those types of areas." The offices and labs have been designed to maximize the space. allowing for more groups to be accommodated at the bustling institute. ''It's not much bigger, but when you look at what you were given for an office in the 1960s versus what you're given today, our offices are half the size," said Seccombe-Hett. The new institute was also designed to be more enticing and welcoming to the residents of Inuvik. she said. "A lot of people didn't like walking into our old building because it felt kind of like a hospital. It was kind of freaky. You'd kind of come in and feel lost. "The new building's going to have really nice light and it's going to be very open." 

The library, which was closed for the duration of the transition and contains 15,000 books, research documents and films dating back to Inuvik's beginnings, will be reopened in August. And it will be open to the public, said Seccombe-Hett. "The library's going to be close to the front of the building and near the conference room, with computers for public use." But the institute's primary goal is to get up and running to support research. "Operationally, when we move in, our first priority is going to be getting the labs and the loading bay able to support research groups that are going out into the field." said Seccombe-Hett in mid-March.

In addition to providing a base of operation for scientists and researchers, the institute, which was merged under Aurora College in the 1990s, is responsible for licensing, conducting and coordinating research in accordance with the NWT Scientists Act. Among the 350 to 400 licences given out in the NWT each year for scientific, archaeological and wildlife research, 170 to 230 of them are given out by the institute. "There's lots of social research, a lot of health research. A lot of permafrost, climate change, coastal erosion, forestry. It's everything under the sun," said Seccombe-Hett. "Industry's doing a tremendous amount, about 30 percent. federal government - through DFO. Geologic Survey, Natural Resources - they're doing about 25 to 30 percent. The territorial government's in the 10 to 15 percent range." The institute's licensing database was due to be released for public viewing on its website by the end of March.