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Research Program

Where environment, health, and technological innovation intersect

In the face of accelerating climate change and socioeconomic development in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, the Sentinel North research program helps generate the knowledge needed to monitor and prepare for environmental changes at multiple levels—from microbes to ecosystems—using better technologies, predictive models, and intervention strategies oriented toward sustainable health and development.


Sentinel North’s conceptual framework and priority research axes drive the program’s research, training, and partnership initiatives. 


Axis 1: Impact of environmental change on northern ecosystems and infrastructure

Climate change and anthropogenic activities are leading to a rapid and unprecedented transformation of the northern environment, with the deterioration of the cryosphere (sea-ice, glaciers, snow and permafrost), degradation of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and loss of biodiversity, that are affecting the ecosystem services (food, freshwater, raw materials, medicines) and infrastructure (roads, airports, housing, drinking water) on which Arctic and sub-Arctic populations depend.

The main objective of this research axis is to better understand the impacts of environmental disturbances on the ecosystems and infrastructure of Arctic and sub-Arctic regions through the development and application of new tools, in particular from optics-photonics, and new transdisciplinary approaches.

Associated challenges:

  • Understand the impacts of climatic and anthropogenic disturbances on northern ecosystems and food webs, from microbiomes to large mammals, in relation to climatic, geosystemic (permafrost) and societal (industrialization and extraction) changes;

  • Continuous, spot or remote monitoring (fibre optics, lidar, UAVs, AUVs, imaging, spectroscopy) of the state and properties of the cryosphere (permafrost, sea ice, glaciers, snow), terrestrial and marine ecosystems and geosystems, ecosystem services (food, drinking water, regulation of climate-active gases) and infrastructure (airports, buildings, roads, dams, pipelines) in the changing Arctic and sub-Arctic regions;

  • Design northern infrastructures that are better adapted to environmental change and the needs of northern populations (e.g., airports, buildings, homes, roads, pipelines).

Axis 2: Environment-Health Interactions in the North

Arctic and sub-Arctic regions are affected by major changes in the natural environment, the built environment and ecosystem services (e.g., microbiomes, drinking water, air, food, light, housing, living conditions) that have direct consequences on the cardiometabolic and mental health of circumpolar populations.

The main objective of this research axis is to better understand the complex interactions between environment and health in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions through the development and application of new tools and transdisciplinary approaches.

Associated challenges:

  • Understand the links between the northern environment (food, microbiomes, light cycle) and health, including societal chronic diseases (e.g., cardiometabolic, respiratory) and mental health;

  • Understand the interactions between the gut microbiota and mental health (gut-brain axis) in a northern context;

  • Understand the links between the built environment (human-made or human-engineered) and health in a changing North;

  • Ensuring food security and healthy eating in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

Axis 3: Data Analysis, Predictive Modelling and Knowledge Transfer

In order to exploit the data flows acquired over a wide range of space and time scales, including in the form of valuable time series for health and the environment, it is necessary to develop new approaches and strategies for data analysis, including the use of artificial intelligence, which will make it possible to deploy methods for diagnosis, predictive modelling, detection and early warning.

The main objective of this research axis is to optimize the analysis, mobilization and transfer of research results towards sustainable development and health in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.

Associated challenges:

  • Produce projections of the future state of the coupled human-environment system under various climate change and modernization scenarios in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions;

  • Design and validate systems for civil and environmental security (Situational Awareness System) and observation of northern ecosystems;

  • Develop and apply collaborative approaches to optimize the mobilization and transfer of research results to northern users while taking into account ethical and governance issues.

sentinel north conceptual framework

Results and publications

Over the past few years, Sentinel North teams have joined forces to generate knowledge and technological advances that lead to a better understanding of the changing northern environment and its impact on health. As a number of research teams funded in 2017 near the completion of their projects, scientific results and publications are increasing.


Research highlights



Sentinel North’s partnership and collaboration strategy is based on a vast network of academic, public, and private collaborators backed by numerous research centres and groups. At the international level, research and training partnerships are based on the desire of internationally renowned institutions and researchers to work together on innovative joint projects with a view to building long-term collaborative relationships.


Collaborations and Partnerships


sentinel north parnerships map 2020