Marcel Babin

Marcel Babin

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier

Université Laval

"Marcel Babin comes to Université Laval with a stellar reputation as one of the world's leading researchers in marine optics and remote sensing. As the Arctic frontier changes rapidly, his research will be of immense value to Canada and the world."

― Denis Brière, Recteur, Université Laval


Marcel Babin is an internationally recognized authority in marine optics and remote sensing. Before becoming Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier, Babin was principal investigator at the Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche, France. He also recently developed and led "Malina", a joint France‑Canada‑US project that explores how sunlight‑driven processes affect biodiversity and ecosystem processes in the Arctic Ocean. The project included an expedition to the Canadian Beaufort Sea in 2009.

Babin has worked at many prestigious institutions in North America and Europe, including close collaboration with several space agencies. He was also involved in applied research and is a highly respected, creative researcher who has published extensively in leading international journals such as Limnology and Oceanography and the Journal of Geophysical Research. He recently edited Real‑Time Coastal Observing Systems for Marine Ecosystem Dynamics and Harmful Algal Blooms.

Babin’s seminal research on the interactions of light and matter in the ocean, studies on phytoplankton, light propagation in coastal waters and ocean colour remote sensing has allowed him to lead revolutionary research in the world’s coastal oceans, and has helped define the future of marine optics.

High‑Tech Explorers in the Canadian Arctic

Marcel Babin, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada’s New Arctic Frontier, is using the most recent advances in satellite remote sensing to develop new ways to monitor change, create advanced computer models of Arctic ecosystems, and develop powerful new tools to archive and analyze the vast stream of research data about the North. Working with his research team at the Université Laval, the results of Babin's research will help stakeholders in government, industry and northern communities make effective decisions about Canada's North.

To observe the Arctic environment, Babin is adapting state‑of‑the‑art technology, such as free‑drifting profiling floats currently used to measure key processes in ocean ecosystems, to the Arctic environment. His laboratory experiments and biodiversity analysis using advanced molecular and biochemical techniques are allowing Babin and his team to create diagnostic and predictive models of northern ecosystems. The team is also developing an intelligent data‑archiving and analyzing system to deal with the vast streams of data they will collect, which is fundamental to achieving their goals. This archiving system will also offer stakeholders from the public, academic and industrial sectors a better understanding of the socio‑economic consequences of climate change on Arctic ecosystems.

Born out of a partnership between Canadian Arctic scientists and the Centre national de la recherche scientifique of France, the main component of this ambitious research project is the Takukvik, a joint laboratory program located in Quebec City and directed by Babin. This new centre for Arctic ecosystem and geosystem surveillance and modeling also partners with other organizations, such as Canadian, American, French and European space agencies, the United Kingdom's Arctic Office and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. To conduct their research, Babin and his team will also involve the Québec‑Océan oceanographic research group, the Centre for Northern Studies, as well as ArcticNet and GEOIDE—two Canadian Centres of Excellence.



Release date

October 11, 2011

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Read the transcript

My name is Marcel Babin. I hold the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Remote Sensing of Canada's New Arctic Frontier. The goal of my research is to gain a better understanding of how the Arctic Ocean's ecosystems work and how the organisms that live in them will respond to climate change and to the impacts of new industrial activities in the Arctic.

One of my proudest achievements is the development of the research project Malina, which Canada, France and the United States are currently conducting jointly in the Arctic. The project is investigating what impact the melting of the polar ice sheet is having on the penetration of sunlight into the Arctic Ocean, on that ocean's marine ecosystems, and on the growth of the microscopic algae that make up the bottom of its food chain.

Université Laval is the best environment to carry out this research—the best in Canada and one of the best in the world—for three main reasons. First, because Laval is the lead university for several provincial and national networks of scientists doing Arctic research, not only in the natural sciences, but also in the health and social sciences.

Second, Laval offers significant research infrastructure—in particular, the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen and a network of observing stations covering all of northern Quebec and operated by the Centre for Northern Studies.

Third, because Laval is home to a large number of world-class researchers investigating the Arctic, it is an environment brimming with important ideas and discussions on this subject. Every one of the major research projects being conducted by this Canada Excellence Research Chair will provide a better understanding of how the Arctic Ocean functions as a whole.

The Arctic Ocean is a vast environment that is very hard to access. To carry out our research projects successfully, we will be using a wide variety of new observation methods. In particular, we will be making intensive use of various kinds of satellite observations. By feeding these observations into our mathematical models, we will be able to assess current and future conditions in the marine ecosystems of the Arctic Ocean.