About the Northwest Passage Project An innovative science and education expedition to explore and document the changing Arctic.

Iceberg found near Baffin Island
Iceberg found off of Baffin Island. Courtesy of Vancouver Maritime Museum.

The Northwest Passage Project is a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project that centers on a research expedition into the Arctic’s Northwest Passage, which will engage intergenerational cohorts of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students in hands-on research exploring the changing Canadian Arctic Archipelago and collecting data. During this innovative expedition, diverse audiences will be engaged through real time interactions from sea, an ultra-high definition 2-hour documentary, and related community events. Sailing the first full-rigged sailing ship into the Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic in over a century will provide a visually stunning and historically poignant platform from which diverse audiences will experience a dramatically changing Arctic.

Northwest Passage Project is a collaborative effort between the University of Rhode Island (URI) Inner Space Center (ISC) and Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), the film company David Clark, Inc., and several other collaborators, including six U.S. Universities that are classified as Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).

The educational components of the Northwest Passage Project will be led by the ISC. Two cohorts, each consisting of 18 students (six high school students, nine undergraduate students, and three graduate students) will each sail on board for 2.5 week legs. These participants will receive science content instruction as the ship is underway, gain navigation and sailing skills, engage in hands- on projects while aboard and during research site visits on land, and contribute to the live broadcasts from the Arctic.

The 200-foot sailing vessel SSV Oliver Hazard Perry (OHP) will serve as the expedition platform. Based in Newport, Rhode Island, the OHP is the first ocean-going, full-rigged tall ship built in the U.S. in over 100 years. It is the country’s largest civilian sailing school vessel. Her three masts support 14,000 square feet of sail, and while she appears traditional, she is not a replica. Her steel, heated hull, state-of-art electronics and power plant meet or exceed all U.S. Coast Guard and ABS safety requirements, yet the OHP looks like she just sailed out of the 19th century. OHP’s educational mandate is to teach seamanship; teamwork; and academics focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics), history, and environmental stewardship.

Because the Canadian Arctic is remote and costly to access, the Northwest Passage Project intends to leverage the documentary production as an informal learning opportunity by engaging students with scientists in authentic research and by delivering live broadcasts from sea to three well-established U.S. informal science education (ISE) institutions, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), the Exploratorium, and the Alaska Sea Life Center (ASLC), as well as over the Internet.

Inner Space Center Team

Gail Scowcroft, Principal Investigator, Project Director

Dwight Coleman, Co-Principal Investigator

Erin Bilbo, Video Production and Science Instructor

Alex DeCiccio, Video Production Lead

Andrea Gingras, Project Coordinator

Chris Knowlton, Science Coordinator and Lead Science Instructor (Leg 1)

Holly Morin, Lead Science Instructor (Leg 2)

Derek Sutcliffe, IP Streaming Engineer and Project Web Developer

Minority Serving Institution Liaisons

Kevin Boswell, Florida International University

Amy Denton, California State University Channel Islands

Linda Fernandez, Virginia Commonwealth University

Miquel Gonzales-Meler, University of Illinois at Chicago

Maria Tzortziou, City College of New York