Long-Term, Place-Based Ecological Research
In the decade since we founded the Hakai Institute as an ecological observatory on remote Calvert Island on British Columbia’s Central Coast, much has changed.
From the outset our theme was long-term, place-based ecological research. Choosing a region of manageable size and studying it intensively, year-round, across scientific disciplines, across the continuum from ocean to forest, for the long term. We remain faithful to those principles.
About 5 years ago we added a second ecological observatory on Quadra Island at the north end of the Salish Sea, dedicated to those same principles.
Regional, Cross-Border, National, and Global Networks
We have used our facilities and resources to create a huge network of collaborators from academia, government agencies and First Nations. Our collective efforts have catalyzed an enormous quantity of science, education and stewardship.
Over time, our interests have spread beyond the regions adjacent to our ecological observatories to encompass the entire BC coast from Washington State to Alaska. This expansion has been based on partnerships with like-minded organizations in other regions, notably First Nations.
Our scientific interests have also expanded. We now declare that our scope encompasses the entire coastal margin, from the coastal ocean all the way up to the ice fields. Our science crosses the continuum from ocean physics and chemistry, across coastal ecology, and even extends into a social science (archaeology).
More and more, we are being recruited into cross-border, national and global networks of organizations studying similar phenomena elsewhere. An example is our active participation in the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO) and the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON).
Recently we have complemented our established strength in observational science with new capabilities for experimentation, most notably our additions to the Quadra Island site, which include a large mesocosm facility and a fully equipped genomics laboratory.
Large Scale Data Integration & Management
Our strongest suit may, in the end, turn out to be data integration and management on a large scale. We’ve had to develop that capability to address our own complex requirements. We now see opportunities to apply that expertise regionally, nationally and globally.
Program is now remarkably large and successful.
We’d like to benchmark ourselves against others to judge how we are doing, but we really cannot find many directly comparable entities in our field—independent organizations that aspire to be significant scientific institutions. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has historically served as an inspiration for us. That is the level of achievement and profile we seek.
To get to that level we need to set our sights very high. And we need to focus on selected areas of science where we have the resources to truly excel, where we can be in the top tier globally. We need to constantly balance the possible benefits of new opportunities and partnerships against the threat of mission creep and lack of focus.