Joint Ocean Ice Studies

Established in 2003, Joint Ocean Ice Studies (JOIS) is an international collaboration between Canada, the United States, and Japan that monitors oceanographic conditions in the Arctic via an annual month-long, scientific expedition aboard the icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The program forms an important Canadian contribution to international Arctic climate research through the Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project (BGEP), a partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists, and the Pan-Arctic Climate Investigation (PACI), a co-operation with Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) scientists.

Led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientist, Dr. Bill Williams, JOIS conducts annual surveys in the Beaufort Gyre – a portion of the southern Canada Basin, north of Alaska and the Yukon, whose water circulates in a clockwise direction. The study seeks to understand the impacts of climate change on the physical and geochemical environment of the Beaufort Gyre, as well as the corresponding biological responses.

The data collected is used to link perturbations in the Arctic to changes observed in the Beaufort Gyre, such as variations in freshwater content and sources, ice cover properties and distribution, water mass properties and distribution, ocean circulation, and ocean acidification.

Our Scientists – From Coast to Coast to Coast – Sarah Zimmermann

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Our Scientists – From Coast to Coast to Coast – Stephen Page

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Research Functions and Themes

During these expeditions, the two primary functions is the deployment of an array of oceanographic moorings and sea ice-buoys to form a year-round Arctic Observing Network, and the completion of physical, geochemical, and biological sampling to monitor oceanographic conditions and ecosystems structure, and to understand their response to climate change.

The following priority areas of cooperation were identified and adopted by JOIS:

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Oceanography
  • Climate Change
  • Biological Observations
  • Contribution to Understanding the Potential Effects of Oil and Gas Exploitation
Research Highlights

Since its launch in 2003, over 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published using JOIS data. A few research highlights include:

  • The confirmation of the loss of old multi-year ice, thinning of the ice packs, and increases in summertime open water.
  • A dramatic increase in the storage of fresh water in the gyre from arctic rivers due to anomalously persistent anticyclonic winds and ice-melt leading to:
    • the surface waters becoming corrosive to shelled organisms (acidification);
    • further suppression of biological productivity in the gyre; and
    • an ecosystem shift towards smaller plankton.
  • Descriptions of the ecosystem’s lower trophic levels in the context of the gyre’s strong stratification and weak nutrient fluxes.
  • Expedition Reports

    The dispatches for every expedition are also publically available at WHOI’s Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project website.


    The Canada’s Three Oceans (C3O) Project (2007-2011): In partnership with the ongoing Joint Ocean Ice Studies (JOIS), the C3O team – including scientists from Canadian and foreign governments, as well as academia – set out to gather integrated, multidisciplinary baseline information on the physical, chemical, and biological structure of subarctic and Arctic waters around Canada. This baseline provides:

    • A solid foundation for assessing and quantifying ongoing and future changes to both the self and basin regions of the western Arctic Ocean;
    • Valuable knowledge for addressing emerging issues such as warming, ice cover retreat, acidification, species invasion and hypoxia; and
    • A form basis for practicing good governance and decision-making relation to the management and conservation of species and for adapting to the changing Arctic.
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