The Arctic Research Foundation is a private, non-profit organization that supports scientific research, sustainable development and cultural preservation in Canada’s North.
The Arctic Research Foundation (ARF) was created in 2011 to help Canada protect its Arctic interests now and into the future. As warming global temperatures bring dramatic change to the region, ARF's founders believed it was critical to work collaboratively with northern communities to implement a shared Arctic vision — one that balances the need for scientific investigation, cultural preservation and sustainable development.
How do we do it? We find innovative ways for like-minded individuals and organizations to work together in the difficult Arctic environment, leveraging Indigenous knowledge and assistance. If needed, ARF fills in the gaps with its own extensive Arctic experience, rugged purpose-built infrastructure and deep relationships with local communities.
Our approach is already paying big dividends. In 2014, ARF's collaborative approach did what more than a century and a half of Arctic exploration could not: locate HMS Erebus, one of two missing ships belonging to Sir John Franklin's 1845 Northwest Passage expedition. Two years later, ARF found Erebus's sister ship, HMS Terror — a find that's now rewriting history. With considerably less fanfare, ARF has also made possible dozens of scientific missions and contributed to countless cultural and community-building initiatives in the region.
Put simply, ARF is helping Canadians build a better North.
“We need to reimagine Canada's approach to the Arctic. The future will be about cooperation and shared infrastructure.”
Jim Balsillie, co-founder, Arctic Research Foundation
What we do
Led by CEO Adrian Schimnowski, ARF supports Arctic scientific and conservation-related research by partnering with universities and other research bodies that need access to our deepwater vessels, oceanographic equipment, research labs and on-the-ground expertise.
We also support local Inuit art and artists, recognizing the importance of Indigenous culture in day-to-day Arctic life. We’ve used our vessels to haul quarried soapstone and even set up one of our mobile labs, ingeniously housed in a shipping container, as a portable art studio.
ARF is perhaps best known for its leading role in the successful search for the lost ships of the 1845 Franklin expedition in the Northwest Passage. The foundation’s flagship vessel, R/V Martin Bergmann, provided a critical platform for the work of Parks Canada marine archeologists, charting 80 percent of the search area in the lead up to the 2014 discovery of HMS Erebus. Two years later, the Bergmann was directly responsible for the discovery of sister ship HMS Terror.
By connecting the past to the present — and working toward a better tomorrow — ARF is helping Canada secure its future as a proud and inclusive Arctic nation.
There is no such thing as a typical day for Adrian. Responsible for the maintenance and operation of ARF’s labs and research vessels, he spends much of the summer field season plying northern waterways with scientific researchers, setting up and fixing equipment in remote Arctic locations and working on a wide array of projects with local communities. As ARF's main point of contact for government agencies and other partners, Adrian spends his "down time" flying across the country to attend meetings or participate in conferences on Arctic issues.
Adrian’s interest in Canada's Arctic developed early on. Born in Winnipeg, Man., Adrian and his family moved to Chesterfield Inlet and Churchill, Man., when he was a young boy. His earliest memories include fishing for Arctic char and exploring the nearby tundra. He later studied fine arts and architecture at the University of Manitoba and became a professional multimedia artist and, later, a construction business owner. He also obtained fire and paramedic training, as well as training as a commercial diver — all skills that make him an ideal person to lead ARF's operations in a part of the world where resourcefulness is paramount.
Jim Balsillie’s career is unique in Canadian business. He is a former chairman and co-CEO of Research In Motion (BlackBerry), a Canadian technology company he scaled up from an idea to $20 billion in sales globally.
He is a co-founder of the Institute for New Economic Thinking based in New York City and the Council of Canadian Innovators based in Toronto. He is also the founder of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the Centre for Digital Rights. Balsillie was the only Canadian ever appointed to the US Business Council and was the sole private-sector representative on the UN Secretary General’s High Panel for Sustainability.
Balsillie’s interest in Arctic issues was piqued years ago during successive trips through the Northwest Passage. He was struck by the need for more infrastructure to support critical scientific work and the well-being of local communities. The clincher came when he spotted foreign vessels searching for the Franklin wrecks near King William Island. He co-founded ARF in 2011, in part, to ensure Canada wasn’t outmanoeuvred by foreign interests in its own backyard.
His awards include several honorary degrees, the Mobile World Congress Lifetime Achievement Award, being named to Time magazine's 100 List of Most Influential People and appearing three times on Barron’s list of the World’s Best CEOs. In 2002, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the US National Security Agency (NSA), he was recognized by the NSA for his contributions to US national security.
The CEO of electrical and auto parts distributor Ideal Supply, Tim MacDonald is a southern Ontario businessman who has undertaken numerous community engagement efforts. He has served as president of Listowel, Ontario's chamber of commerce, chair of the Western Ontario chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and chair of Electro-Federation Canada. MacDonald has also served on the board of the Stratford Festival and was a founding member of the Stratford Perth Community Foundation.
MacDonald co-founded ARF with Balsillie in 2011 and is a strong supporter of the organization's continued leadership role in Arctic issues .