Mourning the loss of visionary Arctic researcher, Dr. David Barber
The University of Manitoba is sad to share news of the passing of Dr. David G. Barber [BPE/82, MNRM/88] on Friday, April 15, 2022, following complications from cardiac arrest.
Dr. Barber was one of Canada’s most influential and accomplished Arctic researchers. A Distinguished Professor at UM, Founding Director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS), and Associate Dean Research of the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, he also held a Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science and Climate Change.
Through his vision, leadership and endless efforts, Dr. Barber established UM as a global leader in Arctic research.
“Beyond the many friends and colleagues David Barber worked with and shared life with here at UM, his legacy extends throughout the research community around the world,” says Michael Benarroch, UM President and Vice Chancellor. “His passing has affected all those whose lives he touched while studying the Arctic, its role in Earth’s changing climate and life on our planet. He will be greatly missed.”
Dr. Barber is best known for his groundbreaking work on snow over sea ice and application of satellite technologies for their characterization. Most notably he had a talented ability to see links between the ocean, ice and atmosphere across scales, and connections with people and habitat. Coupled with his incredible drive and perseverance, he was instrumental in the development of many large international multidisciplinary networks for Arctic research, including Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet, the Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES), the International Polar Year – Circumpolar Flaw-Lead study (IPY-CFL), and more recently the Hudson Bay System Study (BaySys).
Dr. Barber’s dedication also helped secure major Arctic research infrastructure, such as the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, and the Churchill Marine Observatory (CMO). His tireless work has helped to place Canada at the forefront of Arctic research, and created opportunity for innumerable students, professors and research staff collectively working to better understand the rapidly changing Arctic, and its impacts on people, diverse habitats in the Arctic and beyond.
Dr. Barber was also a gifted speaker who could express complex scientific ideas into terms that policymakers, media and the public could easily understand. It was this ability that not only led to signature outreach programs, including Schools on Board and Expedition Churchill: Gateway to Arctic Research, but also to fostering strong university-industry research partnerships, most notably with Manitoba Hydro.
Dr. Barber’s extraordinary ability and contributions have been recognized with the highest awards and distinctions, including Officer of the Order of Canada, Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and the Northern Science Award for exemplary achievement in the field of northern research (Polar Knowledge Canada). He was also recognized through an honorary doctorate from the Université Laval.
According to his colleagues at CEOS, Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources: “David was a visionary researcher with a passion for the Arctic, a scholar with an entrepreneurial spirit, and a generous mentor and friend. Despite his numerous professional accomplishments, David was first and foremost a family man. He has touched the lives of countless people and will be missed greatly. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family, and with all who knew him.”
The flag on the Administration Building on Fort Garry campus will be lowered on April 23 to honour Dr. Barber.
He is survived by his wife (Lucette) and three children: Jeremy (Jodi), Julien, and Jamie (Luke), his step-grandson (Ryden), and grandson (Luca).
A Celebration of Life event to honour Dr. Barber was livestreamed on April 23, 2022.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you please consider contributing to the David & Victor Barber Memorial Scholarship to honour Dr. Barber’s commitment to the next generation of Arctic researchers. The scholarship helps support students excelling in the field of Arctic sciences and climate change.
I am so sorry to hear of David’s passing. My condolences to Lucette, their family and friends. My heart goes out to all of you. David has left this world way too soon.
David Barber’s impact in the world of environmental science has been immense. His unique blend of rigorous inquiry, in-the-field discovery and magnetic communications skills opened our eyes — and our hearts — to the rapidity and intricacies of climate change in the Arctic. I first met him in the late 90s after he returned from Lake Malawi in southeastern Africa, where he’d been studying human impacts on local biodiversity. You felt immediately you were in the presence of a giant. A star. He was able to tell the important stories of science with the flair of an ancient bard. It was an honour for me as a communicator at UM to have been able to help promote Dr. Barber’s work. I realized early on that that best way to do that was to step back and let him captivate audiences himself. My heart-felt condolences to Lucette and the family.
I have only heard Dr. David Barber occasionally about his work in Arctic. His simplicity in explaining results of complex research has been phenomenal. His loss will be difficult to replace at the Clayton R. Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources.
I pray for the peace of the departed soul and strength to the family to cope with his loss.
My sincerest condolences. He helped me not to give up. As an indigenous single parent of 4, he was one who gave me the little push when I wanted to give up.
Many years ago I was a drummer in the Dauphin Legion Pipe Band with David. He was a couple of years younger than me. Our families knew each other and it was so interesting following David throughout his career. In 2010 I joined the University of Manitoba community and our paths crossed a number of times. Our conversations were always enlightening and I loved hearing David’s latest stories and accomplishments. David’s father (Vic) was so proud of David. This is such a loss to his family, his friends and to the University Community. David, you will be missed.
He was an extraordinary scientist, teacher, and leader whose vision for the North and the people of the North was inspiring. He was a giant supporter of the Port of Churchill in a number of ways most importantly through the Churchill Marine Observatory project which he envisioned and made happen through his many partners in government and the private sector.
While he didn’t know it…Dave had a huge impact on my life. He taught me to always be inquisitive, to search for another viewpoint and to be objective…but the most important I learned from him was how to be human. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without it. The world has lost something special and irreplaceable.
I just learned today about Dr. David Barber’s passing and I was sad. I was his student as well as his research supervisee for short time in the beginning of my doctoral research at the University of Manitoba in 1995. Apart from being a serious arctic- researcher, he was a family man and enjoyed developing personal yet professional relationships with everyone who came in contact with him – his co-workers, professionals, and graduate students.
I vividly remember when my father-in-law travelled from India in 1995 to visit with my family and I in Winnipeg, Dr. Barber invited my father-in-law to his office and later strolled with him on the UM campus.
Dr. Barber also invited his graduate students and their families for dinner at his house (outside Winnipeg), once or twice every semester. I remember he gave my family (and other attendees) a bag full of ‘big and delicious’ tomatoes from his garden at the end of the dinner-party at his home.
There is a lot for everyone to learn from his life.
May the departed soul of Dr. Barber rest in peace and may his family members gain strength to bear this unbearable loss.
Vijendra Kumar [Boken], Professor
University of Nebraska-Kearney