Family and friends mourn the passing of visionary Arctic researcher and University of Manitoba professor David Barber.
Barber, who was a distinguished professor, founding director of the Center for Earth Observation Science and associate dean of research at the environment, earth and resources faculty, died on Friday after suffering complications from cardiac arrest.
Barber, 61, leaves behind his wife Lucette, three children and two grandchildren.
It loomed in his family as much as it did in academia, says his eldest son, Jeremy Barber.
“I think the outward-facing piece that people might know of him as some kind of arctic boy was just a piece of the whole man he was, but it was very symbolic of who he was in the rest of his life,” Jeremy he said in an interview with CBC News.
“He was a very fiercely passionate man and a very loyal father, husband and family.”
David, who was a Canadian research chair in Arctic system sciences and climate change, was keen to include his family in his work, Jeremy said.
“In 1999, I went to a remote camp with him on a two-hour helicopter ride north of Resolute Bay and lived that life with him. And he’s been doing it my whole life,” she said.
“I don’t know how he managed to take a nine-year-old to an ice sheet, but it was something I’m very grateful for, something that has positioned very well who my siblings and I are as people.”
U of M climatologist Tim Papakyriakou also spent a lot of time with Barber in the high Arctic, sometimes even in tents on sea ice.
“He was the guy you would want to be with if things went wrong. He was a very, very intelligent, very intuitive individual, also a very big man … So when you stop your snowmobile or something else happens, yeah, you want to have Dave next to you, ”Papakyriakou said.
Papakyriakou says Barber has left a “massive footprint” on Arctic research, locally, nationally and internationally.
Barber has been instrumental in the development of many large international multidisciplinary networks and has helped protect major research infrastructures in the Arctic.
“He went back to the University of Manitoba because he wanted to make a contribution here. He was a super proud Manitoban, super proud Canadians and he loved the Arctic. He worked tirelessly to get Canada back on the map in Arctic research, and he did it. “, he said.
Barber was awarded the Order or Canada in 2016being recognized as “one of our nation’s most influential Arctic researchers”.
Colleague and friend Feiyue Wang, a Canadian professor and research chair in Arctic environmental chemistry at the U of M, said Barber’s loss as a visionary and leader in the field will be felt around the world.
“The impact he has felt most is his leadership, his vision that we have to tackle complex climate change, the problem of Arctic change with … not just academia, but that with industry, with communities, with governments working together to prepare the northern Arctic for what’s to come, “Wang said.
He is particularly disappointed that Barber will not be there to witness the inauguration of the Churchill Marine Observatory in Churchill Harbor, something he sees as a game changer.
“It’s the first major scientific infrastructure in the Arctic for the Arctic … so it’s one of my biggest regrets that David won’t see the grand opening and all the research happening at the facility,” Wang said.
The U of M hosts a celebration of the life event to honor Barber in the engineering atrium on April 23 from 1pm to 3pm