Irishman and social enterprise SmartICE co-creator Trevor Bell answers 20 questions

ST. JOHN’S, NL — When Trevor Bell first traveled to the northernmost regions of the province, he never expected it to play such a big part in his life.

He came to Newfoundland and Labrador from Ireland in 1984 to study and, apart from a five-year stint in Alberta, has made the province his home ever since.

Only a few months after arriving in Canada, he was in the Torngat Mountains. He said that when he first went to Labrador, he was the classic scientist who traveled to the North, flew through community airports, and didn’t really interact with people.


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“It was a gradual evolution. Mentors showed me that there were other ways to work in the North, with communities, asking the community ‘what can I do for you?’ “, he said.

“Community service was very important in my family, so I kind of extended that to my career, doing research that mattered to communities.”

Bell, a professor of geography at Memorial University and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, has done extensive work in Labrador, the Great Northern Peninsula, and the Arctic.


“Community service was very important in my family, so I kind of extended that to my career, doing research that mattered to communities.” —Trevor Bell


He is also co-creator and director of SmartICE, an award-winning social enterprise that uses technology and traditional Inuit knowledge to track changes in sea ice in the North and delivers socio-economic benefits to the communities in which it operates. . The company was created in Memorial through the work Bell was doing with the Nunatsiavut government.

Bell was recently honored for his work on SmartICE with the inaugural Frederik Paulsen Arctic Academic Action Award, presented by the University of the Arctic and the Iceland-based organization, Arctic Circle.

The prize, worth €100,000, recognizes action-oriented scientific initiatives designed to improve and reverse the effects of climate change in concrete ways.



This isn’t the first accolade he’s received for his work with SmartICE – he has two Arctic Inspiration Awards, known as the “Nobel of the North” and in 2019 Bell and SmartICE received the prestigious Arctic Inspiration Award. Governor General’s innovation.

With climate change and sea ice changes happening more rapidly, he said it was important to have initiatives like SmartICE, which help make life safer for Inuit who use sea ice.

His work has taken him to many beautiful and remote parts of the province and country, an experience that Bell says has been a privilege.

“To be able to do this, 25 years of walking in the landscapes of Newfoundland and northern Canada, it has been a real privilege to be able to do this. I often tell my students that I have the best job in the world.


20 Questions

1. What is your full name?
Trevor James Bell.

2. Where and when were you born?
In 1961 at Cottage Hospital in Drogheda (Ireland), although my family had lived in nearby Dundalk.

3. Where do you live today?
St. John’s.

4. What is your favorite place in the world?
In our cabin at Caplin Cove, Hant’s Harbour.



5. Who do you follow on social media?
I don’t really do social media. I prefer to chat directly with people.

6. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
How my life and career decisions were based on gut reactions. I first decided to move to Newfoundland (in the middle of the 1984 ice storm) from Ireland without even knowing where it was in Canada. My whole generation rushed to leave Ireland and $5,000 a year from MUN to live on while studying for my Masters was a good opportunity. I’ve always been an accidental scholar. I was the first in my family to go to college and I guess I had no one to tell me when to leave. As a geographer. I appreciated the opportunities to explore important issues across the province, especially those of concern to communities.

7. What was your favorite year and why?
It’s a tough question because every year brings new and exciting challenges and opportunities and I’ve had many great years in my life. Even last year with the COVID-19 pandemic, our travel restrictions and health guidelines meant a simpler life, with lots of local walking and cycling and a renewed appreciation for what’s important.

8. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Two experiences come to mind. Caring for my eldest son, Kevin, immediately after surgery for a ruptured appendix was emotionally difficult while waiting for a favorable outcome. But in the end, he pulled through and remains healthy today. Finishing my second Cape-to-Cabot race was brutal. Climbing Signal Hill to finish the race was my toughest physical challenge, especially with a bronchial infection as I found out later.



9. Can you describe an experience that changed your life?
The particular day that Indigenous youth suicide really marked me personally was also the day that I decided to dedicate the rest of my academic career to action-oriented research for the well-being of Indigenous communities. .

10. What is your greatest indulgence?
Weekend mornings with fresh espresso coffee made with beans from Trinity Coffee Company, toasted Coleman’s Artisan Cranberry Pumpkin Seed Bread and a healthy serving of our homemade berry jam. In bed!

11. What is your favorite movie or book?
I love to read and these three books marked me in a memorable way: “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry; “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr; and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger.

12. How do you like to relax?
Outside of hiking, biking and kayaking with Gillian (my wife) and her friends. Indoors, play football with the master’s elite crowd and learn how to curl.

13. What are you reading or watching at the moment?
“Shtisel” on Netflix takes me to a different culture with new traditions and a new language. Getting lost in Gabrielle Zevin’s “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” is worth it.



14. What is your biggest fear?
I have a fear of heights, plain and simple. This is usually not a problem, except on alpine hikes along razor sharp ridges with severe drop offs on either side, situations I find myself in more often than I like!

15. How would you describe your personal clothing style?
Comfort over style; in case of doubt, informal; not too many jeans.

16. What is your most prized possession?
Our cabin. I have invested a lot of money in our “home around the bay” and it represents a special place for our family. It is as much a mental space as it is a physical one.

17. What physical or personality trait are you most grateful to a parent for?
I inherited my parents’ work ethic and my mother’s community involvement.

18. Which three people would join you for the dinner party of your dreams?
Peter Gzowski, Jürgen Klopp and Roddy Doyle.

19. What is your best quality and what is your worst quality?
I like to listen to people, especially to hear them be passionate. When I see something that needs to be done, I do it. I am a “man of action”, likes to say my wife Gillian. However, inaction drives me crazy, especially when something could and should be done. But I guess I could be less impatient and more tolerant in these situations… but why?

20. What is your biggest regret?
When I arrived in Newfoundland and Canada, Peter Gzowski of Morningside was my usual guide. I have clear memories of listening to him and his guests waiting for the #3 bus on Water Street. When I had the opportunity to meet him much later at a book signing in Edmonton, I kept my mouth shut. I regret not having found the words to tell him what his show truly meant to me as a new immigrant. Experience has taught me not to hesitate, to speak frankly, because some opportunities only come once in a lifetime.


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