Canada rides the ocean science wave

Canada rides the ocean science wave

In celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8, we highlight five projects that help make Canada a world leader in marine research
June 5, 2013

Oceans cover more than 71 percent of the Earth’s surface yet much of this underwater world remains unexplored. “We live on a little scrap that’s above the water,” says Mairi Best, former associate director of NEPTUNE Canada, one of the world’s largest cabled ocean networks. “The planet is run by the oceans. Yet we know so little about how they work.”

Canadian researchers conduct leading-edge research in the three oceans that border the country’s vast coastlines. This knowledge contributes to the conservation and management of the seas natural resources by helping to construct a complex interdisciplinary picture of what lies beneath. The work to collect oceanic (physical, chemical and biological) data has taken on a new urgency as scientists probe the depths to better understand how ocean ecosystems are responding to the effects of climate change.

Here, in celebration of World Oceans Day on June 8, we present five facilities, each funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, that have helped establish Canada as a world leader in oceanography, biotechnology and environmental assessment.

A sea of opportunity

British Columbia’s oceans cluster puts the province at the forefront of underwater observation

Ocean Networks Canada an initiative of the University of Victoria, manages VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada, two separate underwater networks off the coast of B.C. that record and broadcast data and images from the sea floor in real time via the Internet. The high-tech networks offer researchers unprecedented access to information about the Pacific Ocean.

Under the sea

The Ocean Tracking Network unites the world’s leading marine scientists in the most comprehensive examination of marine life and ocean conditions ever undertaken. Cutting-edge Canadian sensor technology installed at strategic locations in 14 ocean regions around the world allow researchers to record the movement and behaviour of fish and other marine life, as well as monitor ocean characteristics, such as water depth, temperature and chemistry.

Walking on thin ice

With Arctic sea ice fast disappearing, a University of Manitoba researcher helps to address issues of sovereignty, environment, and culture

The Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study (CASES) brought together 400 scientists from 11 countries to study the ecosystem and climate impacts that have led to and are the result of thinning and disappearing ice in the Arctic Ocean. The research was done from the Amundsen, a decommissioned Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, which received a $27.7 million retrofit to make it research-ready. The ship provided unprecedented access to the Arctic Ocean and helped overcome the challenges and address the multidisciplinary needs of Arctic research.

Sea-ing is believing

Using new technology, researchers at the University of Victoria are traveling to the deepest reaches of the ocean —and getting an up-close look at a new and mysterious environment

Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science (ROPOS) is a submersible that is owned and operated by the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF). The deep-sea machine plunges to depths of 5,000 metres, using two manipulator arms to retrieve samples and capture images with a video camera. The digital information from cameras, sonars and many attached instruments is delivered in real time through a fibre-optic cable and a data management and archiving system organizes the information at the end of each dive.

Discoveries of the deep

2010 marked the completion of the Census of Marine Life and introduces the world to the most comprehensive collection of data on marine life to date

The Census of Marine Life included 540 expeditions led by 2,700 scientists from more than 80 countries, including 224 Canadians. The unprecedented collection of data is comprised of websites, books, videos, maps and a stunning collection of images of new, old or rarely documented species.