UVic joins in new oceans research network

Large Pacific corals photographed during CHONe’s inaugural cruise to Dixon Entrance in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Photo: provided

By Valerie Shore

The University of Victoria is playing a key role in a new national research network studying Canada’s oceans.
The NSERC Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe), based at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, brings together 65 top marine researchers from 14 universities across Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and several federal laboratories to develop science-based guidelines for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources in the country’s three oceans.

The goal of the network is to create a marine biodiversity database for the three oceans, help train the next generation of marine scientists, and raise public awareness of the importance of Canada’s oceans.

Several UVic researchers, as well as the VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada ocean observatories, are involved with CHONe, which focuses on three research themes: marine biodiversity, population connectivity, and ecosystem function.

The biodiversity theme is co-led by Dr. Kim Juniper, a UVic marine ecologist and the BC Leadership Chair in Marine Ecosystems and Global Change.

“The many projects under this theme are involved in understanding the importance of biodiversity to the stability of Canadian marine ecosystems and how marine biodiversity is being influenced by climate change and resource extraction,” says Juniper.

Other UVic researchers, including marine geologist Dr. Mairi Best and marine biologist Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe, will target biodiversity hotspots in the Arctic Ocean and coral banks north of the Queen Charlotte Islands. UVic researchers are also partnering with Memorial University engineers to develop object recognition software that will automatically count animals such as clams and seastars in seafloor images.

Under the population connectivity theme, studies include the movement of fish and crab larvae in the Strait of Georgia (with UVic fisheries oceanographer Dr. John Dower), and population dynamics of giant tube worms at the Endeavour hot vents site off BC’s west coast (with Tunnicliffe).

The ecosystem function theme will examine how the seafloor performs vital functions to maintain a healthy ocean. Several cross-country collaborative studies will use the VENUS and NEPTUNE Canada ocean observatories as research platforms to conduct experiments.

Dr. Martin Taylor, president of Ocean Networks Canada, sits on the new network’s board of directors and sees CHONe as a leading national research program that will address one of the most important scientific and public policy issues for our oceans—how ocean change is impacting marine biodiversity and the health of our fisheries.

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