Virtual expedition brings modern ocean exploration home for Canadians
Press Release Date: June 8, 2017
Dalhousie University, Memorial University and NOAA launch expedition in the Gulf of Maine, broadcasted by Oceana Canada
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, June 8, 2017 – From today until June 22, Canadians have the opportunity to explore the ocean with world-leading researchers in the Gulf of Maine. Oceana Canada will broadcast the expedition in real time as researchers from both sides of the border explore rare habitats and species at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean.
Scientists, researchers, students and technicians from Dalhousie University and Memorial University will lead the Canadian leg of the expedition, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Together with researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they will explore the unique Gulf of Maine ecosystem with the goal of discovering new species and habitats in need of protection.
A team of ocean technologists from the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility will operate ROPOS, a best-in-class underwater robot, or Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The ROPOS will capture high-definition images and video of the sea floor, many of which will be viewed for the first time. Oceana Canada will broadcast the expedition’s exploratory dives live at oceana.ca/GulfofMaine.
Oceana Canada’s Director of Science, Dr. Robert Rangeley, will participate in the expedition virtually from Halifax, Nova Scotia, using this cutting-edge technology. From here, he will help coordinate the expedition with onboard scientists including: Dr. Anna Metaxas, Dalhousie University; Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Memorial University; Dr. Peter Lawton, NSERC project collaborator, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; and Dr. Martha Nizinski, NOAA.
“We’re excited to be involved in this cross-border expedition with Canadian scientists as well as researchers at NOAA,” said Josh Laughren, Oceana Canada Executive Director. “It is only by researching ocean habitats through expeditions like this and working collaboratively with multiple institutions that we can better understand and protect our oceans. We’re also pleased to have this opportunity to share the process of discovery with Canadians.”
The Gulf of Maine is among the most diverse and complex marine ecosystems in the world. Its powerful tides, combined with nutrients from bordering watersheds, creates an ecosystem that provides critical habitat for thousands of marine species. The canyons in the Gulf of Maine are home to several species of cold-water corals, which can grow several metres high and reach up to 1,000 years old. These corals are essential to the overall health of the surrounding ecosystem since they provide habitat for many other marine species, including commercially important fish, shrimp and crabs. Many of these canyons are considered vulnerable marine ecosystems, as several of the marine animals are at risk of extinction. Human activity, including overfishing and the use of destructive fishing gear, has had a profound impact on the Gulf of Maine, making research and protection critically important. Some unique habitats and species in this area have already been explored but research to understand others is just beginning.
This expedition will include surveys of unexplored areas, yet-to-be-named canyons and steep edges of the continental slope. Researchers will collect evidence on the Gulf of Maine’s sea floor to support Canada’s marine conservation targets. A previous expedition to the Gulf of Maine in 2014 by this team has already lead to the creation of new marine habitat conservation areas in 2016.
“This is a continuation of a very successful and productive cross-border collaboration that started in 2011, based on the simple fact that animals do not recognize national borders, As scientists, we recognize that if we are to understand the ecology and effectively protect species, we need to also see beyond these borders,” said Anna Metaxas, deep-sea biologist and oceanographer from Dalhousie University. “The information on deep-water corals we collected in our previous cruise was directly applied by ocean managers. We hope to continue to provide scientific evidence that can be used for the design of an effective network of Marine Protected Areas, as mandated by the Canadian government.”
Dr. Peter Lawton echoes this sentiment: “For more than a decade, Anna Metaxas, Paul Snelgrove and I, along with marine science graduate students, have been able to bring sophisticated deep-water ocean survey technology to the region to explore marine areas that are of significant interest. That linkage has been further strengthened by our recent collaboration with U.S. governmental and academic scientists, leading up to this second joint mission.”
For more than a decade, Oceana has been conducting expeditions around the world, exploring and protecting habitats off the coasts of Europe, the Philippines, Chile and the United States. Oceana Canada is excited to bring this expertise and passion for ocean exploration to Canada in 2017. Join Oceana Canada, Dalhousie University, Memorial University and NOAA this June for a journey into the wonders of Canada’s oceans. Visit oceana.ca/GulfofMaine for daily updates, including broadcast times and photos from the ship.
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About Oceana Canada
Oceana Canada was established in 2015 as an independent charity and is part of the largest international group dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Canada has the longest coastline in the world, with an ocean surface area of 7.1 million square kilometres, or 70 per cent of its landmass. Oceana Canada believes that we have an obligation to our country, and the world, to manage our natural resources responsibly and provide a sustainable source of protein for the world’s growing population. Oceana Canada works with civil society, academics, fishers and government to return Canada’s formerly vibrant oceans to health and abundance. By restoring Canada’s oceans, we can strengthen our communities, reap greater economic and nutritional benefits, and protect our future.
About Dalhousie University
Dalhousie University is internationally known as one of North America’s most welcoming universities. Founded in 1818, Dalhousie is one of Canada’s oldest universities, attracting more than 18,500 students from around the world. Located on Canada’s East Coast, the university blends world-class academic programs with leading-edge research.
About Memorial University of Newfoundland
Perched on Canada’s North Atlantic coast, Memorial University of Newfoundland is a destination for discovery. A beacon for the 21st-century explorer, Newfoundland and Labrador’s university is a unique learning community dedicated to those who lost their lives in the First World War and in subsequent conflicts. Today more than 18,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff from nearly 100 countries come together to explore. From the classics to advanced technology, the university offers certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate programs across four campuses and through online education. A global network of almost 90,000 accomplished alumni throughout the world strengthen Memorial University’s reputation for leadership in world-class research, teaching and public engagement.