This year marked more growth and success for the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN). Building on the immense progress of previous years, the Network expanded further in 2015 to include 15 new projects and partner “nodes”—notably in the Gulf of Mexico and Brazil—including four new study species, now totaling 94 species globally, and over 100 million individual animal detection records. In addition, the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS) became another official node of OTN, and OTN is helping to support the creation of the European Animal Telemetry Network node.
OTN’s influence as a global network was showcased by our hosting the third International Conference on Fish Telemetry (ICFT) in Halifax. The ICFT brought together over 250 scientists—the largest delegation to date for this conference—from twenty-five countries, presenting results under themes such as behavioural ecology, large scale movements, governance, and technology innovation.
OTN’s staff has been internationally active, promoting the use of the OTN telemetry infrastructure to meet the research, management, and policy needs of the global community. OTN’s Scientific, Executive and Data Directors attended and presented at meetings in Brazil (establishing the OTN-Brazil Node), France (Atlantic Salmon Summit), Belgium (Horizon2020-AtlantOS and Ocean Biogeographic Information System steering committee meeting), Portugal (ICT 2015 Innovate, Connect, Transform), Spain (Canada-Europe Working Session on Oceans), Sweden (autonomous marine vehicle training), Australia (Australia-Canada Ocean Research Network), and the United States (Science in Japan Forum and American Fisheries Society), in addition to a number of meetings across Canada, including the 2nd ERA-Can+ Symposium, hosted at Dalhousie University, to strategize on trilateral cooperation in oceans research, technology and infrastructure-sharing with representatives from the US, Canada and the European Union. We also welcomed ambassadors from Thailand, France, China, and the United States, interested in OTN’s application to their respective regions and management concerns.
Important scientific discoveries are being made under the OTN umbrella, and published in top-flite scientific journals. In 2015, OTN researcher made the first direct observations of the movements of endangered American eels from Atlantic Canada into the Sargasso Sea, documenting the ocean migration route of the species and proving the use of the Sargasso Sea for spawning. These results were published in Nature Communications. Along with our international colleagues, an OTN team authored a review of global telemetry use, application, and future advancements, and which detailed OTN’s vision for global cooperation in the future of aquatic animal telemetry and governance of the ocean’s biological resources. The review, published in Science, scores in the top five percent of digitally and socially shared research outputs. OTN’s Canadian and international researchers published over 60 papers in high impact journals during the reporting period.
OTN’s achievements and more were recognized with awards issued to lead researchers including Steven Cooke, awarded the prestigious NSERC Steacie Fellowship, and Aaron Fisk, awarded the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. Several students also received awards for their work and engagement in the telemetry community.
OTN is on the leading edge in the use of autonomous vehicles to carry out ocean monitoring. The OTN Wave Glider continues to perform in its capacity to remotely service fixed, underwater tracking stations, resulting in huge savings in costly ship-time, and made great progress from last year’s proof of concept phase. Working closely together with the MEOPAR (Marine Observation, Prediction and Response) Network and Defense Research and Development Canada (DRDC), we have acquired or accessed four additional Slocum Gliders in 2015. These gliders monitor the Atlantic Scotian Shelf in support of tracking studies including American eel, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic cod, tuna, blue shark, grey seal, and more recently, right whale. At the same time, the gliders collect important oceanographic information, allowing animal movements and habitat use to be placed in an environmental context. This information is also used by national authorities for their forecasting of weather and climate patterns. Two gliders participated in the third annual Gliderpalooza event; OTN was a founding partner of this international research collaboration and has proudly participated since 2013. Further development of the OTN glider program in 2016 will include establishing Ocean Gliders Canada, a platform to consolidate Canadian glider data and expertise.
Challenges abound for 2016. OTN is now working with its members and funders to prepare for a Phase III of OTN, which would commence in 2017. In the face of a rapidly changing ocean technology sector, we are also constantly striving to adopt new technology and renew ourselves. Our data group will also be extremely active in evolving a truly global network for animal telemetry data. That said, 2015 saw unprecedented expansion and achievements for OTN. We look forward to the discoveries of 2016 that will have been built on the support and dedication of our global partners, both in research and industry; scientific advisory committee and Council members, as well as our core data, field, and network personnel at OTN headquarters in Halifax.