Jump to Phase I or Phase II

OTN Canada, supported principally by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is a countrywide interdisciplinary network of science teams working within the global OTN infrastructure to address key scientific questions of both national and international concern and relevance. OTN Canada is focused in the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Arenas to reach and respond to questions in vastly different ocean ecosystems across the country.

Phase I ThemesIncluded for each Arena are measurements of oceanographic characteristics and variability at various spatial and temporal scales, movements of key species at several trophic levels, and analysis of key “bioprobes” (animals that carry tags which record locations visited, ocean conditions and interactions with other tagged animals in the open ocean) and “roboprobes” (remotely controlled gliders) to complement measurements from fixed OTN receivers.

OTN Canada strives to create knowledge about continental shelf ecosystems and contribute to the global observation of coastal and ocean ecosystems. A primary objective is to support and train students and foster synergy among Canadian participants, as well as potential international partners.

Ultimately, information obtained will be used in to address socioeconomic and resource management issues and to inform policy. To accomplish this, OTN includes a strong contingent of social scientists in the network.


Phase II (2014-present)

The scientific objective of OTN Canada Phase II remains to better understand changing ocean dynamics and their impact on ocean ecosystems, animal ecology, and oceans resources, with the aim of addressing critical issues in resource management and implications for ocean governance. OTN Canada has established itself as the research prototype for OTN worldwide and as a leader in innovation and technology development, as well as training. Hence in Phase II, OTN Canada aims to align both nationally and internationally with shared strategic questions and focus, and to exploit the ability to compare and contrast the responses of different species from differing ecosystems/Arenas to common stressors such as human exploitation and climate change.

Framework Questions Table

4.1. Coupled Physical-Biogeochemical Ocean Modeling and Assimilation (CCA1; FQ1, FQ2)
Project Leaders: Katja Fennel (Dalhousie U), Jinyu Sheng (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: T. Ross, D. Hebert, J. Dodson, M. Castonguay, S. Iverson, D. Bowen, J. Mills-Flemming, G. Crossin, M. Litvak, M. Stokesbury, I. Fleming
Collaborators: Keith Thompson (Dalhousie U), Blair Greenan (DFO-Bedford Inst, Dalhousie U)

4.2. Ocean Observation Component: Fixed and glider-based observations of physical, biological and chemical properties along the Halifax Line (HL) and in rich feeding habitats such as the Gully Marine Protected Area and the Roseway Basin Right Whale Critical Habitat (CCA1, FQ1)
Project Leaders: Dave Hebert (DFO-Bedford Inst, Dalhousie U), Tetjana Ross (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: K. Fennel, J. Sheng, S. Iverson, D. Bowen
Collaborators: Peter Smith (DFO-Bedford Inst, Dalhousie U), Blair Greenan (DFO-Bedford Inst, Dalhousie U), John Kocik (NOAA, USA)

4.3. Accelerometry techniques and applications (CCA1, CCA3, FQ1)
Project Leaders: Chris Taggart (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: K. Fennel, J. Sheng, M. Litvak, M. Stokesbury, S. Iverson, D. Bowen, G. Crossin, I. Fleming, A. Fisk, S. Hinch, S. Ferguson
Collaborators: Dale Webber (Vemco)

4.4. Overwinter biology, migrations, and carryover effects of Bras d’Or Atlantic salmon populations (FQ1, CCA1, CCA3)
Project Leaders: Glenn Crossin (Dalhousie U), Jinyu Sheng (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Cooke, S. Hinch, I. Fleming, C. Taggart
Collaborators: Bruce Hatcher (Cape Breton U), Gary Bugden (DFO-BIO), Dave Patterson (DFO –Pacific), Brian Petrie (DFO-BIO), Dale Webber (Vemco), Fred Whoriskey (OTN)

4.5. The biotic and abiotic control of the oceanic migrations of the threatened American eel (FQ1, FQ2, CCA1, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Julian Dodson (U Laval), Martin Castonguay (DFO-Institut Maurice-Lamontagne, U Laval)
Other OTN Canada participants: R. Apostle, K. Fennel, J. Sheng, K. Thompson, D. VanderZwaag
Collaborators: Kim Aaerstrup (Danish Technical University)

4.6. Atlantic sturgeon spawning behaviour, habitat use and movement (FQ1, FQ3, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Mike Stokesbury (Acadia U), Michael Dadswell (Acadia U), Matthew Litvak (Mount Alison U)
Other OTN Canada participants: R. Apostle, S. Cooke, C. Taggart, J. Sheng, D. Vanderzwaag
Collaborators: Colin Simpfendorfer and Michelle Hueple (James Cook University, Australia)

4.7. Grey seals (Halichoreus grypus) as Bioprobes: Predicting Impacts on their Ecosystems (FQ1, FQ2, CCA1, CCA2, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Sara Iverson (Dalhousie U), Don Bowen (DFO-Bedford Inst, Dalhousie U), Joanna Mills Flemming (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: K. Fennel, J. Sheng, T. Ross, I. Fleming
Collaborators: Mike Hammill (DFO-Gulf region), Luke Comeau (DFO-NB), Doug Swain (DFO-Gulf region), Fred Whoriskey (OTN), D. Webber (Vemco), B. McConnell (Sea Mammal Research Unit)

4.8. Visualization and Modeling of Complex Marine Observations (CCA2; FQ1, FQ2)
Project Leaders: Joanna Mills Flemming (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: D. Bowen, S. Iverson, C. Taggart, S. Vagle, G. Crossin, I. Fleming, J. Dodson, S. Cooke, A. Fisk
Collaborators: Keith Thompson (Dalhousie U), Steven Bograd (Southwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA), Simon Bonner (U Kentucky), Mike Dowd (Dalhousie U), Chris Field (Dalhousie U), Jeremy Goldbogen (Cascadia Research Collective, Dalhousie U), Aaron McNeil (Australian Institute of Marine Science), Wayne Olford (U Waterloo), Martin Pedersen (Technical University of Denmark), Tim Stone (Vemco), Dale Webber (Vemco)

4.9. Salmonids in the north – species transition zones and beyond, predicting impacts of climate change (FQ1, FQ2, FQ3, CCA1, CCA2, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Ian Fleming (Memorial U), Michael Power (U Waterloo), Ross Tallman (DFO-Arctic, U Manitoba), Aaron Fisk (U Windsor)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Vagle, S. Hinch, S. Cooke, G. Crossin
Collaborators: Ian Bradbury (DFO-Atlantic, Memorial U), Brian Dempson (DFO-Arctic, U Waterloo), Anders Finstad (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), Corey Morris (DFO-Atlantic), Martha Robertson (DFO-Atlantic), Marie-Julie Roux (Falkland Island Fisheries Department, UK)

4.10. Fish and marine mammal interactions in the high Arctic (FQ1, FQ2, FQ3, CCA1, CCA2, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Aaron Fisk (U Windsor), Svein Vagle (DFO-Arctic, U Victoria), Steve Ferguson(DFO-Arctic, U Manitoba)
Other OTN Canada participants: D. Heath, K. Fennel, J. Sheng, J. Mills Flemming, D. Bowen, S. Iverson
Collaborators: Dale Webber (Vemco), Aaron McNeil (Australian Institute of Marine Science), Richard Crawford (East Carolina University), Robert Harcourt (MacQuarie University, Australia), Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid (Greenland Institute of Natural Resources), Rune Dietz (Aarhus Universitet, Denmark)

4.11. Deep-water Arctic marine fishes: Developing commercial fisheries and interactions with marine mammals (FQ1, FQ2, FQ3, CCA1, CCA2, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Aaron Fisk (U Windsor), Kevin Hedges (DFO-Arctic, U Manitoba), Svein Vagle (DFO-Arctic, U Victoria), Steve Ferguson (DFO-Arctic, U Manitoba)
Other OTN Canada participants: . Fleming, S. Hinch, S. Cooke, R. Tallman, K. Fennel, J. Sheng, J. Mills Flemming
Collaborators: Wayne Lynch (Government of Nunavut), Margaret Treble (DFO-Arctic), Dale Webber (Vemco), Fred Whoriskey (OTN), Aaron McNeil (Australian Institute of Marine Science)

4.12. Pacific salmon commercial and First Nations fisheries: delayed mortality, behaviour and physiology of released bycatch in coastal waters (FQ1, FQ3, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: Scott Hinch (UBC)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Cooke, T. Farrell, K. Miller, D. Patterson, A. Fisk, I. Fleming, M. Stokesbury
Collaborators: Michael Davis (United States NOAA)

4.13. Tracking anadromous adult salmonids in Canada’s three oceans to evaluate the sustainability of catch-and-release angling practices – behavioural and physiological perspectives on estuarine fisheries (FQ1, FQ3, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: S. Cooke (Carleton U)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Hinch, T. Farrell, A. Fisk, R. Tallman, I. Fleming
Collaborators: Dave Patterson (DFO-Pacific), M. Robertson (DFO-Atlantic)

4.14. Seasonal movements and spawning migrations of White Sturgeon (FQ1, FQ2, FQ3, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: G. Crossin (Dalhousie U)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Cooke, S. Hinch, T. Farrell, M. Litvak, M. Stokesbury
Collaborators: Dave Patterson (DFO-Pacific), Kyle Hanson (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, WA, USA)

4.15. Survival and movement rates of out-migrating juvenile Pacific and Atlantic salmon (FQ1, FQ3, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: S. Hinch (UBC)
Other OTN Canada participants: S. Cooke, K. Miller, R. Thomson, I. Fleming, J. Mills Flemming
Collaborators: Dave Patterson (DFO-Pacific), Fred Whoriskey (OTN)

4.16. Networking, HQP Exchange and Social Science Components (FQ1, FQ2 FQ3, CCA1, CCA2, CCA3, CCA4)
Project Leaders: S. Iverson, S. Cooke, A. Fisk, K. Fennel, I. Fleming, S. Hinch, S. Vagle, D. VanderZwaag
Other OTN Canada participants: all other OTN Canada PIs
Collaborators: Fred Whoriskey (OTN), social science collaborators

 


Phase I (2010-2013)

Overarching Phase I Research Questions:
  • What are the physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic linkages that determine the population structure, dynamics, movement, and critical habitat of marine organisms?
  • How will climate variability, change, and anthropogenic activities affect the distribution and abundance of marine organisms?
  • What are the ocean governance implications, including social, economic, and legal dimensions, of OTN findings?

To learn more about the different Research Arenas or the  Arena Leaders Committee, who assists in managing research within the network please follow the link provided.

Projects Table of Contents

Atlantic Arena
Project I.1.1 Integrated Interdisciplinary Observing and Modelling Platform
Project I.1.2 Integrated Physical and Biological Modelling Component
Project I.1.3 Data Assimilation
Project I.2.1 Atlantic salmon: migration, distribution, oceanographic features (Nfld.)
Project I.2.1 Atlantic salmon: migration, distribution, oceanographic features (Cape Breton)
Project I.2.2 Estuarine and oceanic migration of the American eel
Project I.2.3 Atlantic sturgeon on the east coast of Canada
Project I.2.4 Grey seals as Bioprobes: Predicting Impacts on their Ecosystems
Project I.2.5 Design Principles for OTN and Climate Change Impacts on Leatherback Turtle

Arctic Arena
Project II.1 Testing and Applying New Technology to the Arctic Marine Ecosystem
Project II.2 Oceanography of the Arctic Arena
Project II.3 Movement of Arctic char and Sculpin
Project II.4 Monitoring Bay- and Basin-Scale Movements of Arctic cod
Project II.5 Trophic Interactions and Movements of Arctic Fish and Marine Mammals

Pacific Arena
Project III.1 Out-migrating juvenile and returning adult salmon
Project III.2 Biology, behaviour and physiology of Pacific salmon

Atlantic Arena

Project I.1.1: Integrated Interdisciplinary Observing and Modelling Platform

Principle Investigators: J. Cullen, C. Taggart (Dalhousie), P. Smith (DFO)
Collaborators: B. Greenan, D. Hebert (DFO)
Public summary of report: The OTN Observing Component collects a wide array of physical, biological and chemical observations along the Halifax Line (HL), which serves as the test bed for OTN research in the Atlantic Arena. To date, physical data from several bottom moorings containing acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) that provide measurements of the currents throughout the water column and conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) sensors near the HL dating back to April 2008 have been assembled and analyzed to provide time series of Nova Scotian Current transport, tidal currents and seasonal drift rates vs depth. This data, along with DFO’s Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program (AZMP) sampling and the glider data provides time series of fine-scale hydrographic properties on the HL. The moored instruments have recorded an increase in bottom-water temperature until a maximum in 2012. Data from recently recovered instruments indicate that bottom-water temperatures may be decreasing. Ten benthic pods, containing CTDs with oxygen sensors, were deployed across the continental shelf in 2011. Analysis of this data is underway. Meanwhile, Dalhousie’s Marine Observations Support Team (MOST) has established an effective program of ocean glider operations, sampling the ocean interior of the Scotian Shelf 178 glider days during the reporting period while developing web-based data presentations and a framework for regular interaction between network members who supply and use the data. MOST also supported the purchase and deployment of a wave glider to track tagged animals and upload data from bottom-mounted receivers. The Observing Component is now providing data to the OTN program while making significant progress in the development of new systems for describing distributions of phytoplankton and in relation to hydrographic conditions in the OTN study area. In addition to the standard sampling along HL the glider team participated in an international program to sample the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada with 16 Slocum gliders from 12 institutions in the water simultaneously. A new multi-parameter  approach has been developed to retrieve estimates of chlorophyll concentration from optical sensors on the gliders. It shows promise for use on a range of autonomous ocean sensor systems that are deployed in open waters where no direct validation of estimates can be made. The accelerometry component has significantly enhanced accelerometer and inertial navigator tag design. The developed product is now ready for commercial spin-off through Maritime bioLoggers spearheaded by F. Broell and A. Bezanson. A paper on this new technology is to be submitted to Animal Biotelemetry by the end of 2013. Using this technology, efforts have demonstrated how shortnose sturgeon change their behavioural and activity patterns in relation to environmental variations (temperature, depth, ambient light, tidal velocity) in the wild. Accelerometer tag affect is now being studied on Atlantic cod using frequency and intensity of aberrant behaviour related to tag load and infection reduction behaviour.

Project I.1.2: Integrated Physical and Biological Modelling Component

Principle Investigator: J. Sheng, K. Fennel (Dalhousie)
Collaborators: K. Thompson, J. Cullen (Dalhousie); P. Smith, B. Greenan (DFO)
Public summary of report: During this reporting period we implemented a data-assimilative framework for our physicalbiogeochemical model of the northwestern North Atlantic Ocean and implemented a new method for bias correction that had not previously been used for biogeochemical models. Numerical models that accurately simulate physical, chemical and biological processes are a key tool for describing current and future environmental ocean conditions; however, a paucity of detailed ocean observations has severely limited efforts to critically evaluate models and improve their realism. Assimilating new observational data streams collected by the OTN and available from other sources results in more accurate model hindcasts and will ultimately allow us to improve process-level representations and parameterizations underlying the model predictions. One step toward such improved process-level representations, carried out during this reporting period, was the analysis of phytoplankton dynamics in the model. In order to relate the model-simulated biogeochemical conditions to marine animals we compiled preferred oxygen and temperature ranges and critical thresholds for those marine animals in our study region that are either commercially important or at risk.

Significant progress was made in developing a three-dimensional individual-based model (IBM) based on the Lagrangian approach to simulate distributions and migrations of the American eel in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was found that the physical environment significantly affects the movements of American eels in the region. Significant progress was also made in assessing the different nesting techniques to exchange information between different sub-components of a nested-grid ocean modelling system. Finally a 5-level nested-grid ocean circulation model was used in the investigation of 3D circulation, hydrography and hydrodynamic connectivity in the Sable Gully.

Project I.1.3: Data Assimilation

Principle Investigator: K. Thompson (Dalhousie University)
Collaborators:  J. Sheng, K. Fennel, and J. Cullen (Dalhousie University)
Public summary of report: In order to better understand how ocean ecosystems work, and how they will respond to climate change, OTN is making point measurements of the passage of tagged animals across fixed lines of underwater acoustic receivers. To interpret these data they must be related to changes in the physical, biological and chemical characteristics of the ocean. A major challenge is the synthesis of the relatively small number of available physical, biological and chemical observations into a dynamically consistent, time-varying, three-dimensional view of the ocean that can be used to explain, and predict, the movement of tagged animals. Coupled physical-biogeochemical models have an important role to play in synthesizing ocean observations and visualizing change in the ocean. It is generally recognized that all ocean models have errors and if they are to be used to reconstruct past changes or make projections about possible future states, they must be blended with observations in order to remain close to reality. The process of sequentially blending  observations with model states is known as data assimilation. Over the last year we have (i) developed more effective ways of assimilating ocean observations of temperature, salinity, sea level and currents into an eddy resolving model of the North Atlantic, (ii) developed a novel way of downscaling ocean conditions to spatial scales more relevant to marine organisms, (iii) developed and evaluated a way of correcting systematic biases in biogeochemical ocean models, and (iv) worked with researchers from OTN project 1.2.2 on the environmental factors that control the seasonal migration of the American Eel to their spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

Project I.2.1: Atlantic salmon: migration, distribution, oceanographic features (Nfld.)

Principle Investigator: I. Fleming (Memorial)
Collaborators:  S. Iverson, G. Crossin, D. Ruzzante, I. Jonsen (Dalhousie), B. Hatcher (Cape Breton), M. Robertson, C. Pennel, L. Fudge, J. Gibson (DFO), D. Reddin, P. Downton (DFO retired), M. Stokesbury (Acadia), J. Carr (Atlantic Salmon Federation), S. Denny (Eskasoni First Nation, UINR), J. Hart (Margaree Salmon Association), S. Porter (CSI), D. Webber (VEMCO), La Have Salmon Association, St. Mary’s River Salmon Association, Club Hill Camp, Inc., Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Bras d’Or Biosphere Reserve Association.
Public summary of report: One of the major holes in our understanding of Atlantic salmon is their behaviour at sea and how this affects their survival. This ‘blackhole’ of knowledge has become increasingly worrying as one of the major causes of salmon population declines is mortality at sea. To this end, we have been continuing to develop miniaturized geolocation archival tags that will allow us to better understand the movements and behaviour of salmon at sea, from the initation of their migration as smolts to their return to fresh water as adults. This past year we improved the tag attachment methodology and have been successfully testing in under tank conditions, with the plan for a second full scale trial in the Spring 2014 or 2015. Our work on repeat breeding or kelt Atlantic salmon in Newfoundland is showing that these fish do not migrate long distances, but remain in nearshore water within 200-300 km of their natal river. Their behaviour at sea is characterized by frequent short duration dives that reach maximum depths of a little over 100 m and occur mainly during daylight. There is ongoing research to explore why some kelt survive to return and others do not using insight from the expression of various genes. Finally, we initiated a pilot study to examine the marine behaviour of co-occuring Atlantic salmon and Arctic charr, which is ongoing.

Project I.2.1: Atlantic salmon: migration, distribution, oceanographic features (Cape Breton)

Principle Investigators: B. Hatcher (Cape Breton), G. Crossin (Dalhousie)
Collaborators:  S. Iverson1, D. Ruzzante, I. Jonsen (Dalhousie), I. Fleming (Memorial), M. Robertson, C. Pennel, L. Fudge, J. Gibson (DFO), D. Reddin, P. Downton (DFO retired), M. Stokesbury (Acadia), J. Carr (Atlantic Salmon Federation), S. Denny (Eskasoni First Nation, UINR), J. Hart (Margaree Salmon Association), S. Porter (CSI), D. Webber (VEMCO), La Have Salmon Assosciation, St. Mary’s River Salmon Association, Club Hill Camp, Inc., Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Nova Scotia Salmon Association, Bras d’Or Biosphere Reserve Association.
Public summary of report: This was the first full year of operation of the Bras d’Or Acoustic Array in the Bras d’Or Lake UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve of central estuary of Cape Breton. (The array was reconfigured in April of 2012). Our efforts focused on: quantifying the acoustic fish tag detection efficiency of the ten (10) receiver ‘gates’ throughout the 1,200km2 estuary; analyzing and reporting the results of the 2012 smolt tagging experiment; tagging and tracking 50 smolts in the largest river of the estuary; building partnerships with local interest groups; training HQP. The key results are that the current configuration of the Bras d’Or array yields tag detection efficiencies ranging from 72% to 96% (depending on the gate location, tag type and environmental conditions); tag-induced mortality of smolts was reduced from 43% in 2012 to 4% in 2013; less than half of the tagged smolts are known to have left the estuary, and the majority of those exit through the smaller of the two natural channels to the Atlantic Ocean; partner organizations have started using the array to track the movements of other fish species (Striped bass); three undergraduate and one research associate received training and experinece in the Bras d’Or experiment.

Project I.2.2: Estuarine and Oceanic migration of the juvenile and reproductive stages of the American eel (Anguilla rostrata)

Principle Investigators: J. Dodson (Laval), M. Castonguay (DFO)
Collaborators:  D. Hatin, M. Legault, G. Verreault, Y. Mailhot, J. Dussureault (Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife–MNRF); V. Tremblay (AECOM); K.R. Thompson, J. Sheng, S. Shan, K. Ohashi, R. Apostle, D. Vanderzwaag (Dalhousie); D. Cairns; P. Sirois (University of Quebec at Chicoutimi)
Public summary of report: Our efforts to track large silver eels during their spawning migration at sea were continued in fall 2012 and in fall 2013. Contrary to the first year of experiment (fall 2011) which provided unexpected but interesting results (high predation rate by porbeagle sharks, diel vertical migration), the experiment conducted in fall 2012 with eels released outside the Gulf of St. Lawrence was disappointing since most tags (8) never transmitted to satellite. Five tags successfully transmitted their data but did not reveal any significant and useful information. During fall 2013, 12 eels were fitted with a new kind of pop-up satellite archival tags and were released outside the Gulf; the tags are supposed to transmit their data in early 2014. Our partners from the Quebéc Ministry of Natural Resources acoustically tagged 175 silver eels in 2012 that were detected in 2012/2013 by acoustic receivers deployed in the St. Lawrence River and Estuary as well as at Cabot Strait. This represents to us additional information about eel movement that remains to be analysed when available.

Two coupled biophysical particle-tracking models were developed in collaboration with the physical oceanographers from OTN theme Theme I.1 in order to clarify some aspects of the spawning migration of silver eels from brackish waters to the Sargasso Sea. The first one involves the migration from the brackish estuary to the exit of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, while the second model involves also the European eel and the marine migration to the spawning grounds. Simulations of various behaviours (vertical and horizontal) are currently under progress but very interesting results have already emerged such as the necessary use of selective tidal-stream transport to escape from the estuary. The multi-elemental analysis of otoliths of 110 yellow eels was completed in early 2013 and revealed extensive movements (on the order of at least 200 km) between fresh and brackish waters but also within freshwater habitats (probably the main-stem of the St. Lawrence and its tributaries). Our seasonal acoustic tracking conducted during the previous years of the project also revealed extensive movements of yellow eels; these results have thus important implications for the management and conservation of this species.

Project I.2.3: Atlantic sturgeon on the east coast of Canada: migratory behaviour and origin, and the potential for tidal power impacts

Principle Investigators:  M. Stokesbury (Acadia), M. Litvak (Mount Allison), M. Dadswell (Acadia)
Collaborators:  P. Smith, R. Bradford, J. Gibson (BIO DFO), J. Sheng, C. Taggart (Dalhousie), R. Karsten (Acadia), A. Redden (ACER, Acadia), D. Fox (U Delaware), S. Laporte (NOAA, NMFS), I. Wirgin (NYU, NY), T. King (USGS), M. Fast (UPEI Veterinary Collage), S. Cooke (Carleton U)
Public summary of report: We are tagging Atlantic sturgeon from the stock present in the Saint John River, New Brunswick and from the mixed stock aggregation that migrates every summer through Minas Basin, Nova Scotia, with acoustic coded-pingers, conventional tags (Floy), Passive Integrative Transponders, and Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags. For the summer feeding aggregation of Atlantic sturgeon in the Minas Basin we  have determined their main prey species and quantified feeding, searching and directed migration behaviour. We have determined survival, post catch and release, by otter trawl and this information is now being used in an ongoing fashion to inform management organizations as they determine regulations for endangered species legislation. Also, to guide engineering and mitigate possible negative impacts of turbine operation on species of concern, we are describing sturgeon spatial and temporal behaviour including depth preferences in the Minas Passage, and area targeted for in-stream tidal power turbine deployment. We have determined that Atlantic sturgeon move pelagically through Minas Passage and may be vulnerable to in-stream tidal power turbines. Duration of stay, location, and potential spawning areas confirmed by larval capture have been determined in the Saint John River. We also identified a potential over-winter area in the Bay of Fundy. Ongoing objectives include answering fundamental questions such as: Do Atlantic sturgeon show fidelity to certain spawning grounds? What is the timing of their spawning migrations, and are there sex differences associated with spawning migrations? What is the population structure and origin(s) of the Atlantic sturgeon that migrate through the Minas Basin and the Saint John River system on a seasonal basis? What areas in the Saint John River, the Bay of Fundy and the inshore coastal shelf water constitute critical habitat for Atlantic sturgeon populations of Canadian and USA origins? The answers to these questions are crucial to developing a better understanding of the ecology of this species which will lead to their protection and management.

Project I.2.4: Grey seals as Bioprobes: Predicting Impacts on their Ecosystems and Project I.2.5: Design Principles for OTN and Climate Change Impacts on Leatherback Turtle

Principle Investigators:  S. Iverson, J. Mills Flemming (Dalhousie), D. Bowen (BIO-DFO Dalhousie)
Collaborators:  L. Comeau (DFO NB), K. Fennel, J. Sheng, K. Thompson (Dalhousie), M. Hammil, D. Swain (DFO Gulf Region)
Public summary of report: An examination of data recovered from two bluetooth-linked VMT and GPS transmitters deployed on grey seals in October 2012 showed that the bluetooth connection was successful in transferring data from the VMT to the GPS units for retrieval from the ARGOS satellite system. This configuration allows deployments to take place at sites other than Sable Island (or in other species) since there is no need to recapture seals. In July, we deployed another eight Bluetooth-linked units on grey seals in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and anticipate these units to collect data through to Spring 2014. In June, another 15 grey seals were deployed with standard VMTs and GPS transmitters on Sable Island to be recovered in January 2014. In January of this year, 16 of the 17 standard VMT and GPS transmitters deployed in June 2012 were recovered. Detections from six Atlantic cod, three salmon, 14 bluefin tuna and one American eel were recorded in addition to seal-seal detections. Bluefin tuna detections were mostly recorded by two adult male seals and suggest competition for the same resource. To understand the significance of the number of detections collected to date, several variables have been evaluated that might influence detection efficiency; wind stress and distance between VMTs appear to have the greatest effect. Due to the large amount of data being collected, a more efficient software package has been implemented to run behavioural state-space switching models to reduce computation time. Using this new method, four years of seal-seal interactions have been examined to determine what oceanographic features are associated with grey seal habitats. Oceanographic data collected by  sensors on the GPS tags deployed on grey seals were calibrated with standard oceanographic sensors to allow for their use in oceanographic models. A proxy for phytoplankton biomass based on light data has been developed to allow us to examine the influence of primary productivity on seal habitat use. Detections from 42 tagged cod collected on the fixed Halifax and Cabot Strait receiver lines suggests limited mixing between the  Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence, a seasonal pattern of movement along the Cabot Strait line, and indication of greater residency around the Halifax line. These data are critical for evaluating the likelihood of overlap between grey seals and cod and thus probability of detection. Finally, a Bayesian mark-recapture model was implemented to estimate out-migration survival rates of Atlantic salmon post-smolts.

Arctic Arena

Public summary of report: The forth year of the Arctic OTN program was a complete success, building on the initial pilot projects and work done from 2010 to 2012 generating tracking data for commercial, keystone and flagstone marine species using innovative techniques. Research in Scott Inlet, Baffin Island, deployed acoustic receivers for one year, providing new insights on the movements of the deep-water species Greenland halibut, and important by-catch species Greenland sharks. Greenland halibut are one of the most important commercial flatfish to the developing fisheries in the polar oceans and Inuit communities, and the data collected will help the Government of Nunavut establish effective management plans for Inuit artisanal fisheries in and around Baffin Island. Satellite tags deployed on Greenland sharks in Scott Inlet and Resolute Bay will provide one year detailed data sets on the vertical and horizontal movements of these animals, providing unique insights into a little know Arctic predator. Oceanographic instruments were recovered and redeployed for a second year in this region, and a comprehensive set of CTD casts were taken. These data will provide a detailed oceanographic survey for this arctic marine ecosystem, providing insights into the source of arctic ocean waters in this changing biome, help to understand animal movements and contribute to regional and large scale oceanographic models. Marine mammal monitoring devises (various CPOD and AURALS) were also deployed to track annual occurrence of numerous marine mammals, identify feeding behaviour and social interactions. Satellite tags were deployed on ringed seals in Resolute that built on the success of the previous year, providing insights into fine-scale movements and behaviour in relation to ice and oceanographic conditions. These data are being coupled with detailed movement studies of arctic cod and sculpin, both key arctic fish that link lower and upper trophic levels, in the high arctic region of Resolute Bay. Extensive trawls were undertaken at various depths throughout Scott Inlet and allowed sampling of the entire ecosystem to determine trophic interactions and food web structure to complement acoustic/satellite monitoring data of target fish. The Arctic component of the Ocean Tracking Network provides the first large scale multidisciplinary research program on the movement of marine species in relation to oceanographic conditions for the region and is providing unique data for regional management.

Project II.1 Testing and Applying New Technology to the Arctic Marine Ecosystem

Principle Investigators:  A. Fisk (Windsor) and S. Vagle (DFO-Victoria, U Victoria)
Collaborators:  D. Webber (VEMCO)
Progress: Data was downloaded from the two dedicated detection range tests (V69 and V180) that were deployed in Resolute Bay, one in shallow and one in deep water. The detection range tests were redeployed and the downloaded data is currently being processed. Additionally we are working, with Dale Webber from Vemco, on a novel analysis of sync tag data from the two VPS systems to assess ranges in multiple directions. Preliminary data shows above average/predicted ranges for both 180 and 69 kHz transmitters in the Arctic marine environment. It appears (though more data processing is required) that V6 tags are consistently detected from 300 m and V9 tags from up to 1,000 m. However our ‘system’ approach to addressing detection range has shown range to not be consistent in all planes of field. We feel that this approach of deploying dedicated range test arrays is revolutionary and in future will be incorporated into studies across the field of telemetry. As part of this assessment we, in collaboration with other OTN member have completely and had published a comprehensive review on detection range testing in aquatic passive telemetry studies. Additionally specific range test results from the Arctic field work is being combined with results from extensive range tests undertaken in Cumberland Sound in 2011 (including a 1000m depth study) and sister studies in both subtropical marine and temperate fresh water, to reveal new information about the characteristics of acoustic range deployments in ‘quiet’ ecosystems. Here a donut shading effect of high sound-power tags may influence future selection of transmitter power for studies in low ambient noise environments. This manuscript is close to completion.

Project II.2 Oceanography of the Arctic Arena

Principle Investigators:  S. Vagle (DFO-Victoria, U Victoria)
Collaborators:  E. Carmack (DFO-Victoria, UBC), D. Turk (Dalhousie-OTN)
Progress: In 2013, a third year of CTD casts were conducted in Cumberland Sound to look at inter-annual variability in the region. Focus was then switched to Scott Inlet, an fjord typical of the fjords on the east coast of Baffin Island. Two oceanographic moorings deployed in 2012 were recovered then deployed for a second year. A comprehensive CTD survey was conducted throughout the inlet to quantify the water properties there.

Oceanographic research was also continued in Resolute Bay in July 2013 by MSc student Caitlin O’Neill and BSc student Rob Cook. The two benthic pods were recovered and downloaded following year long deployments. The data is currently being processed. More than 200 CTD casts were conducted throughout Resolute Bay during the field season (20th July – 30th August). Additionally three complete benthic pods were deployed for a one-year period in Resolute Bay, one inside the bay, one outside of the mouth and one in the channel. All moorings will be retrieved in August 2014 and the data will be used to help interpret fish and marine mammal movement data from the acoustic array.

Project II.3 Movement of Arctic char and Sculpin in relation to physical variables in the Canadian Arctic:Frobisher Bay/Lancaster Sound

Principle Investigators:  A. Fisk (Windsor) and S. Vagle (DFO-Victoria, UVictoria)
Collaborators:  R. Tallman (DFO-Winnipeg)
Progress: Following the retirement of PI Terry Dick (UManitoba) at the end of 2011, PI Fisk has taken over this project and established a collaboration with DFO research scientist Ross Tallman. Dr. Tallman initiated seasonal movement studies of arctic charr in land-locked and sea-run populations in lakes near the community of Pangnirtung in Cumberland Sound. A PDF (Jean-Sébastien Moore) started on the arctic charr project in January 2013, with funding from DFO and a Quebec-funded PDF awarded to Dr. Moore. Fieldwork started successfully near the community of Cambridge Bay between July and September 2013. An array of 42 acoustic receivers (VR2Ws) was deployed across the region. In kind support (ship time on the research vessel Martin Bergmann) was received from the Arctic Research Foundation for the deployment. In addition, 60 Arctic char were tagged with V-16 tags at two tagging locations. A reward program was set up in the community to retrieve tags from fish that are caught in the commercial and subsistence fishery. This program appears to have been successful since four tags have already been returned. Two of those tags were returned before the end of the field season and were thus re-implanted in other individuals.

Project II.4 Monitoring Bay- and Basin-Scale Movements of Arctic cod in Relation to Abiotic Habitat across Diverse Time-Scales: Lancaster Sound (Resolute)

Principle Investigators:  A. Fisk (Windsor), S. Vagle (DFO-Victoria, U Vic.), S. Ferguson (DFO-Winnipeg, U Man.)
Collaborators:  None
Progress:
1) The full acoustic monitor array (30 – V69 and 60 – V180), which includes two VPS systems, was downloaded and redeployed in Resolute Bay along with oceanographic equipment, CPODs and an AURAL.
2) The sculpin tags were all deployed (15), however, no Arctic cod could be located for tagging. Last year’s deployment yielded over 1 million Arctic cod detections and over 491,000 sculpin detections.
3) Acoustic profiling of the fish fauna in Resolute Bay was conducted by Richard Crawford in July and August. Initial data has been submitted to OTN PIs Fisk and Vagle. Crawford will work with MSc student Catlin O’Niell and PDF Steve Kessel to interpret data and use for the assessment of range tests, oceanographic data and fish and marine mammals movements and interactions.
4) Biological samples (fin, muscle, liver and stomach) were collected from several fish species as planned and returned to UWindsor for stable isotope, Hg and stomach content analysis.
5) Two CPODs were successfully deployed, one inside and one outside Resolute Bay. Additionally one AURAL unit was deployed in the mouth of the bay. Records of beluga presence and kills within and around the bay will be used to truth the data by collecting data from the Hunters and Trappers Organization and local fisherman/hunters from the community of Resolute Bay.
6) Two shallow water longlines were set in August on which six Greenland sharks were tagged (both with acoustic and satellite tags). These animal, in addition to the 6 tagged off Maxwell Bay in 2011, will provide insight into their behaviour should they enter the bay or pass by the deep water monitors in Lancaster Sound.
7)Four ringed seals were equipped with satellite telemetry transmitters near Resolute in late August to early-September, 2013. An adult female is now residing near the southeast corner of Devon Island. An adult male tagged in early September is now residing near Bylot Island close to Pond Inlet on Baffin Island. This adult male has been diving to great depths (300-400m) frequently, which is uncommon for ringed seals. A young-of-the-year male was tagged in late August and has traveled approximately 1200km eastward to Baffin Bay. A one-year old female was tagged in late August and has traveled 1800km eastward and now is now in southwest-Greenland (Figure 7). All tags provide detailed information on dive and haul-out behaviour and analyses remain ongoing. Location and behaviour data from over 80 tagged seals from Sanikiluaq and 13 tagged seals from Melville Bay, Greenland (collaboration with Drs. Rosing-Asvid and Rune Dietz- Aarhus University) to examine spatial differences in ringed seal behaviour. Preliminary results indicate profound differences in foraging habits between geographic locations with Greenland ringed seals spending considerably more time in a resident/foraging behavioural mode and dove to much greater depths (mean maximum dive depth = 89±1m) than ringed seals from Sanikiluaq and Resolute (29 and 27±1m, respectively).
8) The movements of each individual has been analyzed by state-space models and kernel density utilization distribution analysis will

Project II.5 Trophic Interactions and Movements of Arctic Fish and Marine Mammals in a changing Cumberland Sound Ecosystem

Principle Investigators:  A. Fisk (Windsor), S. Vagle (DFO-Victoria, U Vic.), S. Ferguson (DFO-Winnipeg, U Man.)
Collaborators:  K. Hedges (DFO-Winnipeg), M. Treble (DFO-Winnipeg), D. Webber (VEMCO)
Progress:
1) A preliminary acoustic monitor array (24 – VR2W-69), oceanographic equipment (2 stations) and marine mammal listening devices (4 CPODs and 1 AURALs) were deployed in September 2012 in Scott Inlet and retrieved in September/October 2013. A total of 15,000 detections were recorded from 25 individual fish (two species: Greenland halibut and Greenland shark) on this preliminary array. Although these data have not yet been fully analyzed, timed movements of Greenland sharks and seasonal movement trends in Greenland halibut were observed. In addition one Greenland halibut tagged in Cumberland Sound in 2011 was detected for a one-month period in Scott Inlet in 2013 showing system-to-system movements.
2) A full-scale acoustic array (70 – VR2W-69), oceanographic equipment (2 stations) and marine mammal listening devices (4 CPODs and 1 AURALs) were successfully deployed in a gate format through the Scott Inlet/Sam Ford trough system.
3) A total of 71 Greenland halibut and 22 Greenland sharks were internally tagged with various V16 acoustic tags. Of 34 Greenland sharks caught, the majority were smaller individuals (smallest – 146cm), highlighting the uniqueness of this region in the life cycle of Greenland sharks.
4) Four juvenile and one large Greenland sharks were tagged with pop up archival satellite tags for one-year deployment periods in Scott Inlet/Sam Ford Trough. These tags were attached to the dorsal fin of sharks using a new attachment disc method developed by PDFs Hussey, Kessel and PI Fisk. This represents the first ever satellite tagging of juvenile Greenland sharks.
5) Over 25 trawls between depths of 200-800m were undertaken throughout Scott Inlet and a suite of species sampled for examining food web structure and trophic interactions tied with acoustic telemetry data;
6) The first ever stress measures for deep water Arctic species was undertaken (lactate/glucose and using colouration patterns). A total of 25 Greenland sharks, 25 Greenland halibut and 3 Arctic skate were tested and data are currently being prepared for publication in conjunction with PI Cooke.
7) A total of 42 CTD casts were made in Cumberland Sound in July and August 2012 along with two cross-mouth transects to capture flow as it enters and exits the sound. For nutrient and oxygen, 18 samples were collected from 4 depths at 4 stations for analysis. These will help determine the origins of the water within the sound.
8) During August 2012, DFO researchers conducted boat-based transects of Cumberland Sound and Clearwater, Shark, Pangnirtung, Kingnait, and Iqalugaju fiords. No transects of Cumberland Sound were completed due to the presence of ice that had entered Cumberland Sound from Davis Strait and blocked access to the southwestern shore for much of the fieldwork period. High winds and rough seas prevented crossings during the final days of the field study. However, transects were carried out twice in all study fiords, with the exception of Iqalugaju, which was done once. This year’s effort marks the fourth year of standardized transects in these fiords, enabling comparisons among years to study patterns in the numbers and distribution of marine mammals and seabirds. This information is required to assess population size and growth trends over time.
9) Additional objectives this year included deploying satellite transmitters, collecting biopsies and photographing beluga, bowhead, and killer whales for use in diet, movement, and genetics studies of all three species in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Biopsies were collected from five bowhead whales outside of Kingnait Fiord. No beluga or killer whales were observed during the field trip, but biopsy and tagging equipment were left with  Ricky and Mark Kilabuk in case killer whales arrive in Cumberland Sound during the end of August or September.
10) Over 1,100 ringed seal muscle and liver samples have been collected from several communities spanning the Canadian Arctic and Greenland as part of an international collaboration with Dr. Aqqalu Rosing-Asvid (Greenland Institute of Natural Resources). These have been processed for stable isotope analysis to examine spatial and temporal variability in ringed seal diet. As well, in collaboration with Dr. Tom Brown (University of Plymouth) we developed a new approach to examine food web structure in polar environments, as we are now able to clearly differentiate between sea ice and sea water carbon sources, which addresses a key limitation of existing chemical techniques.
11) We have been acquiring tissue samples from Inuit subsistence harvests of ringed seals, beluga and narwhal in collaboration with Dr. Derek Muir (Environment Canada). In 2012, we sampled 100 Arctic cod and 25 sculpin and in 2013, numerous zooplankton tows were performed that included a suite of zooplankton species for contaminant and food web analysis.

Pacific Arena

Public summary of report: The OTN Pacific Arena research is focused on Pacific salmon given their ecological, cultural and socioeconomic importance. All of the research involved using innovative high-tech telemetry tags that transmit information to receivers spread throughout the coast and rivers. Prior to the development of such technology it was impossible to study Pacific salmon migration across large spatial scales. Research has covered several life stages  including outmigrating smolts and upriver migrating adults. For example, team members traveled to the Chilko watershed where they tagged several hundred sockeye salmon smolts in an effort to identify where mortality occurs during their journey to the ocean. Team members also worked in the ocean where they tagged adult salmon to understand the behaviour of different stocks on their way to spawning grounds. The team tested novel telemetry tags that measure tailbeats of fish enabling the estimation of swimming speeds and energy use from the ocean to spawning grounds. Given the prevalence of fisheries along their homeward migration, we also studied the effects of capture and release on survival and behaviour of adult salmon. The team tested and identified best practices for ensuring that released fish survive. The work conducted in 2012-2013 involved extensive partnerships with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations Groups, anglers, and commercial fishers. Collectively OTN research in the Pacific Arena has already informed fisheries management and conservation by providing information on the behaviour and survival of salmon.

Project III.1: Characterizing oceanographic conditions for out-migrating juvenile and returning adult salmon

Principle Investigators:  R. Thomson (DFO, UBC), S. Hinch (UBC), S. Cooke (Carleton)
Collaborators:  D. Patterson (DFO)
ProgressRick Thomson (DFO) and his colleagues from the Institute of Ocean Sciences continue to conduct four oceanic surveys per year in the Salish Sea region from the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait to the northern Strait of Georgia using the DFO vessel ‘Vector’. These seasonal CTD/rosette surveys include profiles of salinity, temperature, chl a, light attenuation, density, and nutrients (P, Si, NO3). The four cruises are meant to define the seasonal cycle and long term trends. These longterm data will be used to link with multi-year tagging data we are now collecting on salmon smolt migration rates and survival through the Salish Sea (PhD student Nathan Furey). Thomson and colleagues continue to collect and process CTD profile data around 10 times per month in the Nanoose Torpedo Test range by the US and Canadian Navies. They continue to maintain current meter moorings to measure currents in the northern Strait of Georgia, including a long term current, water property and sediment flux measurements from site SOGN (approx. 10 nm south of Cape Mudge) and DPN (in Discovery Passage). Thomson has been developing models using the hourly data from the northern current meters and from the met buoys in the Strait of Georgia to predict abundance and return timing of adult sockeye salmon.

Project III.2: Biology, behaviour and physiology of migrating adult and juvenile Pacific salmon

Principle Investigators:  S. Hinch, T. Farrell (UBC), S. Cooke (Carleton), K. Miller, R. Thomson (DFO, UBC)
Collaborators:  D. Patterson M. Hague (DFO), M. Hague (DFO, PSC), M. Lapointe (PSC), D. Welch (Kintama), B. Riddell (PSF), K. English (LGL), M. Shrimpton (UNBC), T. Clark (Australian Institute of Marine Science)  (2012), M. Davis (USA NOAA – retired)
ProgressSeveral studies were completed in 2013 (and theses completed, papers submitted/published) which examined factors affecting behaviour and survival of marine tagged adult sockeye and utilized tracking data collected from 2010 to 2013. Specifically, Drenner worked with Martins (RA) to quantitatively link thermal experience of coastal migration adult sockeye assessed from ibutton information to oceanographic variables (collected in Project III.1), migration speed and survival (paper accepted). Interestingly, the largest source of variation in thermal experience was attributed to within-individual variation suggesting need to focus on individual-level physiological state and behaviour. Swimming speeds derived from depth sensing accelerometer tags in ocean and riverine migrating sockeye were related to encountered environmental conditions, fish sex and stock (paper accepted, Wilson thesis completed; in collaboration with Drenner, Middleton, and technicians Lotto, Nettles). Collectively the research revealed that in the ocean sockeye were swimming near metabolically optimal speeds yet in river their energetic expenditure increased while ground-speed decreased. Analyses relating initial physiological state, including genomic biomarkers, to survival are continuing and write-up of these results is underway (Martins, Furey, Drenner).


The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) supports OTN’s Canadian research through a $10M strategic network grant.

4.3. Accelerometry techniques and applications (CCA1, CCA3, FQ1)K. Fennel, J. Sheng, M. Litvak, M. Stokesbury, S. Iverson, D. Bowen,
G. Crossin, I. Fleming, A. Fisk, S. Hinch, S. Ferguson4.4. Overwinter biology, migrations, and carryover effects of Bras d’Or Atlantic salmon
populations. (FQ1, CCA1, CCA3)