Connecting infrastructure, communities, resources, researchers, policy-makers, industry, and other stakeholders at local and global scales.


Oceans of the future

Once a proof of concept, gliders (marine autonomous vehicles) are now a safe, energy-efficient and standard tool for revealing life underwater. Slocum Gliders (electrically powered) and Wave Gliders (solar and wave powered) can travel thousands of kilometres for months at a time while collecting data on marine animals and ocean ecosystems.

From little to big

In partnership with the Canadian Wildlife Federation and MEOPAR (WHaLE), hydrophone-equipped gliders are listening for the calls of large baleen whales across the Scotian Shelf and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Understanding the migration routes and habitat use of Canada’s great whales will help reduce accidental ship strikes and fishing-gear entanglements—the main causes of death for these slow-moving leviathans. Glider data is providing researchers with the scientific basis to establish policy and protected habitats for Canada’s whales.

A Liquid Robotics Wave Glider is successfully recovered in Halifax Harbour.

Photograph by Nikki Beauchamp

From Science to Society

Interest in new scientific findings, particularly from telemetry, is high among regulators. However, research suggests there are barriers to the adoption and implementation of these findings. The OTN social-science component investigates potential avenues for translating new scientific knowledge into real-world fisheries policy and management strategies.

What role does social science play in natural science studies?

Human behaviour and activities often drive changes, both negative and positive, in the natural environment, so understanding the human side of the equation is extremely important in influencing positive impact.

How is science embodied in fisheries management and how does OTN fit into science aimed at management applications?

Science should underpin most fisheries management strategies and practices; however, new knowledge is generated every day, and new tools are developed to conduct more accurate and precise research. OTN connects projects and multidisciplinary studies, which is helpful in painting a broader picture for management applications. This is important, especially when fisheries managers work with different scales and management zones.

What have been the results of your study on the social science of acoustic tracking?

An analysis of almost 200 fish telemetry case studies identified that researchers who collaborate broadly and engage with stakeholders through outreach have experienced more successes in the uptake of their study findings. Therefore investments in relationship-building, growing your professional network and collaborations are key to making an impact with telemetry research.

How did OTN prepare you for your postdoctoral fellowship at MITACS?

OTN enabled me to explore the social science aspects of telemetry research and, in turn, develop expertise on how to integrate science into fisheries policy and practices.

Vivian Mai-Anh Nguyen  •  HOMETOWN: Ottawa, ON  •  Mitacs Science Policy Fellow at Natural Resources Canada

Photograph courtesy of Vivian Nguyen

Connecting Species, Habitats and People

Salmonids in the species transition zone

Arctic char and Atlantic salmon are integral to subsistence livelihoods in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada’s remote Arctic communities. Historically, Atlantic salmon and Arctic char have split Arctic marine habitats between them, with char dominating more northerly waters and salmon taking over in the south. There is, however, a transition zone in which both species can be found living together in the same rivers. Now, warming Arctic and Atlantic climates are changing the distribution of salmon and displacing char from some of its former habitat. OTN scientists have been tracking both species’ migration and residency near this zone, and monitoring environmental conditions to understand how a changing climate will shift species distribution.

Jack (Meyok) Omilgoetuk releases tagged Arctic char back into Ferguson Lake, Nunavut, as part of OTN Arctic studies.

Photograph by Jean-Sébastien Moore

A ‘Tail’ of Two Sturgeon

Triassic Fish in a Modern World

Sturgeons’ origins date back 200 million years, making them some of the oldest species on Earth. Their unique characteristics have remained relatively unchanged since the earliest fossil records. Despite their long-established presence, new threats are emerging: large, late-maturing sturgeon must run a gauntlet of challenges, including rapidly changing aquatic environments and human activities, if they are to survive to reproductive age.

OTN Atlantic sturgeon studies connect fish movements, behaviour and habitat use to potential overlap in tidal energy developments and commercial fisheries in the Bay of Fundy region. A parallel study on Canada’s west coast in the Fraser River is generating baseline movement data on Pacific white sturgeon, and investigating the impacts of angling stress from sport fishing on these animals’ survival after release.

Acadia University student Laura Logan-Chesney offloads an acoustic receiver as part of OTN sturgeon studies in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia.

Photograph by colin buhariwalla

Arctic Interactions

OTN studies of Greenland shark, Arctic cod, Arctic sculpin, and ringed seal, as well as an associated oceanographic sampling program, are among the most extensive ever conducted in the Canadian Arctic. Essential data, including fish and food web interactions and oceanographic variability, is helping predict the impacts of climate change in delicate Arctic marine ecosystems.

Steve Kessel  •  HOMETOWN: London, England  •  Director of Marine Research, Shedd Aquarium

How is the Arctic ecosystem connected to the communities that call it home? What does your OTN research mean for local communities and Arctic ecosystem health?

The majority of energy flow between upper and lower levels of the Arctic marine ecosystem is connected by Arctic cod. Local communities rely on subsistence hunting for food security.  All marine species, especially seals, targeted by Inuit communities are upper-level predators, dependent on Arctic cod for a large part of their diet. OTN data can be combined with traditional ecological knowledge to help local communities more efficiently obtain and manage food resources.

What was your project’s  connection to the communities in which the research was conducted?

Nunavut’s Resolute Bay Hunters and Trappers Association connected us with local hunters and fish harvesters who directly assisted with our research and provided crucial guidance using traditional ecological knowledge. They also helped us organize town meetings to facilitate input from the broader community and share our results with the residents of Resolute Bay.

Life in the field. OTN Arctic researchers at a study site on the shores of Resolute Bay.

Photograph by Katriina O’Kane


More than two million lakes and rivers flow through pristine Canadian wilderness and provide bountiful outdoor opportunities, including one of the country’s most popular activities—recreational fishing. However, catch-and-release angling doesn’t always yield the best outcome for the fish.

Conservation physiology is a rapidly emerging field, which connects the biological systems of animals to underlying causes of survival and mortality. Researchers examined the fate of three popular sport fish—Arctic char, Atlantic salmon and coho salmon—that  sometimes experience lethal amounts of stress after release. Researchers shared the latest information with sport fishers, who are key stakeholders and often at the heart of conservation. A major outcome of this study was the recommended handling practice of “10 seconds tops,” which refers to the maximum time a fish can be held out of water for de-hooking and photography before release.

An Atlantic salmon captured in preparation for tagging.

Photograph by Leah Strople

Data Modelling & Visualization

Statistical modelling underpins many marine research studies, particularly in the context of linking animal movements and environmental features, which are not always documented in tandem. Researchers have benefited from advanced statistical and modelling knowledge through workshops and templates made available through the OTN modelling group.

What attracted you to environmental statistics?

I’ve always found statistics interesting and applying statistics and modelling to an array of scientific problems is what keeps me engaged. The late Dr. Ransom Myers, world-renowned marine biologist, first piqued my interest in marine ecology problems and environmental statistics. His passion for understanding and protecting the ocean was contagious.

What’s it like to be a prominent member of the research community in a historically male dominated field?

I’m very proud. I’ve always been well-supported by my colleagues, and every day I see the great value that women bring to this discipline. I try my best to connect with and mentor young women wherever possible, and have myself benefited from the leadership of other women in the fields of science and research.

What meaningful contributions has statistics made to environmental science?

We’ve developed novel models for analyzing tracking data, as well as efficient methods for fitting these models to OTN data streams. By incorporating vast amounts of environmental information into our models, we’ve been able to predict animal behaviour and communicate results through scientific visualizations.

What have you been working towards in your capacity as the leader of OTN’s modelling group?

One of my main goals has been to connect data users to new tools and see an uptake of our methods in the broader community. Only then could we be sure that we were accurately describing our approaches and developing software that non-experts are willing and able to use effectively!

What accomplishments are you most proud of in your work with OTN?

I take most pride in seeing students I supervise achieve their goals. OTN has given me the tremendous opportunity to hire highly qualified students to work on real scientific problems of interest. Marie Auger-Méthé is a shining example: having just completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in my lab as part of OTN modelling studies, she obtained an Assistant Professorship in the Department of Statistics and Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia.

Joanna Mills Flemming  •  HOMETOWN: Bristol, England  •  Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dalhousie University
Former Chair, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council Mathematics and Statistics Evaluation Group

Photograph courtesy of dalhousie university

Ocean Tracking Network

General inquiries:
+1 (902) 494-4101

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+1 (902) 494-2357

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+1 (902) 494-4405