THE NEXT GENERATION OF SCIENTISTS
OTN is training new specialists in the interdisciplinary fields of ocean and aquatic sciences, marine policy and conservation. Over the past 10 years, OTN has supported over 250 students, trainees and postdoctoral fellows across Canada. In addition, more than 150 international students, technicians and professional personnel have been trained in the use and maintenance of
Kristin Boe releases a tagged brook trout as part of OTN Atlantic tracking studies.
Photograph courtesy of Kristin Boe
In 2015, Canadian OTN students and postdoctoral fellows formed a committee to improve the synthesis of collaborative research outputs. “Integrate, Describe, Expand and Synthesize OTN,” or ideasOTN, has produced more than 20 projects to help inform policy and management as well as educate the public on ocean sciences and telemetry studies.
Many OTN trainees have gone on to advanced academic study or have been hired in professional positions, including faculty, government and science outreach positions in Canada and abroad. OTN students and their research are profiled throughout this reflection on the Network’s first 10 years.
OTN researchers Kim Whoriskey and Dr. Micheal Orr tagging Atlantic salmon kelts in Middle River, Cape Breton.
Photograph by xavier bordeleau
Sue L’Orsa • HOMETOWN: Smithers, BC • Glider Technician
Photograph courtesy of meopar
OTN students and trainees come from a variety of backgrounds. In the case of the OTN/MEOPAR glider team, the majority of former co-op students, having undertaken honours or graduate studies as part of OTN, have found careers in the growing field of autonomous environmental monitoring.
How did you come to work for the OTN/MEOPAR glider team?
I started to volunteer with OTN by researching international welfare standards for fish. I also assisted their field team by servicing gear and tagging Atlantic salmon. Later, I was introduced to the glider group and the rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about gliders?
I’ve enjoyed learning how gliders work and how they’ve been designed to maximize efficiency in a marine environment. Individual parts of the gliders are quite simple, but when combined, they make an impressive exploration tool. And while the technology isn’t really new, the use of it is.
With whom, and how, do you collaborate?
Gliders are part of several research initiatives: we’ve been working closely with DFO from the beginning, collecting data along the Halifax Line [OTN’s first and longest line of acoustic receivers] as part of the DFO Atlantic Zone Monitoring Program. These data are also used by OTN researchers for ocean modelling and to provide environmental context for animal-tracking research.
In Cape Breton, we work with DFO, Emera Inc. and harvesters to track snow crab in the Cabot Strait, which are integral to local fisheries and livelihoods.
Together with the MEOPAR Whales Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE), we also equip gliders with echosounders and hydrophones to identify feeding grounds and migration routes for whales, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Our glider group was one of Canada’s first, so we’ve gained a lot of experience with gliders and now work with newer groups across the country to familiarize them with the technology.
Describe the benefits of using glider technology to collect animal-movement data.
Gliders are key to providing data and environmental context for animal tracking—they can detect tagged animals, actively monitor areas where detections have been heard and observe changes in the ocean climate.
Why are gliders important tools for ocean scientists?
The benefits of research gliders are huge—they’re cost effective, environmentally friendly and provide high-quality data. They can be out for 24 hours a day for months at a time, during bad weather and in areas that can be difficult to access. It’s a leap where most new ocean monitoring technology is a step.
What aspects of glider work would surprise people?
Glider work is not limited to deployment and retrieval—we work with scientists to design mission objectives, plans and risk assessments. Before every mission, we collect data on currents, active fisheries in the area, vessel traffic, potential weather events and solar input. People are often surprised that we can pilot gliders from any place with an internet connection. Some missions require 24-hour-a-day piloting, but I’ve also piloted from a smartphone on the road while travelling across the country.