NSERC projects

Canadian research – NSERC projects


From 2008-2018, the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) built an international interdisciplinary network supported principally by NSERC. During this phase, researchers utilized OTN’s global infrastructure, analytical tools, and expertise to address key scientific questions of both national and international concern and relevance. The research was focused in the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans to address and respond to questions facing these vastly different ocean ecosystems.

Since the conclusion of the NSERC-funded phase in 2018, OTN and its affiliated researchers have continued building on research studies and results, and embracing new and emerging opportunities for investigation.

Research methodology under the NSERC-funded Canadian research network 2008-2018

The initial OTN Canadian research network addressed one multifaceted question across Canada’s three oceans: what are the movements of marine animals and what are the consequences of environmental change on these species’ interactions, distributions and abundances?

Framework questions were:


1. How do oceanographic and environmental features (both physical and biological) affect animal habitat use, movement and migrations?
Many animals carry out extensive movements throughout the ocean, ranging from simple drifting to annual highly-directed migrations. Understanding these movements and migrations—and the physical and biological conditions that drive them—is crucial to conservation, sustainable development and predicting patterns in response to environmental changes.
2. How do species interactions relate to habitat use, movement patterns, and biotic/abiotic features?
Species’ interactions with their habitats are closely tied to the health of the ecosystem. Therefore, ecosystem changes can be identified through monitoring behaviours such as habitat use and movement patterns. For example, documenting shifts in predator-prey distributions in relation to ocean characteristics can serve as an indicator of a changing ocean and help  determine management and conservation actions that might be necessary for these species.
3. How do human activities and industrial development influence aquatic animal behaviour and ecology?
Human activities impact marine animals and can change their movements, distribution and survival. OTN’s research model aims to document valued species’ behaviours in the face of habitat alteration, aquaculture, pollution, tidal power developments and ocean acidification.
Four additional cross-cutting activities underpinned the research framework to ensure effective integration and collaboration throughout OTN and to provide unprecedented training opportunities for early-career researchers.

As OTN grew, the framework questions expanded the scope of the research within Canada and internationally, and cross-cutting activities (e.g. assimilating animal tracking data with coastal and offshore oceanographic models) stimulated interactions and collaborations within the Network. This approach fostered effective communication among researchers and laboratories, provided extraordinary training opportunities for students, and advanced the development of novel technology.

Cross-cutting activities were:

1. Assimilating animal tracking data with coastal and offshore oceanographic models
Using three-dimensional, time-varying models to fill gaps among scattered ocean observations. Models can turn single-point observations into a product that can be used for practical applications.
2. Visualization and modelling of complex aquatic and marine observations

  Linking oceanographic features with animal migrations and movements. 

3. Advancing animal tracking technology and tagging techniques
Advancing or refining techniques in animal tagging including developing best practices for animal capture and tagging, receiver array placement, improving line efficiencies. New technologies that were designed and produced included new classes of acoustic receivers whose data could be remotely offloaded by marine autonomous vehicles (InnovaSea with Liquid Robotics), and novel accelerometry tags (Maritime Biologgers; now know as Motryx))
4. Transferring research into policy and management, and fostering linkages between scientists and stakeholders
OTN’s findings are articulated through publications of modeling tools made available to, and informed by, fisheries managers and stakeholders, with the aim of providing decision-makers with “prescriptions” that are consistent with the logistic and regulatory constraints of fisheries.

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