Archived — Collaborating for the future of our oceans

Canada takes lead in studying the world's oceans

Photo of the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR)

Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) studies ways to make our relationship with the oceans safer to benefit everyone.

From sea to sea to sea, Canadians have a special relationship with oceans: we use the oceans for transportation and tourism, farm them for food and energy resources and use their bounty for a wide variety of industries. Protecting this abundant resource and maximizing its potential for future generations is the focus of the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). Hosted by Dalhousie University, this national network brings together the country's foremost marine researchers along with government, industry, and community groups to study methods of risk assessment and technologies used to evaluate, predict and respond to marine environmental hazards.

"We are working to better train the next generation so they will have more informed ways to improve the human relationship with the ocean," explains Dr. Doug Wallace, Scientific Director at Dalhousie University, who is leading the MEOPAR Network and is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology. "We are studying ways to make our relationship with the oceans safer—for us and for the marine environment. Better information and understanding will benefit us all."

One example of MEOPAR's work is the study of the future behaviour of our oceans. "We're using future climate models on a large scale and projecting future changes in storm frequency and wave height off our shores. This research can be used to determine the design of offshore platforms in the decades to come," explains Dr. Wallace.

MEOPAR's science can also be used to help prepare for marine emergencies. Dr. Wallace adds, "With the proper research and information, we can be better prepared for everything from search and rescue to environmental spills."

Industry Canada's Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) offers a suite of programs that mobilize Canada's best research, development and entrepreneurial expertise and focus it on specific issues and strategic areas. In 2012, MEOPAR was awarded $25 million over five years through the Industry Canada NCE program.

"Industry Canada's idea of setting up the NCE program is terrific," states Dr. Martha Crago, Vice-President (Research) at Dalhousie University. "The Government of Canada recognizes that there are important areas of research, such as marine environmental observation, prediction and response, which will enable Canada to become a blockbuster producer of information in these areas."

Photo of Dr. Douglas Wallace, pictured in front of Aquatron algae tanks at Dalhousie University

Dr. Douglas Wallace, Scientific Director of the MEOPAR Network (pictured in front of Aquatron algae tanks at Dalhousie University).

"Collaboration is key and we're hoping to make major breakthroughs in that area," agrees Dr. Wallace. "The real value of Industry Canada's funding is that it allows us to build partnerships among academia, government, industry and communities to harness collective expertise, resources and intellectual energy. There are great things being done, but in isolation, so we're hoping all these sectors will recognize the benefits in working together to improve data collection and share information and infrastructure. Some of the best infrastructure for studying our oceans is owned by industry, not universities or government."

MEOPAR brings together Canadian researchers from coast to coast, and increasingly, from other countries. For example, in August 2012, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Dalhousie to sign a transatlantic partnership agreement that will increase collaboration between Canada and Germany, specifically a working relationship between the Halifax Marine Research Institute and the Helmholtz Association of Berlin. Work has already started with the Helmholtz Research School for Ocean System Science and Technology in promoting common education in marine research.

"We welcome all input, specifically from industry and community groups who are front-line and know as well as anyone what hazard-related issues we should be tackling," says Dr. Wallace. "We want new people with new ideas and new problems to solve, to help guide the future direction of our work."

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