Oceans and climate

Understanding the oceans

UVic is a national and international leader in the study of the oceans. Our areas of expertise include:

  • ocean-climate interaction
  • ocean physics
  • marine geology and geophysics
  • biological and chemical oceanography
  • deep-sea ecology
  • ocean monitoring systems
  • coastal resource management
  • marine conservation
  • coastal erosion
  • underwater vehicle design
  • wave and tidal energy
  • ocean technology and development

Our researchers are asking questions like:

  • How do ocean processes work?
  • How do they interact to influence the diversity and abundance of ocean life?
  • What mechanisms drive the complex relationship between oceans and climate?
  • How can we manage our ocean activities in a more sustainable way?
  • Can the oceans help us meet our energy needs?

Learn more about oceans research at UVic:

Researcher spotlights
A sea change

Kim JuniperThe world's oceans are a natural sink for carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for human-induced climate change. Key players are tiny, drifting marine plants known as phytoplankton.

What factors control phytoplankton growth? To find answers, UVic marine ecologist Kim Juniper and his students are looking to marine bacteria, which recycle the nutrients that phytoplankton absorb. As the BC Leadership Chair in Marine Ecosystems and Global Change, Juniper conducts research with a global impact, examining how the ocean-climate system interacts with marine ecosystems. Learn more about Dr. Juniper's research.

At rock bottom

Kathy GillisWhen Kathy Gillis says she likes to get to the bottom of things, she means it. As a marine geologist, she's interested in what's going on several kilometres under the seafloor as she seeks to understand how ocean crust forms and interacts with the seawater around it.

Gillis' studies are yielding new insights into the hydrothermal dynamics of mid-ocean ridges and how interaction with the oceans over tens of millions of years influences ocean chemistry and the concentration of carbon dioxide at underwater volcanoes. Learn more about the hydrothermal studies group.

Waves to wattage

Brad BuckhamFor mechanical engineer Brad Buckham the raw power of ocean waves is more than a natural wonder—it's an energy source waiting to be tapped. But what wave energy conversion devices are the most effective and economical? And where is the best place to put them?

Buckham is leading a team of researchers and entrepreneurs who are gathering data on tides, wave action and winds from a test location on Vancouver Island. The results will help guide the development of future sites by the Canadian wave energy industry. Learn more about Dr. Buckham's research.

Transforming ocean research
Transforming ocean research

The University of Victoria's world-leading Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) Observatory is changing the way we study the oceans. Using innovative engineering, data communication and sensor technologies, its two cabled subsea networks, the VENUS coastal network and NEPTUNE Canada ocean network, are gathering continuous real-time data and images from the ocean depths.

Via the internet, scientists around the world can remotely conduct coastal to deep-sea experiments and respond instantly to events such as earthquakes, fish migrations and plankton blooms.

The ONC Observatory is owned by UVic and managed by Ocean Networks Canada, a non-profit agency created by the university to help build and sustain Canada’s world leadership in ocean science and technology.

Find out more:

Improving coastal health

Nowhere is deteriorating ocean health more evident than in the coastal waters bordering urban centres. The trailblazing VENUS (Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea) coastal network, completed in 2008, probes two distinct environments off southern British Columbia. Two cable arrays with more than 90 subsea instruments and sensors support research on ocean warming, growing dead zones, animal behaviour, fish abundance, acoustic pollution, delta slope failures and forensics.

Exploring diverse ocean environments

NEPTUNE Canada (North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments) is the world’s largest and most advanced ocean network.

Observations by NEPTUNE Canada will have wide-ranging policy applications in the areas of climate change, earthquakes and tsunamis, pollution, port security and shipping, resource development, sovereignty and security, and ocean management.

Weathering climate change
Meeting the climate challenge
Researcher spotlights
Weathering climate change

Ian WalkerAs climate change intensifies, how will sensitive coastal landscapes be altered and what can we do to adapt?

UVic physical geographer Ian Walker is assessing how coastal erosion and other climate change impacts are affecting beach-dune systems, First Nations village and burial sites, and coastal infrastructure in three popular BC national parks. Learn more about Dr. Walker's research.

Meeting the climate challenge

UVic offers a full spectrum of expertise in the scientific, social and economic aspects of climate change. Research spans areas as diverse as:

  • climate modelling and analysis
  • energy systems engineering and development
  • environmental law
  • energy and environmental economics
  • watershed ecology
  • oceanography
  • public policy
  • international relations

Our researchers are asking questions like:

  • How do we better understand the science of global warming and the consequences for the world and our place in it?
  • How do we make the right policy and technological decisions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the impacts of climate change, and take advantage of economic opportunities?

UVic leads and hosts the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), a multi-university initiative that conducts and promotes research on climate change science, impacts and mitigation solutions.

Find out more about climate research at UVic:

Researcher spotlights
The economics of climate change

Cornelis van KootenWhat is the most efficient and least costly way of mitigating carbon dioxide emissions? As the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies and Climate, UVic economist Cornelis "Case" van Kooten is a national and international leader in the analysis of climate change policy, especially as it relates to forestry, agriculture and energy. "The two seemingly disparate fields of climate change and economics go hand in hand," he says. "To study climate and natural resources, you ignore economics and policy at your peril." Learn more about Dr. van Kooten's Resource Economics and Policy Analysis (REPA) group.

Climate and the oceans

There’s a popular saying that climate is what we expect, but weather is what we get. UVic climate physicist Adam Monahan develops advanced mathematical and computer models to investigate the complex atmospheric and ocean processes that shape our weather and climate.

"Variables such as temperature, wind and ocean currents can influence each other over different time scales," he says. "Understanding these interactions will lead to improved predictive climate models, greater understanding of global warming and more reliable weather forecasts." Learn more about Monahan's research.