Ocean science and technology

Diana Varela with microscopic phytoplankton projected

Tiny in size yet vast in global impact, the microscopic phytoplankton Diana Varela studies are crucial to the carbon cycle and the foundation of marine food chains in the open ocean, coastal environments and in the Arctic. Her research creates new understanding of the impact of climate change on the health of marine ecosystems and food production.

Natalie Ban by the ocean

In the villages where biologist Natalie Ban works on BC’s central coast, Indigenous Elders tell stories of the 80 cm-long yelloweye rockfish they once caught routinely. These days, the fish are half that size. Community engagement is a hallmark of Ban’s research method, and a critical element for ensuring that the ocean’s diversity and bounty will be there for future generations.

Undergraduate Erinn Raftery adjusts the equipment used to collect water samples in Saanich Inlet

A UVic-led research project on ocean “dead zones” collects water samples at various depths—roughly 300 litres per day—to measure the levels of everything from dissolved gases and trace metals to phytoplankton and microbes.

ONC staff working on a research ship

UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada manages the world’s most advanced cabled ocean observatories off BC and in the Arctic, providing data to support decisions on marine and public safety, biodiversity and ocean change.

ONC’s Maia Hoeberechts monitors a live video feed showing a sablefish

As part of the Digital Fishers program, developed jointly by UVic’s Centre for Global Studies and Ocean Networks Canada, hundreds of citizen scientists from around the world participated in a study counting deep-water sablefish off the Tofino coast.

Dramatic changes in the coral reefs at Kiritimati Island. Credit: Kristina Tietjen

Marine biologist Julia Baum’s study—which in 2016 reported a massive coral die-off during a protracted El Nino warm water event—is providing fresh insights into the effects of climate change and rising ocean temperatures on marine ecosystems.

Nurturing ocean health

The ocean covers 70 per cent of the Earth’s surface and is vital to our planetary life support system. Yet our activities are affecting the ocean at an ever-increasing pace. Understanding these changes is critical for the future of the planet—and us.

How do ocean processes work? How do they interact to influence the diversity and abundance of ocean life? What drives the complex relationship between ocean and climate? How can we manage our ocean-based activities in a more sustainable way? And can the ocean help us meet our energy needs? University of Victoria researchers are leading the charge to answer these questions and more.

Our research strengths in ocean observing, climate modelling, ocean chemistry and physics, and marine ecology combine to explore how climate-forced changes are affecting marine ecosystems, and to determine how the effects of these changes can be managed to support ocean sustainability.

We're uniquely positioned for this work, with a network of internationally recognized oceans, climate, and community-engaged researchers supported by the on-campus expertise of UVic's Ocean Networks Canada and the federal Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis.

UVic's edge in ocean health research

Ocean Networks Canada

Octopus

The flagship for ocean science and technology at UVic is Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a world-leading research facility created in 2007 to build and sustain Canada’s leadership in ocean observing systems.

ONC operates ocean observatories off the British Columbia coast and in the Arctic. The NEPTUNE and VENUS observatories off BC supply Internet connectivity to a suite of subsea instruments from the coast to the deep sea. A community observatory in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, collects near real-time data on temperature, oxygen, salinity, underwater noise, sea ice and weather conditions.

Through its advanced Oceans 2.0 data management software, ONC is continuously taking the ocean’s pulse and vital signs. More than 280 gigabytes of data are processed every day, allowing rapid analysis of information on the physical, chemical, biological and geological aspects of the ocean over long periods of time.

ONC’s Smart Ocean Systems™ program—involving observing stations along the BC coast—commercializes innovative ocean observation technologies for the benefit of Canada and the world. It’s enabling communities and policy-makers to make informed decisions on sustainable use of the oceans, marine safety, earthquake and tsunami response planning, and environmental protection.

The ONC Innovation Centre is responsible for bringing advanced technologies developed for ONC observatories to world markets.

Our depth in oceans research

With our location at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, it's no surprise that more than 100 UVic researchers across many academic disciplines work in ocean and climate science, technology and policy. 

Biodiversity and ecosystems researchers work to understand ocean biology responses to climate change, including changes in ocean productivity, ecology and species. Others work in coastal resilience - partnering with coastal communities to study ecosystem and fisheries management and food security.

Explore the depths of our oceans research:

Connecting on climate

Hands pointing at projected data

UVic's on-campus expertise in climate modelling, analysis, mitigation and adaptation gives us an edge in research on the complex interplay between ocean and atmospheric health.

UVic hosts the federal Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CCCma), an internationally recognized climate modelling laboratory. The Water and Climate Impacts Research Centre (W-CIRC), a joint initiative of UVic and the federal government, conducts research on the impact of climate change on Canadian water resources, particularly in the Arctic.

The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), led and hosted by UVic, was created in 2008 with an endowment from the BC Ministry of Environment. PICS engages researchers from BC’s four research-intensive universities, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and communities to find solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC), a not-for-profit corporation hosted by UVic, provides science-based information on the impacts of climate change and variability for use by policy-makers in government, industry, communities and other stakeholder groups.

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