Celebrating World Oceans Day 2023

Orca whale swimming in the ocean on a rainy day
Orca whale. Photo credit: Lucy Willis
June 8 is World Oceans Day, a UN-designated day to celebrate the ocean and life underwater, learn about the impact of human actions on the ocean and come together to protect this valuable resource. The ocean covers 70% of the planet and has a major role in our everyday life, from providing a major source of food and medicine, to helping create the air that we breath, and everything inbetween.

Understanding and protecting our oceans is a core part of the work being done in the Faculty of Science. Researchers across all departments study a variety of aspects of the ocean, helping us to better understand the physiology and behaviours of marine life, the biogeochemistry of the ocean, ocean-atmosphere-climate interactions, the physics of the ocean, marine ecosystems, the impact of human behaviours and climate change on marine life, and so much more.
Aerial photo of a beluga whale swimming in greyish-brown water
A tagged Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga whale swimming in the Mackenzie River Estuary. Photo: Greg Elias

Research by postdoctoral fellow Morgan Martin has found that belugas will change their behaviour when they encounter ships in the Arctic—even when those ships are still up to 80 km away. Martin found that belugas will increase their swimming speeds when ships are up to 79km away, and will change their diving behaviour and swimming path when ships are within 50km. This kind of avoidance behaviour could result in long-term displacement from important habitats such as feeding and calving grounds.

Read the full beluga story

Fish sounds can be incredibly useful for monitoring the presence and behaviour of fish species in the environment, but at the moment, we often can’t identify which species are producing the sounds we record. Recent PhD graduate Xavier Mouy (supervised by Francis Juanes and Stan Dosso) develped new passive acoustics tools that can be used to non-intrusively study fish sounds in the wild. Mouy has already used these tools to identify sounds from three new fish species around Vancouver Island. 

Read the full passive acoustics story

Close-up of a lingcod fish underwater
Using his passive acoustic tools, Mouy was able to capture the sounds of the lingcod for the first time. Photo credit: Xavier Mouy
Julia Baum scuba diving at a coral reef
Julia Baum on Kiritimati collecting data on coral reef health Credit: Kristina Tietjen

Marine ecologist Julia Baum conducted a groundbreaking five-year study tracking hundreds of corals on the world’s largest coral atoll, Kiritimati, thoughout the 2015-16 El Nino, a globally unprecedented heatwave. Baum’s team documented staggering coral mortality—90% of the island’s coral cover was lost. However, they also found that individual coral species fared much better at sites without local stressors, with some species losing only 30% of their colonies.

Read the full coral reef story

Pteropods have long been considered a major bioindicator for the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems due to their extremely soluble shell. However, new research by PhD student Matt Miller demonstrates that a protective coating on the outer layer of the pteropods shell actually prevents the shell from dissolving in acidic environments. Pteropods may not be as vulnerable to ocean acidification as previously thought.

Read the full pteropod story

Close up photo of a pteropod with shell damage, taken using a microscope
Close-up of a pteropod with shell dissolution, taken using a microscope. Credit: Matt Miller
Faecal plume in the water behind humpback whale tail
The tail of a humpback whale above the water. The fecal plume is visible behind its tail. Credit: Rhonda Reidy

PhD student Rhonda Reidy was interested in figuring out how increasing humpback whale predation might impact BC fish populations. However, no one quite knew what humpback whales in BC eat underwater, so it was difficult to say which fish populations might be impacted. Reidy used a record number of humpback whale fecal samples and DNA to figure out the answer.

Read the full humpback whale story

UVic is launching the Coastal Climate Solutions Leaders (CCSL) program this fall—a first-of-its-kind Canadian graduate training program that will prepare the next generation with the transdisciplinary skills and experience they need to tackle the climate crisis head on. The program, led by UVic biology professor Julia Baum, is supported by a $1.65 million, six-year NSERC CREATE grant.

Read more about the CCSL program

Julia Baum and Hansi Singh standing on rocks by the edge of the water, with building in the background
UVic's Julia Baum (left) and Hansi Singh. Credit: UVic Photo Services

Study the ocean at UVic

The Faculty of Science offers several different programs at the undergraduate and graduate student level where students can learn more about our oceans. UVic students can also take courses at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre as part of their degree program.