2017 is a big year for Canada: not only is our pioneer nation celebrating its 150th birthday, but the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is 20 years old this month.
Founded in 1997, CFI has invested $6.6 billion in state-of-the-art infrastructure and made possible 10,000 world-class research projects to date. Everything from databases, electron microscopes, and gene sequencers to large-scale digital networks, ocean research vessels, and world-class science facilities: all made in Canada.
To celebrate this milestone and showcase the far-reaching impact of two decades of Canadian innovation, CFI gathered stories that show how research builds community (Figure 1)—making it timely to highlight the international ocean community that has constellated around Ocean Networks Canada’s (ONC) world-leading ocean science infrastructure (Figure 2).
Since 2002, CFI has been a founding and ongoing supporter of ONC’s Internet-connected observatories. With substantial funding from the CFI’s prestigious Major Science Initiatives program, ONC is one of a handful of national research facilities in Canada alongside Compute Canada, SNOLAB, and Canadian Light Source Ltd. In September 2016, CFI expanded the number of Major Science Initiatives and renewed their commitment to ONC—Canada's national ocean observatory—with a $46.6 million investment in ONC over the next five years (FY17/18 – FY21/22).
With a sophisticated web of ocean monitoring and detection instruments deployed in all three of Canada’s oceans, ONC is building an international multi-disciplinary “community of communities” (Figure 3). More than just a single ocean research community, ONC serves as a unique hub for a wide diversity of global research scientists, studying everything from biology, geology, and ecology to geochemistry, geophysics, climate science, engineering, and computer science (Figure 4).
And that’s not all: ONC's state-of-the-art data management portal Oceans 2.0 provides researchers with free access to 24/7 live data—in real time—from practically every kind of marine ecosystem on Earth: the deep sea off the Pacific coast is home to abyssal plains, submarine canyons, cold methane seeps, as well as the Juan de Fuca plate's subduction zone and spreading ridge (Figure 5); Saanich Inlet's inshore observatory monitors a unique protected fjord that seasonally becomes oxygen depleted; the Strait of Georgia and the Fraser River's dynamic estuarine delta also happens to be one of Canada's busiest ports; the Bay of Fundy in Atlantic Canada experiences the highest tides in the world; and ONC's Arctic community observatory in Cambridge Bay provides timely climate change data and sea ice monitoring.
ONC's theme leaders and visiting scientists provide research stewardship to the science community and ONC is actively building relationships with coastal communities. In Cambridge Bay, ONC recently hired an Arctic Youth Science Ambassador, and along the British Columbia coast, ONC's Indigenous Liaison team engage with coastal communities and developing youth outreach activities prior to installing accessible community observatories (Figure 6).
The result is a large international scientific cohort (Figure 7) with one thing in common: an ambitious goal to better understand the ocean. By bringing together coastal communities and some of the world's greatest minds working in science, engineering, and big data, ONC serves as a dynamic hub for multi-disciplinary research, cross-pollination and innovation.
Case in point is Wally, the Mars Rover's underwater cousin (Figure 8). With the support of CFI seed funding to build a submarine robot prototype, ONC's deep sea crawler Wally is an example of sophisticated German engineering, developed in collaboration with Jacobs University in Bremen. Deployed at a depth of 870 m in the Barkley Canyon gas hydrate field, and equipped with a variety of sensors and a 3D imaging camera, Wally is remotely operated by researchers in Germany to explore and monitor methane seep activity, seafloor sediments, and marine life. The data that Wally collects are available on Oceans 2.0.
ONC collaborates with the United States on a variety of initiatives and has done so since the earliest days when an ONC founder, Verena Tunnicliffe, discovered the Endeavour hydrothermal vent system during an expedition with the architects of the Ocean Observing Initiative. This ground-breaking US-Canada discovery and collaboration subsequently led to the concept of an Internet-connected ocean a decade before the infrastructure was deployed in 2006. In 2003 Endeavour became Canada's first marine protected area under ONC's supervision.
Amongst the many international collaborations currently underway, ONC is working closely with the US, German, French, and Canadian partners to improve our understanding of tsunamis, including innovative radar algorithms for tsunami detection (Figure 9), digital elevation models and wave propagation models.
ONC's dozens of underwater cameras observe a variety of biological processes 24/7, allowing biologists to study deep sea ecosystems in new ways. This unprecedented volume of video data imposes unique processing challenges. In response, ONC is currently working with the computer vision community, in collaboration with biologists and ocean scientists, to explore innovative solutions to underwater image access and analyses. Stay tuned for results from the December 2016 Computer Imaging for Analysis of Underwater Imagery Workshop in Mexico, that brought together the international community to explore this topic (Figure 10).
We could go on (and on!) about the many other international institutions and research groups that are part of ONC's “community of communities”. Meanwhile, ONC would like to extend an ocean of gratitude to the CFI for supporting our vast, vibrant, and ambitious international ocean research community.
Happy 20th Birthday CFI. We look forward to the next 20 years!