Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) recently expanded its world-class ocean observatories to include data collected from three BC Ferries.
With instrumentation in the ferries’ hull and a weather station on deck, scientists can now observe ocean surface properties continuously while the ferries transit the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Read the news release: ONC teams up with BC Ferries to monitor Canada's busiest waterway.
The strait is a vital waterway to understand and is of great interest to scientists around the world. “The Fraser River is the single largest influence on the nature and character of the strait,” says Richard Dewey, Associate Director of Science Services at ONC. “It has a great impact on ocean circulation and marine life, including the salmon and herring fisheries."
The ferries collect data on a variety of major seasonal physical and biological processes including the Fraser River plume and spring phytoplankton bloom.
The customized ferry surface monitoring system is built into the ship's hull below the waterline at mid-ship to measure these seawater properties:
- organic matter
A weather station, combined with communications equipment, is mounted on the upper decks of the ferry. Together, they capture high-resolution measurements of sea surface and atmospheric conditions every 10 seconds. The data are freely available in realtime, via the Internet.
The large amount of high resolution data collected along all three routes will continue the long-term time series initiative begun in the early 2000’s by Jim Gower, satellite oceanographer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
“Having studied the west coast waters for decades, I see the ferries data filling an important gap, particularly over the long-term,” says Gower. “Continuous monitoring of near-surface water supports a wide range of scientific studies in the Georgia Strait, including my specialty, remote sensing, that helps us better understand this dynamic region.”
- A conversation with Jim Gower, ferry data pioneer
- Publication: Wang, Chuning. “Oxygen Budgets and Productivity Estimates in the Strait of Georgia from a Continuous Ferry-based Monitoring System.” (2012)
- Spring 2015: Spring Bloom arrives early
- Spring 2014: Spring Bloom observed in BC Ferry Data
- January 2013: BC Ferry system generates over 48 plots each day
- The Fraser River Plume
To learn more about the ferry program or join the Ferry Working Group of scientists, contact Akash Sastri (Staff Scientist, Ocean Networks Canada).