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Into the deep

OSC receives funding to improve cold-ocean research

From left, Dr. Christopher Loomis, Shawn Skinner, Glenn Janes and Dr. Ian Fleming took part in an $8.3 million investment announcement for the Ocean Sciences Centre on Sept. 29.


By Meaghan Whelan

Memorial University’s cold-oceans research facility, the Ocean Sciences Centre (OSC), received a landmark infrastructure investment of $8,325,477 from the Research & Development Corporation (RDC). The announcement was made on Sept. 29, 2010, at the OSC.

“The Research & Development Corporation, through this $8.3 million investment, is building on a unique asset that the province already has in the Ocean Sciences Centre,” said Glenn Janes, chief executive officer of the Research & Development Corporation. “By significantly enhancing the infrastructure of the OSC, we are seizing an opportunity to turn the OSC into a world-class asset for cold-ocean research and achieve international excellence in this area.”

The funding will be used to build new infrastructure at the OSC that will include a deep-sea water supply to provide consistent, low-temperature sea water year-round and state-of-the-art research facilities for infectious diseases and invasive species.

“This investment by RDC is truly exciting for the Ocean Sciences Centre,” said Dr. Ian Fleming, a professor at the centre and its former director. “It opens new horizons for research and innovation, allowing significant advances in the knowledge of how organisms inhabiting the North Atlantic and Arctic respond to changes in their environment, as well as the risks posed by infectious diseases and invasive organisms. Given the growing recognition of the critical importance of the world’s oceans and its biodiversity during this period of rapid global change, the investment is very timely.”

The funding will facilitate the development of a bio-containment facility for research on infectious diseases affecting marine animals, as well as invasive aquatic species. In the OSC’s current capacity, research on hazardous subjects has been limited due to the risks involved with accessing and handling live specimens. The bio-containment facility will address this limitation.
The OSC, which was first opened in 1967, is an internationally-renowned facility for research on cold-water organisms.

“The Ocean Sciences Centre has long played a unique and important role in ocean research at Memorial University,” said Dr. Christopher Loomis, vice-president (research). “Like much of our infrastructure, however, it is need of renewal. This investment from RDC will significantly enhance our research capabilities, thereby enabling new specialized work on invasive species, deep-water organisms and marine diseases. The results of this investment will also help to attract world-class students and scientists to Memorial University and the province.”

The funding announcement coincided with a significant milestone for the project, as construction is about to begin on the deep-sea water supply. Within weeks, a 56 cm diameter hole will be drilled horizontally through 500 metres of solid rock to a deep-water location in the Atlantic Ocean. Frigid water from this hole will be pumped into pressurized holding tanks at the surface, which will allow researchers to study live specimens of creatures and organisms in a habitat very similar to their own. This infrastructure will make the OSC, already a leading-edge facility, unique in the world.

“Newfoundland and Labrador’s researchers and private sector enterprises are engaged in groundbreaking work that has positioned them at the forefront of the global ocean technology sector,” said Shawn Skinner, minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development. “The expansion of the Ocean Sciences Centre is a critical step in advancing the capabilities of local researchers and will enable them to acquire a better understanding of the vast opportunities in our ocean environment. As highlighted in Oceans of Opportunity, the provincial government’s five-year, $28-million ocean technology development strategy, this government is committed to encouraging growth in the ocean technology sector by making strategic investments to enhance Newfoundland and Labrador’s capacity for innovation.”

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Department of Education, the Canadian Hydrographic Institute and other agencies have partnered on this project. It is expected to be complete in 2012.