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News Releases

REF NO.: 200

SUBJECT: Using the Pacific Ocean to understand the Atlantic
DATE: June 3, 2008

            Ocean researchers at Memorial University are using data from the other side of the country to help them understand what’s happening in the ocean off Newfoundland and Labrador. In addition to local cabled observatories, like the one at Bonne Bay, they’ve built up a network of underwater observations, like the one operated by the University of Victoria called VENUS.
            VENUS, or Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea, started operating in 2006. VENUS has two fibre optic lines running out from Vancouver Island, which allow scientists to stream data to understand oceanographic processes. Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Memorial’s Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Ocean Systems, is one of those scientists.
            “The work happening at UVic has a lot of relevance to our ocean research here at Memorial and elsewhere in Canada,” said Dr. Snelgrove. “We are trying to monitor food supply to the seafloor to understand how animals in the ocean live, which is hard to test. Sampling from ships provides us with a lot of data but you have to be in the right place at the right time. With VENUS, the observatory sensors are continuous and live which means we get a better picture of what’s happening. I can literally see live data from coastal British Columbia while sitting in my office in St. John’s.” 
            In addition to VENUS, Dr. Snelgrove added, a parallel initiative in deeper water off British Columbia, Project Neptune, is currently being developed to further this research.
            VENUS connects researchers to continuous data from one of the busiest ocean transport corridors in North America – data that is free and available on the internet. Research carried out on VENUS includes event tracking (storms, earthquakes, plankton blooms), zooplankton and fish behaviour, marine mammal communication and migration, water mass exchange and property behaviour and forensics research. It includes 43 kilometres of powered fiber-optic cable connecting to six subsea instrument platforms. Twenty-five instruments on those platforms collect data from more than 40 sensors. This complex network is yielding terabytes of searchable and downloadable data that are being used by researchers and the public from both Canada and around the world. For more information, visit
            On Thursday, June 5, Dr. Richard Dewey, associate director research for VENUS at the University of Victoria, will give an overview of the observatory infrastructure, some preliminary scientific results, the challenges encountered to date, and how new users can access the facility. The presentation takes place at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science from 2-4 p.m. in EN-4002.

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