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Dr. Paul Snelgrove

"A Scientific Basis for Conservation of Marine Biodiversity" - NSERC
Discover Grant 2007-2012

In recent years, interest in marine biodiversity has exploded because of concern over biodiversity loss and deterioration of ocean function. Nonetheless, there is currently little scientific basis for marine conservation in cold ocean environments and decisions regarding prioritization are typically based on static measures (e.g. stock sizes) rather than on function and process-based science. I propose to utilize new technologies (e.g. ocean observatories, ROVs) and laboratory and field experiments to improve our understanding of source-sink dynamics, critical habitat and biodiversity, and to establish approaches that will allow a broader understanding of function and diversity of seafloor environments.

"Connectivity & Conservation in Marine Fishes" - NSERC Strategic Project 2006-2008 (with P Bentzen, B deYoung, C DiBacco, R Gregory, and D Pike)

The NSERC Strategic Project on Connectivity and Conservation of Marine Fishes is a partnership between 3 Canadian universities, DFO, Parks Canada, and a local ecotourism company called Coastal Connections. The project was initiated in January 2006 and has now reached the midway point. The main goal of this work is to quantify the connectivity of marine fish species between five Newfoundland embayments and in doing so bring together the latest expertise and technology and develop novel synthetic analytical approaches for the analysis of connectivity data. This work contrasts three species of marine fish (cod, sculpin, smelt) with differing life histories and abundance in Newfoundland waters, and will provide new tools for the management of marine organisms. The various objectives of the project are described below as well as the state of completion or expected date of completion.

Understanding Marine Biodiversity (Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Ocean Systems): P. Snelgrove
As a signatory to the International Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada is committed to developing an inventory of its biodiversity resources and to preserving these resources. Within the marine environment, our understanding of the processes that regulate and maintain biodiversity is very limited, and even less is known about cold ocean ecosystems. My research focuses on early life history stages and the processes that influence success, failure and the subsequent pattern of biodiversity. This research is centred primarily in coastal Newfoundland, in a variety of habitats that include a diverse mix of temperate and arctic species. There are three research objectives. The first is to determine what larval transport and survival can tell us about patterns of recruitment and distribution in cold ocean environments. Second, how does larval settlement contribute to patterns of biodiversity in cold ocean environments, and what aspects of temporal and spatial variation in the natural environment influence these patterns? Finally, do we need to be concerned about biodiversity loss when we consider the health and functioning of the ecosystem, or are species largely interchangeable in terms of the roles they play? This project is funded by the Canada Research Chairs Program and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation from 2003-2008.

Fishery population assessment through planktonic sampling: B. deYoung (Physics), P. Pepin (DFO), J. Helbig (DFO) and P.Snelgrove
The primary objective of this program is to develop an effective method for conducting plankton surveys in physically dynamic coastal environments. This goal is critical if we are to develop egg and larval production models in pelagic spawning, cold ocean species. As a management tool, egg production methods have been used successfully in other areas of the world, but to date are not used in Atlantic Canada. We seek to design a statistical optimization approach for guiding on-going surveys that will enable effective and accurate sampling in a coastal upwelling environment. One component of the program will be the implementation of data assimilation methods to a circulation model to enhance simulation modelling of the coastal circulation. In particular, we will apply these models to a series of ichthyoplankton surveys to verify the accuracy of the model. This dynamic oceanographic approach will be used in the assessment of inshore spawning stock abundance using Egg Production Methods. This research will enhance the design of plankton surveys and ensure statistically sound coverage while allowing for corrections resulting from losses and transport during the survey. This project is funded by NSERC Strategic Grants Programs from 2001-2004.

Oceanographic Time Series from Cabled Observatories: B. deYoung (Physics), D. Deibel (OSC), R. Hooper (Biology), C. Parrish, R. Rivkin, P. Snelgrove (OSC), L. Zedel (Physics).
Oceanographic data in the past has been collected by ships in limited oceanographic cruises that typically span a few days or weeks, or by fixed instrument moorings that are typically constrained by battery power and data availability in a hindcast format. These approaches have given us useful snapshots of ocean dynamics but we miss many important events in space and time that likely play a very important role in natural systems. We are involved in two newly funded projects which will enable us to contribute toward overcoming these limitations of conventional oceanography. One is a cabled observatory in Bonne Bay, Newfoundland (, where we will study biological, chemical, and physical variation in a cold ocean system that is ice covered for part of the year and subject to strong seasonality in nutrients, production, temperature, and physics. A related project ( is a series of three cabled observatories around Vancouver Island (project VENUS, led by University of Victoria). Both of these projects have been funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. ). A third project ( will place a fiber optic cable into the deep sea on the Juan de Fuca plate in the Pacific Ocean (project NEPTUNE).