A sea change: New technology, knowledge and ocean-related research

Dec 21st, 2019

By Jeff Green

The Gazette reflects on Memorial’s last 10 years. Photo submitted.
A sea change: New technology, knowledge and ocean-related research

If the past 10 years have proven anything, it is that Memorial researchers have a strong connection to our world’s ocean. In fact, more than 40 per cent of our research is ocean-related.

Multidisciplinary teams are leading critical studies focused on the water that surrounds us, helping solve industry challenges and create new knowledge. With longstanding global partnerships, they have been able to enhance their studies.

Global profile

These efforts also boost Memorial’s international reputation for leading-edge ocean research. For example, in 2018 we were the only Canadian university to make the list of the world’s top post-secondary institutions for the study of marine/ocean engineering.

Memorial is also playing a central role in advancing ocean exploration and discovery through the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI). Launched in September 2016, OFI is an historic partnership between Memorial, Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island where researchers are focusing on solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development.

Ocean innovation

Heading into a new decade, Memorial remains at the forefront of ocean innovation, with unmatched research strengths relating to our world’s ocean.

Here are select stories from our news archive highlighting Memorial’s broad ocean-related expertise:

Oceans research continues to grow: Sustainable Technology for Polar Ships and Structures (STePS2)

Initially announced in early 2009 and expanded over the past decade, this project developed design and assessment tools for ships and offshore structures in the Arctic. Led by globally respected Dr. Claude Daley from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, STePS2 significantly improved the understanding of high energy collisions between sea ice and steel structures, while gaining an improved knowledge of the resistance and/or failure characteristics of man-made structure under high loads from ice. Nearly 10 years after the project began, Dr. Daley became the first Canadian to receive a prestigious international prize for maritime research.

Large-scale approach to small-scale fisheries

A Memorial-based research initiative that has grown to include hundreds of international collaborators and organizations got its start in October 2012. Too Big To Ignore: Global Partnerships for Small-Scale Fisheries is led by Dr. Ratana Chuenpagdee from the Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Chuenpagdee champions the multidisciplinary collaboration of more than 450 researchers and 20 organizations from approximately 55 countries to elevate issues and concerns affecting viability and sustainability of small-scale fisheries. In the fall of 2015, Dr. Chuenpagdee was shortlisted for the prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Impact Award in recognition of her groundbreaking work on small-scale fisheries.

Industrial research chair established at Memorial to improve safety at sea

Improving operational safety and effectiveness in harsh offshore environments has been the focus of Dr. Brian Veitch’s research over the past decade. Dr. Veitch, a researcher from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is the current NSERC/Husky Energy Industrial Research Chair in Safety at Sea. He focuses on improving offshore safety of human and workplace performance while at sea. He has a strong practical perspective to his research program, using simulators that he and his team have developed as virtual marine environments to investigate human performance in offshore settings.

Marine Institute Officially Opens Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator

The Fisheries and Marine Institute celebrated the opening of its Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator Facility in October 2015. The new simulator provides offshore operators with advanced and customized training for the supply and support of offshore facilities and production platforms. The simulator is housed at MI’s Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) in a new two-storey facility. The facility includes a six degree of freedom motion platform that replicates a wide range of at sea conditions and vessel vibrations, a visualization system to represent offshore operations in real-time, and an instructor station to coordinate and oversee training scenarios. Complementing this initiative was a donation, in December 2019, of a ship’s bridge simulator from Teekay Offshore, which allows CMS to expand its capacity for state-of-the-art offshore and maritime simulation training in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Heritage Bridge Simulator, manufactured by Kongsberg, is a class A ship simulator configured to the bridge design of an offshore shuttle tanker, complete with a dynamic positioning system.

Testing technology utilized in harsh offshore conditions

Back in 2016, we told you about a project led by Dr. Robert Brown from the Marine Institute’s Offshore Safety and Survival Centre Research Unit. He and his team were testing personal locator beacons—devices worn by offshore workers to help locate them quickly should they find themselves in the ocean. Part of his research involved improving our understanding of how these devices work in realistic conditions. The team provided guidance to manufacturers, regulators and industry. Their research is emblematic of the innovative research led by Memorial in an effort to help improve emergency response for all people who work and play at sea.

Enhancing research related to offshore operations in harsh environments

Faisal Khan is bolstering Memorial’s research profile when it comes to ocean-related research. Back in May 2017, Dr. Khan was named a new Canada Research Chair in Offshore Safety and Risk Engineering. His research, which focuses on offshore operations in harsh environments, is pursuing ways to help industry evaluate the impact of its activities on both humans and offshore infrastructure, to ensure safe operations in challenging conditions and remote locations. His research aims to help industry better understand, quantify and manage risk to enable safe and sustainable developments. Dr. Khan also leads Memorial’s Centre for Risk, Integrity, and Safety Engineering (C-RISE), which was established in February 2016.

MI researchers restoring eelgrass beds and building artificial reefs in Placentia Bay

In 2017, Marine Institute’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) received $4.7 million from the federal government’s Coastal Restoration Fund for a five-year project to help restore the ecosystem in Placentia Bay, NL. Led by Dr. Arnault Le Bris, 20 reefs have been deployed so far in Placentia Bay with others scheduled for Northeast Arm, St. Joseph’s and Baine Harbour later. Each site will also be targeted for the restoration of nearby eelgrass beds. Found in shallow coves and estuaries, beds of eelgrass serve as nurseries for juvenile fish, including Atlantic cod, and provide cover from predatory fish, birds and mammals. It’s also critical in preventing seabed erosion. MI has partnered with DFO, the Miawpukek First Nation, fishing industry stakeholders, and local communities to rehabilitate eelgrass habitats and associated fish and shellfish resources in the coastal waters of Placentia Bay with the goal of sustainable fisheries and healthy ecosystems for years to come.

Curious about this story? It’s a part of Defining a Decade, a new feature in the Gazette for the winter 2020 semester. Stay tuned for a story a week about the accomplishments, achievements and impacts that defined the last 10 years. 

Jeff Green is a senior communications advisor with the Office of the Vice-President (Research). He can be reached at jeffg@mun.ca.