Association of Polar Early Career Scientists


APECS Webinars

The Ocean Tracking Network and the Arctic: Quantifying and tracking the movement of marine animals and their environmental correlates
Nigel Hussey

With environmental change and increased anthropogenic impacts in the arctic marine ecosystems, the need to quantify regional and global movement of arctic animals has become critical. Rapidly warming temperatures and associated receding ice has created new opportunities for commercial fishing, global shipping, resource extraction, and the movement of temperate species to higher latitudes. The ice and harsh temperatures that protected the fragile arctic ecosystem from development also limited research, and very little is known about polar marine animal movements and how these are influenced by environmental conditions and trophic interactions. New telemetry technologies (acoustic and satellite) are permitting investigators to understand where aquatic animals move and how they interact, and the relationship of both to oceanographic and climate variables. The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) is a recent global infrastructure and research project funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC), respectively, that utilizes telemetry, along with autonomous vehicles and oceanographic pods to measure environmental conditions, for documenting the movements, survival, and habitat use of animals, and how environmental conditions affect them. The seamless compatibility of the equipment used means that animals tagged by one investigator can be detected by the receivers of other investigators thousands of km away, and investigators have access to data detections of their tagged animals for free. OTN maintains a secure database (>53 million detection records and growing) that provides a resource to the science community for comparative studies and to document changes in species movement patterns over time in the face of changing environmental conditions. Vertebrates or invertebrates that are 5 cm long or larger can carry tags, which work in fresh and salt water, can be fitted with environmental sensors (temperature, depth, accelerometry, etc.), and larger sizes can communicate for more than 10 years. OTN is guided by an international science plan, and currently involves more than 400 investigators and students. Open access to OTN infrastructure is provided to Canadian and international investigators. OTN’s infrastructure and logistics are always open to collaborations in support of other researchers working in the Arctic. OTN is built on sharing data, operations and maintenance, and draws scientists and partners from academia, government, the private sector, NGO’s, and individuals. OTN at present is active in the central and eastern Canadian arctic, with current acoustic receiver arrays in Lancaster Sound, Dease Strait and off the east coast of Baffin Island near Scott Inlet, and planned arrays in Eclipse Sound, northern Labrador and Ungava Bay. These arctic arrays support research on arctic cod, sculpin, Arctic charr, Greenland halibut, Greenland sharks, arctic skates, and associated marine mammal (ringed seals, narwhal, beluga, bowhead and killer whales) and oceanographic studies. This presentation will introduce the OTN mission and infrastructure, summarize current achievements by arctic OTN researchers, and discuss the potential for collaborations and development of animal movement studies in polar oceans.

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