Ocean research worth $16M announced in Atlantic region

Ocean Frontier Institute announced $16-million for 6 new ocean research projects, including two with close P.E.I. connections.

Research funded through Ocean Frontier Institute

Vittorio Maselli, with Earth and environmental sciences at Dalhousie University, says they will be using different state-of-the-art scientific equipment to discover and map offshore freshwater aquifers. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Ocean Frontier Institute released details on six ocean research projects worth $16 million — including two with close P.E.I. connections.

The Dalhousie University based research hub already has 17 large projects underway.

It was founded in 2016 and is linked between Dalhousie University, Memorial University, and UPEI. 

One of the projects worth nearly $2 million will focus on the continental shelf surrounding P.E.I. to look at freshwater offshore aquifers. 

"Our goal will be to explore freshwater resources often beneath the sea floor, below the sea bed," said Vittorio Maselli, principal investigator with the Earth and environmental sciences at Dalhousie University.

Maselli says understanding how the aquifers react to water extraction could have a direct application for sustainable development in coastal communities in the future. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

He said P.E.I.'s famous red sandstone cliffs are part of a unique system that extends beneath the sea floor.

"We believe that those deposits contain, potentially, may contain freshwater reserves that can be exploited in the future," Maselli said.

P.E.I. is the only province that relies solely on groundwater resources for all of its agriculture and domestic uses, Maselli said. Knowing the connection between the two possible sources would be important, he said, as it is essential for the Island.

"Climate change may have an impact on those resources in many ways," Maselli said. "We will study Prince Edward Island to develop conceptual models that can be applied in similar systems worldwide."

They will also be investigating how pollution could be carried from land to sea through the aquifers.

Mark Fast with UPEI says one of the focuses of their study will be to see how pathogens spread through the ocean. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

A second project worth roughly $1.2 million — One Ocean Health — will look at the connection between ocean, marine animal and human health.

"From lobster shell disease to salmon aquaculture and other fin-fish aquaculture," said Mark Fast, a principal investigator with UPEI.

"Trying to understand how shell disease would impact the lobster population and how that will potentially change with increasing water temperatures that we have been experiencing."

Some of the focus will be on environmental impacts on ocean-sourced food, how pathogens spread and antimicrobial use in ocean food-farming.

They are also looking at how byproducts like shells could be used as a polymer instead of some kinds of plastic.

"With aquaculture continuously increasing and with fisheries pretty much being on a plateau for a couple of decades now, we need to understand how better to sustainably use both of these resources for human consumption but then also byproducts from these resources," said Fast.

Part of the One Ocean Health project will study ocean-sourced food and how byproducts could have other applications in different industries. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The other four projects announced were:

  • $2,000,000 — Sea floor mapping in the Northwest Atlantic.
  • $4,000,000 — Looking into climate change impacts on the Northwest Atlantic biological carbon pump.
  • $4,000,000 — Future ocean and coastal infrastructure.
  • $4,005,194 — Combining community-led knowledge in Northern Canada with traditional science.

The institute's research results from the first round of projects are already rolling out with the majority of it expected in 2022.

The next round of results is expected by 2023.

More P.E.I. news 

With files from Island Morning


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