Soapbox Science 2018 Halifax

This summer, Soapbox Science will take place in Halifax at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. Twelve scientists are invited to give talks about subjects across Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).  The audience will be introduced to careers in STEM, and see how STEM contributes to the advancement of life and technology. I will give a talk on “How can we count fish in the sea?".

Date:  Saturday 16th June, 2018

Address: 1209 Marginal Rd, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Time: 10am – 1pm

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Statisticians are making meaningful contributions to important research projects in ecology and the environmental sciences.

The purpose of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI) is to advance research in the statistical sciences in Canada by attracting new researchers to the field, increasing the points of contact among researchers nationally and internationally, and providing assistance to collaborations with other disciplines and organizations. I am the Team Leader for one of the first three Collaborative Research Team projects awarded by CANSSI, titled "Advancements to State-Space Models (SSMs) for Fisheries Science."

For distinguished contributions to the development of novel statistical methodology to study marine biodiversity and sustainability, for passionate promotion of environmetrics by bridging the interdisciplinary gap between oceanography, marine biology and modern statistical science, and for excellence in interdisciplinary mentoring of a future generation of Environmetricians.
— 2013 Abdel El-Shaarawi Young Researcher's Award Winner

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) is a 7-year research program making use of technologies and infrastructure to understand changing marine ecosystems and demonstrate how we can learn about continental shelf ecosystems through cutting-edge research. This program is enabled by the largest federal government university research award, in Dalhousie University and Atlantic Canadian history, with investment from CFI, NSERC and SHHRC as well as from in-kind and financial contributions from OTN partners worldwide. As part of this program, I am a Co-Investigator (with 28 others) on a research grant (obtained via the NSERC Research Partnerships Program) titled “Understanding Species Movements, Interactions, and Environmental Variability across Canada’s three Oceans”.  Understanding how animals interact with a dynamic ocean environment is critical not only for conservation and resource management but also for gaining novel insight into the nature of species interactions.  I am currently developing statistical modelling and visualization tools for complex OTN datasets which is a high priority goal of OTN.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a collaborative research initiative to harness the vast potential of the world’s oceans and meet the ecological, economic and societal challenges of the future. As an international hub for ocean science, OFI will bring together elite researchers and institutes from across the globe to understand our changing oceans and create safe, sustainable solutions for ocean development. 

OFI is built on world-class Canadian university expertise of Dalhousie, Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island, together with eight international partners including four of the top five ocean institutes in the world as well as partners in the Government of Canada’s federal laboratories, the Royal Canadian Navy, the National Film Board of Canada and national and international industry.

$94 million in funding has been awarded through the Government of Canada’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the Ocean Frontier Institute, the largest grant in the history of the three Canadian partner universities. OFI has also attracted an additional $125 million in support from provincial governments and partners, including a gift of $25 million from Mr. John Risley, prominent business leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist. This massive total investment of $220 million dollars is unprecedented in Canada’s ocean science sector. I am a Team Member for various Modules being funded through the CFREF. 


The Government of Canada has announced a massive new investment in a Dalhousie-led international ocean-science collaboration — one that positions Canada to become a global leader in the search for safe and sustainable solutions for harnessing the world’s ocean resources.

The Honourable Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board, was on campus Tuesday to share the news that the federal government would be committing $93.7 million through its Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the Ocean Frontier Institute.

The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) is a powerful new partnership linking ocean experts from Dal, Memorial University and the University of Prince Edward Island with world-leading national and international collaborators in research, government and industry.

I'm a co-author on a paper that just appeared in Science!

Check it out:

Aquatic animal telemetry: A panoramic window into the underwater world

  • Nigel E. Hussey
  • Steven T. Kessel
  • Kim Aarestrup
  • Steven J. Cooke
  • Paul D. Cowley
  • Aaron T. Fisk,
  • Robert G. Harcourt
  • Kim N. Holland
  • Sara J. Iverson
  • John F. Kocik
  • Joanna E. Mills Flemming,
  • and Fred G. Whoriskey

Science 12 June 20151255642 [DOI:10.1126/science.1255642]

A new paper, published in Science, details the explosion in aquatic animal tracking research over the past 30 years and its impact on discoveries about the movements, migrations, interactions and survival of both common and elusive aquatic species.

The review describes a profound revolution, including over 20 examples of scientific breakthroughs, in global ocean observation science achieved through advancements in acoustic and satellite telemetry—tracking via electronic tags placed on organisms ranging from tiny neonate fish to large whales, which transmit data to fixed or mobile receiver stations or orbiting satellites.

Electronic tags can now weigh less than a penny, can transmit for more than 10 years, and can be attached to almost any species, at any life stage, to collect high-resolution data in four dimensions (2D-horizontal, depth and time).

“The vastness and impenetrability of the ocean has historically limited our ability to acquire and process information on animal movements. Telemetry has significantly enhanced our capacity to predict and plan in the face of climate change and human influence,” said Sara Iverson, scientific director of the Ocean Tracking Network and corresponding author on the paper.

Telemetry data have revealed the often-mysterious migrations of endangered marine animals like leatherback turtlesbasking sharksEuropean eels and Pacific bluefin tuna. These discoveries, and the increasingly sophisticated technology behind them, generate critical knowledge towards conservation recommendations. Tracking studies also pinpoint successes and limitations of current management plans. For example, acoustically tagged reef fish were shown to regularly move outside their Marine Protected Area, putting them at risk.

“In the future, we could be looking at spatially dynamic MPAs, which move annually with predictions of animals’ response to their environments,” said Nigel Hussey, lead author and researcher at the University of Windsor with the Ocean Tracking Network.

Acoustic and satellite telemetry studies are being combined with other biological measurements like genetic analysis or physiological status. These data help determine drivers behind animal behaviour to forecast how anthropogenic and climate changes will affect species and populations.

Aquatic animal movements and migrations transcend geopolitical, economic, and management boundaries. Telemetry studies in the last decade have documented movement over transoceanic scales, to regions unreachable by humans, and into some of the harshest parts of the ocean, providing the groundwork for “next-generation aquatic governance frameworks.”

“The ocean will continue to change,” said Hussey. “Global collaboration—among industry and science sectors, and researchers themselves—is imperative to get ahead of these changes before they catch up to us.”

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) is a $168-million research and technology development platform headquartered at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Starting in 2008, OTN began deploying Canadian state of the art acoustic receivers and oceanographic monitoring equipment in key ocean locations and establishing partnerships with a global community of telemetry users. OTN is documenting the movements and survival of aquatic animals carrying electronic tags and how both are influenced by oceanographic conditions.

OTN is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, with additional support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust, as well as international partner contributions.


Some exciting new publications to kick off the academic year 2014-2015

"Applying Bayesian spatio-temporal models to fisheries bycatch in the Canadian Arctic" has been accepted for publication in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Great job Aurelie!

"Behavioral attributes of turbine entrainment risk for adult resident fish revealed by acoustic telemetry and state-space modeling" now appears in Animal Biotelemetry. Fantastic Eduardo!