Our Oceans in High Resolution
It is incredibly difficult to manage something if you do not know where it is. Yet this is often what we try to do when it comes to marine resources and habitats, because we don’t have high-quality maps of our oceans.
It is estimated that it would take 200 shipyears to map our oceans to the resolutions that we currently have for land areas. (A shipyear is the distance a ship can travel in one year and may vary in terms of speed, time in port, and other factors.) In some ocean areas, our best maps may show only 1 km × 1 km per pixel.
As Canada Research Chair in Ocean Mapping, Dr. Katleen Robert aims to map the spatial complexity of the ocean from the seafloor to the surface. Her goal is to create an integrated picture of our oceans that will allow us to understand where species are and why.
To achieve this, she and her research team are working with underwater robotic vehicles that allow sonars and cameras to be brought closer to the seabed to collect high-resolution acoustic data and videos. These high-resolution maps are better at illustrating the complexity of the seabed—and just like on land, they allow us to better understand the spatial distribution of diverse habitats.
By studying the relationships between habitats, resources and human activities, and by providing a baseline for monitoring how ecosystems respond to environmental change, Roberts’ research will help inform management decisions to support the sustainable use of resources.