As the country with the world’s longest coastline (more than 243,000 kilometres), there’s a lot of ocean research projects taking place in Canada. But a missing gap that exists in Western Canada’s ocean research is a long-term effort to aggregate and analyze all of the vast ocean data that exists to help improve the health of our oceans.

Today marks the beginning of addressing this need. With the launch of the Vancouver Aquarium Coastal Ocean Research Institute, Vancouver is now home to the Canadian West Coast’s first dedicated, ocean research organization focused on the collaborative documentation of B.C.’s coastal environments. The new, multi-disciplinary, collaboration-based Institute is the first of its kind in Canada, and will be devoted to systematically documenting the health of our coastal environments over the long term.

There is a growing need for such an initiative. Population growth, and expansion in industries such as shipping, fishing, port construction, aquaculture, and coastal logging, are affecting coastal environments in ways that are not fully understood. While considerable research is conducted by scientists and researchers from universities, federal and provincial agencies, and others, the resulting data is not aggregated, analyzed and communicated in any systematic way.

With a major gap in the understanding and management of our coastal environments, the aim of the Institute is create a baseline for how our marine ecosystems are doing today, and to deepen our understanding of future changes.

How will this work, you may ask? The Institute will focus on building collaborations to harness wide-ranging, but scattered, research efforts and scientific data in order to provide scientists, academics, governments and the public with an annual set of indices describing the state of our coastal ecosystems.

The Aquarium is uniquely positioned to foster new collaborations needed to gather and analyze data from a network of researchers to provide a more robust, long-term assessment of our coastal marine ecosystems. With its long history of ocean conservation and recognized non-advocacy voice, the Aquarium is ideally positioned to provide the stability, scientific independence and permanence needed for the Institute’s success.

Three current Vancouver Aquarium research programs – Marine Mammal Research Program, the recently established Ocean Pollution Research Program, and Howe Sound Research Program – will become part of the Institute, as the research they already conduct directly contribute to a greater understanding of the health of our coastal ecosystems. While the Institute will have the capacity to conduct original research, it is expected that most research, data and information will also come from collaborating researchers and research programs.

The Vancouver Aquarium Coastal Ocean Research Institute is grateful for its generous founding funding partners Sitka Foundation and North Growth Foundation. The Institute also welcomes initial research partners Pacific Salmon Foundation and Hakai Beach Institute, with others to come.

The new Institute operates within the Aquarium’s overall non-profit structure, but will function independently with its own board of directors. Funding will be provided by a consortium of the Aquarium, concerned donors, sponsors and foundations, and will operate independently of any particular funding partner.

To learn more about the Institute, visit its website here.


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