Image: T. Howatt
Marine biological hotspots, defined very generally as marine ecosystems that sustain an elevated biological presence at one or more trophic levels, play an important role in marine ecosystem dynamics. In many such hotspots, physical oceanographic conditions and/or processes such as water properties, turbulence and circulation features around fronts and canyons, likely play an important role in defining these regions.
Through our group’s involvement with the MEOPAR-funded Whale Habitat and Listening Experiment (WHaLE) project, a collaborative initiative that aims to deepen our knowledge of rare and threatened baleen whales, we seek to better understand the driving physical mechanisms that help define zooplankton (aka whale prey) aggregations in critical baleen whale habitats on the east and west coasts of Canada. To do so, we are using underwater gliders, autonomous drone-like instruments, to collect substantial, high-resolution, long-duration datasets of multiple metrics of ocean physics and ocean biology using a wide range of glider sensor payloads. The unique datasets returned by these ocean observing platforms are allowing us to study ocean physics and ocean biology on a range of time and space scales in a new way, bridging the gap between disciplinary approaches to the study of the ocean and its ecosystems.
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