The Ocean Tracking Network: Integrated Approaches to Research, Data and Conservation

Friday, 14 February 2014
Acapulco (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Sara J. Iverson , Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, Canada
Oceans and aquatic ecosystems represent a huge resource that humans have depended on - and overexploited - for centuries. Thus, the ocean environment is not only under enormous and ever-increasing stress, it has changed. The Ocean Tracking Network's (OTN's) premise is that complete understanding of the oceans and their sustainable use can only be achieved through a globally-integrated understanding of ocean conditions and their effects on the animals that inhabit them. Thus the OTN is building an entirely new ocean observation system, one that is centered on measuring marine animal movements, habitat use and survival, in relation to changing ocean conditions, and to inform and advance an international social and legal framework for the oceans. Headquartered at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, OTN uses sonic and other telemetry technologies (satellite tags, archival data-storage tags) to document movements and survival of marine animals. OTN is creating a global network of acoustic receivers and oceanographic sensors (deployed in all the world's oceans and connecting waters, spanning seven continents), which record animal detections, movements, and interactions, in addition to oceanographic observations; is establishing a global network of users with a common database; and is demonstrating technologies that link animal locations and movements to oceanographic/environmental conditions. A key priority for OTN has been to integrate overarching framework questions, research strategies, cross-cutting activities, and student training across Canada and internationally. To accomplish this, coordinated measurements are being made of oceanographic characteristics and variability at various spatial and temporal scales, movements of key species at various trophic levels, and analysis of key acoustic "bioprobes" (animals that carry tags which record locations visited, ocean conditions and interactions with other tagged animals) and "roboprobes" (remotely controlled gliders that measure ocean conditions and tagged animals) to complement measurements from fixed OTN curtains. Other studies include accelerometers for studying animal growth and energetics; identification of the factors that influence mortality of diadromous and anadramous fish during migrations; development of novel analytical techniques for analysis of animal tracking data; characterizing predator-prey interactions to inform debates on roles of top predators in fish population dynamics; and identification of patterns of seasonal habitat use of marine animals relative to citing of protected areas.