The Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) is a national Network of Centres of Excellence, connecting top marine researchers across the country with highly-qualified personnel, partners and communities. MEOPAR aims to fund leading-edge research, train the next generation of marine research professionals, and connect research results to real-world solutions.
BC researchers receive grants to study local marine environments
Vancouver & Victoria—Along Canada’s west coast, there is a delicate balance to preserve between human use of the environment, such as shipping and fishing, and the resilience of the local ecosystems. Research into sustainable practices is increasingly vital to communities, organizations and governments as they seek the best management paths forward.
The Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) and the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) have announced the successful recipients of research grants supported jointly by the two organizations.
Dr. Susan Allen (University of British Columbia), Dr. Maycira Costa (University of Victoria) and Dr. Philippe Tortell (University of British Columbia) received funding through a competitive submission process held in partnership between MEOPAR and ONC in the fall of 2017.
The projects span a variety of marine research topic areas, including modelling the fate of oil spills in the Salish Sea, using Indigenous knowledge to improve ecological monitoring, classifying ecosystems along the migration route of juvenile salmon, and improving underwater oxygen monitoring to better understand ocean deoxygenation and its effects on British Columbian salmon aquaculture.
The partnership between MEOPAR and ONC grew out of a mutual interest in using ocean observation to advance marine science for the benefit of Canada. This is not the first collaboration between the two organizations; they frequently work together on marine research initiatives and hosting regional science-focused workshops.
Planning Ahead: Understanding and preparing for flood risks in Canadian communities
For Ryerson University’s Dr. Greg Oulahen, preparing for future flood risk cannot wait until the waters start rising. Oulahen is an assistant professor in Ryerson’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, where he looks at interactions between people and their environments, especially the factors that influence vulnerability to flood hazards.
Oulahen is part of MEOPAR’s Network, which he joined in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Stephanie Chang at the University of British Columbia. He is also leading the Response Core’s Prompt Data Collection community of practice, which is working to build capacity for researchers to collect data shortly after a disaster event occurs.
When communities plan for future emergencies, it can be challenging to decide how best to prepare. Many municipalities borrow good ideas from other cities or regions; it’s often smart to look at what works elsewhere, but each community has different characteristics that affect how floods and other hazards would impact the population and their environment. Physical features of the landscape, development patterns, and social and economic factors, for example, all play a role in how vulnerable a community may be to a future crisis.
Oulahen’s postdoctoral work, as part of Dr. Chang’s research group, supported the development of a platform that helps municipal planners compare their own communities to others with similar characteristics, allowing comparisons between communities on the west coast and, eventually, east coast. The tool can improve decision-making by identifying similar communities from which a planner could learn best practices and new ideas, using the Hazard Vulnerability Similarity Index (HVSI). The postdoctoral fellowship wrapped up in December of 2016, but Oulahen remains connected to Dr. Chang’s group, and speaks highly of the ongoing work taking place on the Resilient-C platform.
Working on a MEOPAR postdoctoral fellowship brought Oulahen into close contact with MEOPAR, which he had previously heard of through his PhD supervisor, Dr. Gordon McBean, a MEOPAR principal investigator. As part of the Network, he has taken on the principal investigator role for a new community of practice focusing on prompt data collection. Still in early stages, the community of practice is working to build Canadian capacity for “rapid response” social science research, helping researchers get to an affected community to gather important information immediately following hazard events. It’s a growing area of interest in Canada, and follows on Oulahen’s work with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), a long-time leader in Canadian hazards research.
Oulahen has transitioned into building his own team now that he is an assistant professor at Ryerson University. His group is currently examining flood risks on Toronto Islands as part of a Great Lakes study, improving understanding of vulnerabilities in urban municipalities and communities next to lakes and river systems. While this study is on freshwater rather than coastal communities, the risks have many similarities: “Whether people live near a body of water for its economic resources or environmental benefits, you have to understand the risks as well as the opportunities the location provides,” Oulahen said.
Being involved with MEOPAR has brought Oulahen into contact with a wide variety of disciplines related to coastal and marine research, enabling him to experience and hear about different training, research and partnership approaches.
“One benefit of being involved with a Network such as MEOPAR is to have a supportive staff at the Administrative Centre who know what they’re doing and can help facilitate good research,” Oulahen said.
He continued, “The idea of carrying out research that’s not only important academically, but also important practically with relevance to public policy and the Canadian public—that’s a real strength of an NCE.”
GET TO KNOW THE BOARD
Changing Leadership: Goodbye and Hello to Our Board Chairs
When MEOPAR first began more than six years ago as little more than an idea, Dr. Robert Walker played a crucial role as the organization’s Board Chair. Since those early stages, we have grown into a broad Network stretching across the country, including funding 64 research projects with 123 researchers and 475 highly-qualified personnel at 27 universities Canada-wide.
Throughout the foundational years building and shaping MEOPAR’s identity, through to our successful renewal for Cycle II, the tireless efforts of our Board Chair have kept us on track. Now as he steps down from the Board after more than six years of service, MEOPAR is pleased to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Walker for all his hard work on our behalf.
MEOPAR is also pleased to welcome our new Board Chair, Dr. Karen Dodds. Dr. Dodds retired in 2016 after 32 years in public service, where she most recently served as the Assistant Deputy Minister, Science & Technology Branch at Environment and Climate Change Canada. Over her illustrious career, she has developed expertise in many areas and engaged multiple sectors, bringing together stakeholders at the provincial, national and international levels to tackle key issues such as environmental monitoring of oil sands development, international coordination during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, and comprehensive regulations for nutrition labelling on foods.
With her extensive scientific and public service background, we are honoured to have Dr. Dodds take on the role of Board Chair as we move forward through our second Cycle.
Rui Zhang: From HQP to Industry
When Rui Zhang began his oceanography graduate study at Dalhousie University in 2014, he anticipated the traditional academic career path unfolding before him. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ocean University of China in Qingdao, the natural next steps of a PhD, postdocs and eventual academic appointment seemed clear.
Four years later, Zhang is working full-time in industry and loving the new challenge.
Zhang is a physical oceanographer working for RBR in Ottawa, Ontario. The company specializes in designing and manufacturing oceanographic instruments that track water parameters such as temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved gases, pH and many others.
Zhang joined the team in September 2017, where he works as the primary developer and maintainer of RSKtools, a tool box for visualizing and post-processing RBR logger data which he describes as helping to “cook” the raw data into a meal. The role, which also incorporates research and customer service, enables Zhang to keep a close connection with the academic side of oceanography.
Working in industry may be a departure from university life, but it’s a challenge Zhang relishes.
“I enjoy the feeling of solving a problem for a customer, and getting something tangible done. When I was in graduate school, I felt excited about exploring the unknown, but I was not always exactly sure what I was accomplishing. By contrast, Industry has a fast pace, with measurable goals and processes very well tracked by management.”
During his graduate work at Dalhousie, Zhang was part of MEOPAR’s Biogeochemical Projections under a Changing Climate project led by Dr. Katja Fennel; as highly-qualified personnel (HQP), he was eligible to participate in MEOPAR’s value-added training program and attend two Annual Training Meetings in 2014 and 2017. It was at the second of these meetings in Montreal where he reconnected with employees from RBR, where, coincidentally, he had an interview lined up for the following week. Networking with representatives from his future employer gave Zhang more confidence as he headed into the interview process, and helped him build connections in advance of starting the job in Ottawa.
Zhang also spoke highly of the “soft skills” workshops and employer tours that are key elements of the training program. “The workshops provide an opportunity for discussions that inspire you to think of alternatives, and to know that there are more options open to you than academia,” Zhang said, citing Jennifer Polk’s 2017 workshop on “PhD to Life” as one that stood out from the 2017 ATM. The employer tours, he said, can help to build professional network and understand better what skills and values the employers are looking for.
Zhang’s wife Qi Wang is a fellow MEOPAR HQP, who successfully defended her master’s thesis earlier this month. She will be joining Zhang in Ottawa soon, and looking for work herself. Wang recently was a finalist in Dalhousie’s Three Minute Thesis competition for her thesis entitled “Calm Down the Ocean Engine: Surface Wave Effects on the Upper Ocean Response to Storms.”
As Zhang settles into his role, he plans to make the most of the opportunity: “My plan right now is to keep growing and learning—not to focus only on oceanography, but to also learn about engineering and technical sales related skills, so I can gain a higher-level view of the organization’s work. I appreciate that RBR provides such a fantastic opportunity at the early stage of my career.” His background in China and academic work gives him a solid footing to assist with RBR’s customer base, which includes academics and customers all over the globe.
His advice to HQP looking at where their careers can go was simple: “Don’t be afraid of change. Life can be very different as long as you reach out and take advantage of opportunities.”
Communities of Practice
MEOPAR supports the development of Communities of Practice (CoPs) that bring together researchers, partners, policy-makers and end-users interested in furthering marine and coastal hazards research. CoPs can improve the exchange of ideas and mobilization of knowledge, providing an opportunity to advance research topics through broad collaboration and shared best practices.
By supporting Communities of Practice connected to MEOPAR’s three Cores of Observation, Prediction and Response, we are working to promote collaboration and improve connections throughout our Network and beyond.
Learn more about two of our growing Communities of Practice, and find out how you can get involved:
Canadian Coastal Resilience Forum
Storm surges, eroding coastlines and sea level rise pose threats to economic and social well-being in Canada’s coastal communities. Despite government efforts to adapt to a changing climate, there are currently issues that coastal communities are facing when reducing existing risks (e.g., residential property buy-outs in flood-prone; property risk disclosure).
The Canadian Coastal Resilience Forum (CCRF)—a MEOPAR community of practice—was established to identify opportunities for policy change and cross-sector collaboration that facilitate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
The CCRF is a growing community and we’re looking to engage the broader MEOPAR network. We’ll be hosting webinars and events throughout the year. To be involved, you can access the CCRF website: https://uwaterloo.ca/ccrf
Coast and Ocean Risk Communication Community of Practice
The Coast and Ocean Risk Communication Community of Practice (CORC CoP) is sponsored by MEOPAR and hosted online at Future Earth Open Network (FEON). The purpose of our community is to create and share knowledge and best-practices for communicating about risks and hazards relating to coastal and ocean environments.
Joining CORC CoP gives you an opportunity to connect, learn, and engage with others interested in developing knowledge and best practices around communicating risks in coastal and marine settings.
To join, visit CORC CoP Online and create an account. Once your account is confirmed via email, sign into FEON, visit CORC CoP Online, and click ‘Join Community’. You can also find us on FEON listed under Communities>Communities Overview>Guided Search.
Check out the library resources, the discussion forum, and explore the members’ directory. Introduce yourself in the discussion forum - try the 15-word intro challenge!
For more information, on, or have suggestions, please give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Improving Postdoctoral Compensation
MEOPAR ANNOUNCES a new postdoctoral top-up award
We know that many postdoctoral fellows in Canada face challenges relating to compensation, benefits, and work-life balance. The 2016 Canadian National Postdoctoral Survey recommended improvements to postdocs’ compensation, benefits, and employment status, along with new strategies to address satisfaction with postdoctoral training.
In 2018-19, MEOPAR will fund up to three Postdoctoral Awards that provide top-up funding ($20,000/year) to highly-qualified postdoctoral candidates who have secured a base level of funding from other sources. The purpose of these awards is to bring new postdoctoral fellows into the network to connect them with MEOPAR-funded researchers and HQP. Furthermore, MEOPAR’s top-up funding will empower postdoctoral candidates to take full advantage of professional development and career-building opportunities, providing them with the ability to:
- Increase their stipend for financial flexibility;
- Participate in training and networking opportunities through MEOPAR;
- Present and discuss results at national and international conferences and other fora;
- Purchase or fund specialized equipment, travel, or supplies for their research; or
- Offset costs associated with publication.
Please share the news about these awards with your colleagues, postdocs, and students who may be interested. Application instructions are available here, and the deadline to apply is July 3, 2018.
Congratulations to the latest winners of the Training Awards!
Patrick Duke, an MSc candidate at University of Calgary, will receive funding to attend the International SOLAS Summer School in Corsica. This experience will help Patrick build knowledge in the field of air-ice-ocean system science and allow him to network with other early-career scientists. Patrick is an HQP on the MEOPAR project, “Canadian Ocean Acidification Research Partnership (COARP).”
Hansen Johnson, a PhD candidate at Dalhousie University, will receive funding to attend the 8th International Workshop on Detection, Classification, Localization and Density Estimation of Marine Mammals using Passive Acoustics in Paris. The DCLDE workshop brings together experts from around the world to assess, teach, and advance the state of marine mammal bioacoustics. Hansen is an HQP on the MEOPAR project, “WHaLE: Whales, Habitat and Listening Environment.”
The next call deadline for the Training Awards is coming up, and all HQP are encouraged to apply. The application form is available on MEOPAR’s website.