Photo by Dariia Atamanchuk
HALIFAX, NS: Canadian scientists have a vast amount of ocean real estate to explore and limited access to the vessels that can get them there. MEOPAR’s possible solution to this challenge is Modular Ocean Research Infrastructure (MORI)—an alternative pathway to sophisticated vessel-based research and an opportunity for scientists and the private sector to work together to advance our understanding of the ocean.
The MORI concept imagines a modular system of transportable, interoperable laboratories and research infrastructure that can be used in various combinations on a range of non-specialized vessels. This portable equipment can temporarily transform industry workhorse vessels, like the Atlantic Condor, into complex research vessels, combining custom scientific infrastructure with the extensive offshore expertise of industry crews. MORI’s creative approach also has the potential to be more flexible, economical and scalable than purchasing or building a new fleet of specialized research vessels.
Irving Shipbuilding is supporting the construction of the portable MORI marine labs with $2 million in funding as part of the company’s Industrial and Technical Benefits commitment under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. To date, Irving Shipbuilding has committed more than $20 million in Value Proposition investments toward creating a sustainable marine industry across Canada. In addition to this funding, MEOPAR has committed a $1 million contribution to research cruise support.
Amongst the technology and equipment mobilized onboard the Atlantic Condor is a custom A-frame assembly designed and manufactured by a team of 75 at Hawboldt Industries in Chester, Nova Scotia. Typically used for launching and recovering remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in the deep ocean, this unit was modified by Hawboldt to specifically accommodate the unique scientific requirements of the research mission. During the voyage, the A-frame was used extensively for deploying several highly sophisticated oceanographic instrumentation packages that will help scientists better understand our dynamic ocean environment.
A shining example of collaboration in action, MORI’s demonstration and development phase is bringing together partners from industry, academia and government—and supporting scientific research from across Canada. It’s a glimpse of how the national coordination of access to sea-going research infrastructure could benefit people spanning sectors, disciplines and regions.
MORI completes its first cruise season
Dalhousie University’s Dr. Dariia Atamanchuk relies heavily on access to research vessels to answer the questions that drive her work. Since 2016, she and the CERC Ocean group at Dalhousie have been studying interactions between atmosphere, sea surface, and deep ocean in the North Atlantic, using an underwater profiling platform called the SeaCycler to measure the chemical, physical, and biological properties of seawater.
Motivated by the need to better understand what is responsible for massive carbon dioxide uptakes in the region—a process that regulates the Earth’s climate— the group recently added new sensors to the SeaCycler and designed a new carbon-focused mooring, which will allow it to exchange information acoustically and send data to shore via satellite. And they needed to test them.
As part of MORI’s inaugural season, Atamanchuk was able to lead a 10-day cruise on the Atlantic Condor, where the team collected water samples and deployed moorings on the Scotian Shelf as part of the Ocean Frontier Institute’s Northwest Atlantic Biological Carbon Pump project. Their ability to test the SeaCycler’s capabilities in these conditions was crucial to its future success, and the data collected will help prepare them for an upcoming deployment in the Labrador Sea.
“MORI is already showing the value of a coordinated approach to understanding what’s going on out there in the ocean. It combines custom scientific technology, highly experienced Canadian crews used to work in the demanding offshore environment, and researchers from diverse institutions. It’s by bringing these people and their respective expertise together that we can most efficiently advance world-class scientific research in Canada. The key is cooperative thinking and a new technological approach to ocean research that allows government agencies, university researchers and the private sector to combine their skills and tools. The support of Irving Shipbuilding has been vital to making this happen.” Dr. Doug Wallace, Scientific Director of The Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network of Centres of Excellence (MEOPAR)
“The MORI initiative and vessels like the Atlantic Condor open a whole new range of possibilities to do multidisciplinary ocean research on Canada’s east coast. Finally, after years of relying on our international partners and their ships, we are granted an opportunity to lead our own research on a modern and capable Canadian vessel. To operate at the forefront of the ocean research and to lead in the field of oceanography—that’s what Dalhousie is famous for, and the MORI initiative is enabling us to do just that!”
Dr. Dariia Atamanchuk, Dalhousie University
“We are building more than just ships as we invest in numerous research projects with the talented scientists at MEOPAR and Dalhousie University. Today, we celebrate a new marine initiative that addresses the shortage of available research ships and enables vital scientific work on important issues like climate change. The Labrador Sea is a unique environment and it is important to understand how and why it is absorbing such significant amounts of carbon. Irving Shipbuilding is pleased to provide a $2 million contribution that enables marine researchers to get to sea with modular labs.” Kevin Mooney, President of Irving Shipbuilding
“This is another example of the success of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the commitment to keep innovating, ensuring Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canadians are leaders of the Blue Economy. Mobilized marine labs through MORI are enabling researchers to complete important ocean research that helps protect our oceans and environment.” Darren Fisher – Member of Parliament for Dartmouth – Cole Harbour
“MORI is an excellent example of industry and scientific researchers working together to advance innovation in the ocean technology ecosystem. I am excited to see the benefits expand across multiple sectors to grow our blue economy, from marine transportation to energy. As the project moves forward, we look forward to working with MEOPAR and Atlantic Towing on the MORI project.”
Melanie Nadeau, CEO of COVE
“MORI is a remarkable approach to a serious problem – the lack of vessel access for critical ocean scientists. MEOPAR has had the vision to bring together scientists, ship owners, and research equipment makers – a group that usually interfaces in series only – now working together side by side on the complete research mission. For Hawboldt, as North America’s leading marine crane and winch maker, this not only allows us to contribute valuable expertise to the success of the mission but also provides us with new insights that help us to make our equipment better. We are excited to help build the next evolution of MORI.” Dylan Wells, General Manager of Hawboldt Industries