Diversity and ecology of the ocean floor

Diversity and ecology of the ocean floor

Map: Ecology of the Atlantic Ocean mission 2017. Source: Canadian Hydrography Service
About the mission

This history-making research expedition was divided into three legs, in collaboration with three separate research organizations: Oceana Canada, the Canadian Healthy Ocean Network (CHONe), and SponGES. The goal of the missions are to discover more about deep-sea ecosystems and ecology in the Atlantic Ocean, which will contribute to a greater understanding of these habitats and help to better protect unique marine environments that are essential to the health of our oceans.

Each leg of the mission will use ROPOS, a state-of-the-art underwater robot, to collect samples and scientific data while capturing high-definition footage of the seafloor.

Leg 1

Exploring the Gulf of St. Lawrence with Oceana Canada

From August 23 to 30, 2017, our scientists partnered with Oceana Canada – an international organization focused solely on ocean conservation – to explore never-before-seen areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The mission surveyed important coastal and deep-water habitats and species in four key areas in the Gulf, including the American Bank Area of Interest and the Cape Breton Trough.

Sailing from Quebec City on the CCGS Martha L. Black, the crew was joined by a second research vessel, the Leeway Marine Odyssey, which also took part in the mission collecting vital information on surface dwelling marine species, such as seabirds, turtles, and sharks.

Research team

Leg 1 research team. From left to right : Alexandra Cousteau, Virginie Roy, Marilyn Thorne, Mireille Chiasson, Geneviève Faille, Denise Méthé, Marie-Hélène Thériault, Robert Rangeley
Leg 1 research team

From left to right : Alexandra Cousteau, Virginie Roy, Marilyn Thorne, Mireille Chiasson, Geneviève Faille, Denise Méthé, Marie-Hélène Thériault, Robert Rangeley

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Maurice Lamontagne Institute, Mont Joli, QC

  • Geneviève Faille, Chief Scientist, Aquatic Science Biologist, Marine Protected Areas
  • Virginie Roy, PhD. Scientific Researcher, Coastal Ecology
  • Josiane Mélançon, PhD, Ocean Management Biologist
  • Marilyn Thorne, Aquatic Science Technician

Gulf Fisheries Centre, Moncton, NB

Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, NS

  • Robert Benjamin, Aquatic Science Technician
Oceana Canada
  • Robert Rangeley, Mission Lead, Director of Science
  • Alexandra Cousteau, Senior Advisor
  • Luke Girard, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Michael Hannaford, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Peter Lockhart, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Barry Brake, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Peter Milne, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Jonathan Lee, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Keith Tamburri, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Ray Morgan, ROPOS Operations, ROPOS-CSSF
Leg 2

Vazella Sponges in the Scotian Shelf with SponGES

In partnership with researchers from the United States, Spain, the Netherlands, and Norway, our scientists examined cold-water sponges in the Scotian Shelf from August 30 to September 7, 2017 on the CCGS Martha L. Black. They collected data on the basic biology of the glass Vazella sponge – including its reproduction and growth processes – reef recovery, and the impact human activities have on these unique sponge grounds. This information will be used to develop an integrated approach to help preserve vulnerable deep-sea sponge ecosystems in the North Atlantic.

SponGES is an international research and innovation project aimed at improving the preservation and sustainable use of Atlantic marine ecosystems through trans-Atlantic collaboration.

Research team

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

  • Lindsay Beazley, Chief Scientist, Aquatic Science Biologist
  • Robert Benjamin, Oceanographic Data Technician
  • Barry MacDonald, Aquatic Science Technician
  • Chris Pham, Benthic specialist, Institute of Marine Research (IMAR), Azores
  • Martijn Bart, UVA Benthic chambers, University of Amsterdam (UVA)
  • Clea Van de Ven, UVA Benthic chambers, University of Amsterdam (UVA)
  • Manuel Maldonado, CSIC Benthic chambers, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
  • Maria Lopez-Acosta, CSIC Benthic chambers, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
  • Joana Xavier, SponGES scientific manager - Lab lead, University of Bergen/SponGES
  • Joseph Pratt, OTN Mooring Technician, Ocean Tracking Network
  • Furu Mienis, Benthic Lander Lead/UVA Chambers, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)
  • Ulrike Hanz, Benthic Lander/UVA Chambers, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ)
Leg 3

Examining the Laurentian Channel with CHONe

Together with the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe), our scientists researched benthic habitats and ecology in the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest from September 7-21, 2017 on the CCGS Martha L. Black. Through collecting samples, sea-floor imagery, and physical and chemical environmental data, the mission answered basic benthic research questions and helped develop effective monitoring and management approaches for deep-sea conservation areas.

CHONe is a Strategic Research Program that strives to develop new conservation strategies for Canada’s changing oceans by partnering Canadian university researchers and government scientists.

About the Gulf of St. Lawrence

The Gulf of St. Lawrence is a semi-enclosed, highly productive marine area on Canada’s east coast. It is where the nutrient-rich currents from the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans mix with freshwater from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system. The region contains several ecologically significant marine areas, including the Cape Breton Trough and the Laurentian Channel. It is an important home to diverse marine life, including cold-water corals and sponges, sea pens, sea turtles and basking sharks, and also supports many thriving commercial and recreational fisheries.

About the Scotian Shelf

The Scotian Shelf is long section of Continental Shelf off the coast of Nova Scotia that is situated between the Laurentian Channel and the Northeast Channel. The area is characterized by shallow banks along the outer part of the shelf, with basins in the middle and inner areas, including a deep canyon known as The Gully, which is over 1000 meters deep. The region is home to a rich ecosystem with diverse marine life and habitats, and acts as spawning and nursery ground to an abundance of species.

The research team

Leg 3

Fisheries and Oceans Canada
  • Peter Lawton, Chief Scientist
  • Vonda Wareham Hayes, Research Scientist
  • Nadine Templeman, Biologist
  • Erin Herder, Technician
  • Paula Hawkins, Technician
  • Barbara de Moura Neves, Post Doc
  • Callum Mireault, Masters Student, Memorial University
  • Marion Boulard, PhD Student, Memorial University
  • Marta Miatta, PhD Student, Memorial University
  • Vanessa Reid, Research Technician, Memorial University
  • Sarah de Mendonca, PhD Student, Dalhousie University
ROPOS team
  • Keith Tamburri, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Peter Milne, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Jonathan Lee, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Barry Brake, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Peter Lockhart, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Luke Girard, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Raymond Morgan, ROPOS-CSSF
  • Michael Hannaford, ROPOS-CSSF
About the tools ROPOS


The Remotely Operated Platform for Ocean Science (ROPOS) is an unmanned, underwater vehicle used to collect footage and samples from the seafloor, down to 5,000 meters below-sea-level. It is a device owned and operated by the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility (CSSF) of British Columbia, and is equipped with high definition cameras and lights, as well as additional mechanics and features, including motorized arms that can grab live samples.

The visual data ROPOS gathers can provide important information on biodiversity abundance, species interaction, and behaviour of aquatic species; however, these observations can be misleading because fish may avoid approaching the vehicle.

Mission livestream



Photo gallery

Related information

Date modified: