Training Multidisciplinary Hydrographers at the Canadian Hydrographic Service

Hydrography — the science of surveying, analyzing and charting of oceans, lakes, and rivers — is a varied and complex field. At the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS) of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the structured national career plan for Multidisciplinary Hydrography prepares its survey and production team for specialized aspects of the job. These specialized aspects include data collection field work the processing of hydrographic data into nautical charts and other navigational products, and knowledge of international standards.

Multidisciplinary Hydrographers for the Canadian Hydrographic Service survey the wharves, and the approaches to the wharves, at Kégashka, Quebec.

Photo: Canadian Hydrographic Service, Fisheries and Oceans Canada

This multi-faceted work leads to the production of nautical charts, Sailing Directions, Notices to Mariners and other products and services that aid in the safe navigation of Canada’s waterways. In addition, the data that multidisciplinary hydrographers gather helps determine Canada’s maritime boundaries and sovereignty and is used by scientists, engineers, offshore developers and coastal planners, among others.

In the early 1990s, in order to benefit from a multidisciplinary workforce, the Canadian Hydrographic Service began in-house training to share expertise. The focus is on how to gather and interpret hydrographic data and turn it into nautical charts, as well as how to gain essential skills for working at sea including radio-operation, navigation and seamanship, marine emergency duties, plus the use of geographic positioning systems.

Multidisciplinary Hydrographers are hired with university credentials in related fields of science, and this career progression program helps to develop their specialization in hydrography.

Data Acquisition

In a six week course on data acquisition, Multidisciplinary Hydrography students learn what's involved in collecting hydrographic data in the field using surveying launches, tide measurement gauges, global navigation satellite systems and a broad range of hydrographic instruments. They also learn about the principle of underwater acoustics.

This training provides Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrographers with a foundation to understand various issues related to data acquisition, survey techniques and operations as well as the equipment, so that they can read the information that is being gathered and verify its quality. It is important that the high quality data and products of the Canadian Hydrographic Service comply with international standards. Standards constitute one of the modules in this course.

Data Transformation

The process of turning data into nautical charts, tables and other products is called 'data transformation', which is covered in another six-week course encompassing subjects such as chart production planning, legal aspects of the Canadian Hydrographic Service, the principles of cartography, and geodesy (the science that deals with the measurement and representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in four dimensions).

During the course Canadian Hydrographic Service hydrographers learn about integrating their data with information from the Canadian Coast Guard, and other government and private sources, into one nautical chart showing a specific level of detail.

The image above is a screen capture showing multibeam bathymetric data gathered near Burgeo, Newfoundland, being processed. The software permits Multidisciplinary Hydrographers to view, interpret and edit the data collected. From this data, the depth of Canadian waters and the location of obstructions can be charted. The left side of the image shows three wrecks on a composite of processed survey data overlaid on a copy of Chart 4825. The right side of the image shows a 3D visualization of two of those wrecks.

Image: Fisheries and Oceans Canada


The Canadian Hydrographic Service multidisciplinary team is trained to pick the most important features from the data collected. This is a challenge because of the great volume of information gathered by modern multibeam bathymetric data acquisition equipment. Other challenges include weather conditions in the field, working around ice in the Arctic, and surveying in remote areas.

"In spite of, and/or because of, the challenges of the work, Canadian Hydrographic Service Multidisciplinary Hydrography trained professionals find this profession rewarding. The technologies are constantly progressing and the diversity of tasks requires that our professionals maintain a cutting edge multidisciplinary knowledge in combined fields of expertise including hydrographic surveying and cartography", says Dr. Kian Fadaie, National Director of Hydrography responsible for delivering the Multidisciplinary Hydrography Program.

For more information about the Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS), please visit:

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