PhD Seafloor and Habitat Mapping
Assistant Professor, Marine Institute
My research aims at developing quantitative and repeatable approaches to map seafloor habitats. My focus has been on examining fine-scale species-environment relationships using benthic imagery, sidescan and multibeam sonars to build full coverage predictive maps. I am also looking at mapping deep-sea habitats at even greater resolutions using 3D point clouds and photogrammetry reconstructions.
My project involves benthic habitat mapping of select coastal sites in Placentia bay, which has been recognized by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) as an “ecologically and biologically significant area – EBSA”. This will enable us to observe baseline characteristics prior to further development and increased traffic in the area. I am incorporating data from a variety of ocean technologies- Multibeam echosounder sonar, CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) instrument, and ground truth samples (videos and e-DNA) to create habitat maps and a species
catalogue. I am interested in incorporating automated classification methods of identification, and exploring the potential for eDNA metabarcoding to inform and improve upon our existing data. This project is in collaboration between the 4D Oceans lab at the Marine Institute and DFO.
My research focuses on the technical aspects and ecological applications of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and multispectral sensors for fine scale mapping of aquatic vegetation. In particular, I focus on fine scale mapping of eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds in Placentia Bay, NL. Eelgrass is an ecologically significant species and provides many ecosystems services; however, like many other seagrass species globally, eelgrass is in decline. This project is part of the government of Canada’s Coastal Environmental Baseline Program,
which seeks to collect data to establish an environmental baseline for future assessments of environmental change.
My scientific interests are marine megafauna ecology and the drivers of habitat selection in these species. I graduated from the University of Guelph in 2018, with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation. My MSc. research, at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, is in partnership with MEOPAR. I am focusing on characterizing the environmental drivers of both spatial and temporal variation in megabenthic habitat use in Conception Bay, Newfoundland. I will be creating seasonal habitat classification maps and species distribution maps, with an emphasis on
snow crab populations. To do this, I will be using acoustic data, a drop camera system, and a CTD. Understanding the spatio-temporal variation in these species-environment relationships is important because it allows us to create a baseline that we can reference when assessing future environmental changes. It also allows us to predict how affected marine species may respond in the face of these changes.
I completed my Bachelor of Science in Zoology at the National University of Galway, Ireland in 2018. I am currently enrolled as a MSc student in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland and part of the 4D Oceans lab at the Marine Institute. My research project will include the mapping of deep-sea megafaunal habitats in the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone, which is on the Mid Atlantic Ridge in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. I will focus on the species distribution of coral and sponges and how this is affected by physical factors such as
temperature, depth and geological features. I will be annotating video footage collected by a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) from the TOSCA (Tectonic Ocean Spreading at the Charlie-Gibbs Facture Zone) survey in 2018, aboard the RV Celtic Explorer.
I am investigating how phytoplankton dynamics influence megabenthic behaviour patterns in Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Specifically, my research focuses on seasonal variability in behavioural rhythms associated with the timing and strength of the spring phytoplankton bloom in the Bay. I will utilize depth-stratified sediment traps to quantify sinking organic material before, during, and after the spring phytoplankton bloom. Additionally, I will collect time-series data from an underwater cabled observatory equipped with seafloor monitoring infrastructure, including a
UHD-Video camera, CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth), ADCP (acoustic doppler current profiler), and an in-situ fluorometer. Cabled seafloor observatories allow for continuous, high-resolution data to be collected about oceanographic processes and community characteristics. Long-term monitoring will allow us to understand how random and seasonal events influence organism and community-level response to environmental change. My research is a collaboration between the 4D Oceans lab (Marine Institute), MEOPAR, and Ocean Networks Canada.
Julia Mackin-McLaughlin graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of Maine in 2017. Since then, she has worked in the academic field as a research technician. Her primary interest has been benthic ecology, with most of her previous work looking at how marine benthic microbial communities influence nutrient flux in an estuarine environment.
Currently, she is studying for a Master of Science in Geography from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her project involves habitat mapping of Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, so that
a baseline understanding of the benthic ecology can be achieved and monitored for changes via anthropogenic influence. She is keen to familiarize and utilize the ever-changing technology used by oceanographers and marine biologists to further scientific research in the marine field.
Ana Belén Yánez Suárez
I graduated with an International Master of Marine Biological Recourses (IMBRSea), a joint Master program organized by ten leading European universities in the field of marine sciences. I worked in the coral reef restoration in the Caribbean and in deep-sea ecology and taxonomy in the Galapagos Islands, where I contributed to the first systematic characterization of deep-sea benthic invertebrate communities of the Galapagos. Through these experiences, I developed a strong interest in coral ecology. My doctoral research at 4D Oceans focuses on the dynamics of deep-water vertical habitats in
the Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone in the Mid Atlantic Ridge and the Galapagos Islands. This project aims to understand the links between environmental settings, cold-water coral habitat complexity, and the biodiversity of associated communities in vertical cliffs that are generally overlooked due to technological limitations.