KATLEEN ROBERT

PhD Seafloor and Habitat Mapping

Assistant Professor, Marine Institute

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​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.

CURRENT STUDENTS

Shreya Nemani 

MSc. Student

 

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)

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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.  

Aaron Sneep

MSc. Student

 

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

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of Canada’s Coastal Environmental Baseline Program, which seeks to collect data to establish an environmental baseline for future assessments of environmental change. 

Kaitlyn Charmley 

MSc. Student

 

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

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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. 

Poppy Keogh 

MSc. Student

 

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

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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.  

Rylan Command 

MSc. Student

 

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

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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.

Ana Belén Yánez Suárez

Ph.D. Student
 

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

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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.

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Emmeline Broad

Ph.D. Student
 

I am an early career benthic ecologist with a particular interest in the conservation of deep-sea vulnerable habitats.I graduated in 2020 with an MSci in Marine Biology from the University of Southampton (UK). My dissertation focused on using fine scale multibeam bathymetry and imagery obtained from an ROV, to map deep sea vulnerable marine ecosystems off Southwest Greenland.After graduating, I held a position in the benthic ecology team in the Institute of

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Zoology, Zoological Society of London. My research focused on evaluating several years of drop video imagery and multibeam bathymetry to map polar seabed habitats on the Western Greenland shelf. This work provided baseline information on the distribution, structure and abundance of habitat forming organisms in the region, which will help support the sustainable management of Greenland’s cold water prawn fishery.

 

My PhD project sits in the wider BEcoME project (WP2) which aims to evaluate the role that geomorphology plays in predicting shifting species patterns in the NW Atlantic in response to the effects of climate change. Using recently obtained high resolution multibeam bathymetry, I will focus on building a number of habitat suitability models under present and future climate change conditions. These predictions may help us understand if there is suitable habitat available which could support vulnerable taxa that are predicted to migrate poleward in response to climate change.

Zachary MacMillan-Kenny 

MSc. Student

 

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from Dalhousie University in 2021. My research interests are centered around the ecology and distribution of organisms and habitats in benthic and deep-sea environments. I am now enrolled in the department of Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland as a MSc student with the 4D Oceans Lab. Working alongside the government of Nunatsiavut and Fisheries & Oceans Canada, my research project focuses

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on seafloor habitat mapping of coastal sites around Nain, Labrador. Specifically, I am investigating which benthic habitats are occupied by two fish species (i.e., Arctic charr, rock cod) that have traditionally been a large part of Inuit subsistence in the Nain region. Additionally, I will evaluate if the region contains habitats with high biodiversity and/or contains habitats sensitive to anthropogenic stressors, while also assessing the similarity of these habitats (e.g., species, structure) compared to those in adjacent biogeographic regions. To conduct this study, I will be gathering data from a variety of ocean technologies (e.g., multibeam echosounder, CTD, drop camera system) to create benthic habitat maps of northern Labrador.

Julia Mackin-McLaughlin 

MSc. Student

 

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

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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.