Lab Canada

Study to use GIS technology to analyze changing marine ecosystems

St John’s, NL – Researchers at Memorial University are taking a leading role in new fishery study GeoCod. The project will use geographical information systems (GIS) technology to provide a comprehensive and accurate analysis of changing marine ecosystems.

The researchers will also try to figure out how climate change can affect future distributions and levels of fish stocks in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and look at the changes in the ocean ecosystems of Atlantic Canada. They will examine changes including the dramatic decline in groundfish such as cod; distribution shifts of pelagics, such as capelin; and increases in snow crab and shrimp.

The exhaustive project will be done due, in part, to a $250,000 two-year grant from the GEOIDE Network Centre of Excellence and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI), based at Memorial.

Dr Rodolphe Devillers, assistant professor, department of geography, is leading GeoCod, which stands for Geomatics for the Sustainable Management of Fish Stocks. His research team will include Dr George Rose, professor of biology and chair of Fisheries Conservation at the Marine Institute, Dr Mir-Abolfazl Mostafavi from Laval University and Dr Marie-Jose Fortin of the University of Toronto. They will collaborate with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Fisheries and Aquaculture Newfoundland and Labrador, the World Wildlife Fund, and several other partners in fisheries and geomatics.

The bulk of the work will involve integrating and analyzing all available fisheries and environmental data from the past 30 years in the Northwest Atlantic. The group is developing a GIS-based decision-support tool aimed at giving those involved in the fishery a clearer picture of what’s happening under the sea.

“The research will allow cutting-edge GIS display and analytical systems to be used to address questions on the changes in the ocean ecosystems of Atlantic Canada that have been evident in the past two decades, particularly as they relate to the fisheries,” says Dr Rose. “The relationships among species changes, fisheries changes and environmental and climate changes are basically spatial in context and this research will allow these to be explored using the latest visual and analytical technology and foster the development of new approaches.”