App observes marine life

Funding awarded for collaborative marine life observation program including Grand Passage, Petit Passage, Digby Gut and adjacent waters.

By K.Steiner-Dicks on Jun 4, 2014

The Nova Scotia Offshore Energy Research Association(OERA) awarded funding to Fundy Tidal Inc. (Fundy Tidal), the Canadian Whale Institute(CWI), and Conserve.iOfor a marine life observation programme including public participation. Free smart phone applications will be available to public ("citizen scientists"), whale tour operators, and other users (including trained dedicated observers) to participate in recording marine life observations for tidal energy and other scientific purposes.

Observations will be uploaded to a common online database, and users will be able to assess species composition, distribution, abundance and seasonality. The programme will enhance efforts currently underway by local whale and seabird tour operators.

Two smart phone applications will be used to collect marine life observation data. One is designed for effort based surveys (Spotter Pro), and the other for opportunistic sightings (Whale Alert). Conserve.iO will customize both applications for use in the Bay of Fundy, and host the project including database servers, software, and on-line mapping.

“Fundy Tidal is excited about this step forward in environmental monitoring and community engagement," says Fundy Tidal CTO Greg Trowse. "In marine energy development it’s important to remember that the site, the sea, and the community are inseparable. This advancement utilises the connection between the community and the sea to assist in marine life monitoring, will help reduce uncertainty in marine life interactions with tidal energy developments, and creates local employment. It’s a win, win, win advancement, and Fundy Tidal appreciates the continued support provided by our provincial government through OERA.”

Dr. Moira Brown will assist with marine life monitoring program development and oversight, including marine observer training. Dr. Brown is a Senior Scientist at the CWI (Wilson’s Beach, NB) and the New England Aquarium(Boston, MA). She is considered Canada’s leading North Atlantic Right whale research scientist. Chloe Malinka will provide data review, interpretation, and database management.

Dr. Brown and Greg Trowse will host a free marine observer training session in Freeport, NS on June 16th and 17th. The training isn't mandatory to participate in the programme, but data from those who attend or have a professional background in marine life observation will be most valued in the database.

Fundy Tidal will also be hiring part-time marine observers for this summer.