Press Releases

Ecosystem Research the focus for Bras dOr Institute Team

Humans now have the power to destroy many ocean ecosystems. If we do not change our behaviour that will inevitably happen. But we also have the power to avoid those outcomes, so let us exercise that power both individually and collectively…

For Bruce Hatcher, University Chair in Marine Ecosystem Research, Director of the Bras d'Or Institute and Associate Professor of Biology at Cape Breton University, exercising an individual and collective power to preserve important marine ecosystems is something that he and his team live by.

The team of eight at the Bras d’Or Institute includes undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Research Associates and together they work collaboratively with research and community partners to further understand these amazing and dynamic ecosystems and manage behaviours that affect them.

Hatcher says, “My team and I spend a great deal of time on, and under, the water observing the health of the ocean. We’re asking answerable questions about the structure and function of marine ecosystems, designing experiments and monitoring programs to answer those questions. We’re then using the answers to inform public opinion and government policy, and to support good decision-making about our waters.”

Currently the team has multiple grants and projects underway including researching tough questions like:

• How is the Sydney Harbour ecosystem recovering from the 2011-2012 dredging?
• What is the fate of Atlantic Salmon smolts leaving the rivers of Cape Breton?
• Now that the Atlantic groundfishery is essentially gone, are there fisheries for other species (such as Hagfish, Sea Cucumber and Whelk) that can be both ecologically and economically sustained?
• Is the biodiversity and productivity of the Bras d’Or estuary primarily dependent on inputs from its watershed, or from the adjacent ocean?
• How much energy can be practically harvested from the movement of water in and around Cape Breton?
• Does the Bras d’Or Biosphere provide a good example of ecosystem-based management of human behaviour for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development?

“The interactions between life forms on the land, the atmosphere and in the ocean are the vital expression of adaptation to climate change. Marine Ecology is the science of the interaction between organisms (including humans) and the ocean environment,” says Hatcher. “If we are ignorant of the causes and effects of those interactions, then it will be harder to adapt effectively and equitably to the massive changes we face as oceans warm and rise, glaciers melt, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather increases, and the distributions of ocean resources change faster and more extensively than ever before in recorded history.”

So until the world’s waters are clean, protected and comprehensively understood, Bruce and his team will continue their very important work. To learn more about how you can help individually and collectively visit Bruce, his team and members of the Verschuren Centre as they celebrate World Ocean Day in Iona on June 6 -7, 2015.