UVic Torch -- Spring 2003
Spring 2003,
Volume 24, Number 1

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Live from the ocean floor, it’s the VENUS project.
active Sea - System Problems - Page 3
Image Courtesy of
NEPTUNE Project/CEV (larger version)

Live from the ocean floor, it’s the VENUS project.

to the computer desktops of scientists and anyone with an interest in understanding the ocean. VENUS—the UVic-led Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea—offers new ways of doing science that will augment the research voyages, remote instruments, and satellite observations that scientists rely upon now. VENUS will let us see, hear, and analyze what’s happening, as it’s happening, under the sea.

“For the first time anywhere, researchers will be able to ask the ocean questions and immediately respond to the answers,” says Verena Tunnicliffe, the university’s project director. “It’s a revolutionary way of doing ocean science.”

VENUS extends Web communications to the ocean floor. High-speed fibre optic cables will be placed in three locations beginning this year at the bottom of Saanich Inlet, Georgia Strait, and Juan de Fuca Strait. Those cables will carry data and supply power to an underwater array of instruments to monitor, as an example, currents and sediment movement. Video cameras will observe subsea life. Motion detectors will record seismic shifting. Vertical profilers will measure physical and biological characteristics of the water column. And acoustic devices will track fish migration and eavesdrop on whale calls. Detailed studies and experiments would be controlled from an investigator’s computer station—anywhere there’s a Web connection.

The $10-million project is funded equally by the federal and provincial governments (80 per cent) with the balance coming from private sources.

Tunnicliffe usually studies deep ocean ecosystems—including strange creatures like tube worms that thrive near hydrothermal vents. “We’ve learned so much offshore in terms of technology and techniques for observing, recording and interpreting data,” she says. “I know a ton about hot vents, but that particular knowledge is not so important. It’s how you look at them. Methods and insight are transferable to other systems.”

Tunnicliffe’s work with VENUS will focus on the ocean floor and how animal communities have adapted to diverse environments along the BC coast. She’ll also expand her research upward into the water column. “After all,” she says, “the ocean floor community is controlled by what’s happening above it. VENUS will help us make that connection.”

VENUS is the smaller cousin of NEPTUNE, which is being proposed jointly by Canada (led by UVic) and the US (led by the University of Washington). They envision a 3,000-km fibre-optic communications and power network of instruments under the Pacific from BC to Oregon. —WITH FILES FROM VAL SHORE

System Problems| Mix 'N' Math | Interactive Sea | Q & A with Carbon Buster

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