$20 million to expand seafloor observatory

Federal, provincial, private funding triples NEPTUNE's research capacity

The research capacity of the University of Victoria-led NEPTUNE Canada, the world's first regional cabled ocean observatory, received a significant boost Sept. 26 with the announcement of an additional $20 million in funding.

The $8 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), $8 million from the BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) and $4 million of in-kind support from private partners including Alcatel will allow scientists to significantly expand the scope and scientific impact of the NEPTUNE Canada observatory.

Beginning in fall 2007, Alcatel will lay an 800-km network of powered fibre optic cable across the seafloor in the deep ocean off the B.C. coast. A series of laboratories, or "nodes," along the cable will allow land-based scientists to remotely control and monitor instruments, video cameras and underwater vehicles as they collect data from the ocean surface to beneath the seafloor.

The observatory will revolutionize ocean research by transmitting images and data instantly to shore where they will be relayed to researchers, educational institutions, science centres and the public via the Internet.

The additional funding will be used to increase the number of nodes from two to as many as six and the number of scientific instruments from 70 to more than 200. This will allow more coverage of the northern Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, permitting broader studies on such key topics as seismic and tsunami activity, ocean-climate interactions and influence on fisheries, gas hydrate deposits, and seafloor ecology.

"I want to express my appreciation to CFI, BCKDF and Alcatel for recognizing the importance and significance of NEPTUNE Canada's potential through this support," says UVic President David Turpin. "Thanks to the combined efforts of the partners in this initiative, Canada and UVic will be at the forefront of undersea research, leading the world in the use of regional cabled ocean observatories and driving the industrial discovery and advancements that will accompany it."

"In addition to securing Canada's reputation as a world leader in the field of ocean research, the potential benefits of the NEPTUNE project to Canada are numerous," says Eliot Phillipson, president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation. "From a wealth of new knowledge about our oceans to the development of new technologies, this world-class initiative is sure to have a real and positive impact on the lives of Canadians."

"NEPTUNE will position B.C. as a world leader in the multidisciplinary study of the ocean and its processes," says Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell. "High-tech will continue to be a critical part of B.C.'s economic future, and that's why we need to invest in the people and the projects that will help ensure the best opportunities for British Columbia. I fully expect to see B.C. produce more world-class researchers as a result of their involvement with NEPTUNE."

Alcatel, which operates in more than 130 countries, has played a key role in the development and implementation of the most important submarine cable networks in operation today.

"We're pleased to continue our cooperation with UVic in this exciting technological adventure that is NEPTUNE Canada," states Jean Godeluck, President of Alcatel's submarine network activity. "This new project confirms the momentum of submarine network deployments for scientific applications enabling investigations into a wide range of phenomena, from astrophysical to oceanographic subjects."

"With this funding, NEPTUNE Canada will move ahead with a much expanded scope, on schedule, and realize significant cost savings by installing additional instrumented nodes in 2007 and 2008," says Dr. Chris Barnes, NEPTUNE Canada's project director. "With these additional nodes, we'll more than triple our scientific data collection and achieve a profoundly better overview of earth and ocean processes."

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Initial funding for NEPTUNE Canada was announced in October 2003 and totalled $62.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF). Contributions from the U.S. and UVic bring total funding for the NEPTUNE project to CDN $112 million. Another USD $120 million is expected from the U.S. as its main contribution to this bi-national project.


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