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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 2: Big Problems, Big Networks, Big Data

Panel 2: Big Problems, Big Networks, Big Data


To provide the knowledge to address big problems or complex issues with no obvious solutions, nations are turning to large multi-disciplinary research networks. These networks draw on researchers from the social and natural sciences, and create large amounts of data. Government departments, coastal communities, and industrial users of the ocean are seeking closer interaction with such academic-led networks. A number of research networks in Canada are nationally-funded to provide information relevant to sustainable ocean developments. These networks address well-defined, relatively narrow research questions, and collect very different types of data. Yet they overlap in their geographic areas of operation, and network results could potentially be integrated to generate new products and knowledge. We bring four, Atlantic-based, ocean-centered networks (Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), Marine Environmental Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) , Fisheries-Western and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Fish-WIKS), and Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN) together to consider the strengths and weaknesses of their focuses, the challenges each faced in building their networks and dealing with big data, their strategies to move their knowledge into policy and management spheres, and what synergies could be achieved by integrating these networks in new ways.

Moderator Details

Scientific Director
Ocean Tracking Network (OTN)

Dr. Sara Iverson is the Scientific Director of the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), both the international joint venture component, funded by the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and the 7‐year OTN Canada Research Network, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). She is a professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University and currently holds the title of University Research Professor for distinction in scholarship; she is also a former NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Fellow. Sara received her BSc from Duke University and conducted her PhD in comparative physiological ecology jointly at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the University of Maryland. Sara’s primary research focus is understanding how animals adapt to and exploit their environments, and the physiological and biochemical mechanisms that constrain or provide opportunities for them to do so. Her research program uses a suite of tools ranging from biochemical tracers to energetic measurements to tracking studies to better understand the biology of marine vertebrates (primarily marine mammals and seabirds) and the food webs within which they function.

Panelist Details

Ronald Pelot, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Dept. of Industrial Engineering,
Dalhousie University


Ronald Pelot is a Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Dalhousie University, and the Associate Scientific Director of the MEOPAR National Centre of Excellence. In 1997, he founded the Maritime Activity and Risk Investigation Network (MARIN) at Dalhousie, and since then his team has developed new software tools and analysis methods applied to maritime safety (accidents), coastal zone security, and marine spills. His work is in support of various government programs including Search & Rescue planning, marine oil spill detection and response, port and maritime security, arctic traffic and risk modelling, and coastal zone management.

Fred Whoriskey
Executive Director
Ocean Tracking Network (OTN)

Dr. Whoriskey is the Executive Director of the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), a global research infrastructure documenting the movements and survival of aquatic animals, and their links to environmental conditions. The OTN is headquartered at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. Prior to joining Dalhousie University in 2010, Fred was the Vice President, Research and Environment of the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF). While at ASF, he developed the organization’s acoustic telemetry programs, and led science-based public policy activity. Other positions included working as an Assistant then Associate Professor at McGill University from 1986 – 1995, and as a Research Assistant for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (1976-1981). He has held appointments as an adjunct professor with the University of Guelph, University of New Brunswick, Dalhousie University and McGill University. He has also served on the Boards of the AquaNet National Center of Excellence in Aquaculture, the Canadian Rivers Institute, and the Huntsman Marine Science Centre (Chair from 2003-2011). In addition to his science administration work, Fred has published extensively in the area of fish biology and ecology. He has been heavily involved in public policy issues, and has worked broadly in public education and environmental impact evaluation. He received a Gulf of Maine Visionary Award in 2008, the Atlantic Salmon Federation’s Lee Wulff Award in 2010, and is a frequent public speaker. Dr Whoriskey received his BSc degree (honors) from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (1976), and his Ph.D. degree from l’Université Laval in Quebec City (1984). He held a NATO postdoctoral fellowship at the University College of Wales (now Aberystwyth University) in the UK (1985).

Tony Charles
Professor/Director, School of the Environment
Saint Mary’s University

Dr. Anthony (Tony) Charles is the Director of the School of the Environment and a professor at Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) with a joint appointment in Environmental Science and the Sobey School of Business. Dr. Charles is a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, and specializes in interdisciplinary analysis of fisheries, coastal and marine issues. Particular areas of emphasis include community-based conservation and resource management, small-scale fisheries, integrated ocean and coastal management, the ecosystem approach, marine protected areas, indicator frameworks, and the development of management measures for sustainability and resilience. Dr. Charles is currently Principal Investigator in the Community Conservation Research Network (CCRN: see, a global initiative exploring the interaction of communities, environmental challenges and decision making. He is the author of a wide range of publications, including Sustainable Fishery Systems (Blackwell Science), Canadian Marine Fisheries in a Changing and Uncertain World (NRC Press), Nova Scotia GPI Fisheries and Marine Environment Accounts (GPI Atlantic), Integrated Fish Farming (CRC Lewis) and the Community Fisheries Management Handbook (c/o Coastal CURA: Dr. Charles is a past President of the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade and the Resource Modeling Association, the founding Director and past Chair of Canada’s Ocean Management Research Network, and a member of the editorial board of the American Fisheries Society journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries. Dr. Charles serves as an advisor to fisheries organizations in Atlantic Canada, and internationally he works on fisheries, ocean and coastal management in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with FAO and OECD.

Lucia Fanning
Director, Marine Affairs Program
Dalhousie University

Lucia has spent the past six years serving as Director of the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University. Prior to coming to Dalhousie University, she was involved in addressing transboundary fisheries governance in the Caribbean Sea where some 45 countries and territories with diverse cultures, politics, economics, laws and environments are working towards enhanced decision-making for the long-term sustainability of the fisheries. Lucia is passionate about including and raising the awareness of the value of all branches and sources of knowledge to better inform decision-making. Lucia lives in a rural part of Halifax Municipality where she enjoys the opportunity to commune with nature on her 26 acre lakeshore property, no matter the season! Her research interests include the roles of policy networks in influencing marine policy decisions; the assessment and effectiveness of evolving oceans governance regimes in managing marine uses; and ecosystem-based approaches to the management of coastal and marine space and use. Current projects include governance of transboundary living marine resources at the regional or large marine ecosystem (LME) level, in particular the Caribbean LME and the role of key and emerging policy actors, including resource users and members of civil society, in managing marine resources.