Institute of Ocean Sciences

The Institute of Ocean Sciences, or IOS,  located in Sidney, British Columbia, is an important link in Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s nationwide chain of major scientific facilities. It is the centre for research on the coastal waters of British Columbia, the Northeastern Pacific Ocean, and navigable fresh waters of the west coast east to the Alberta border, and the Western Canadian Arctic.

IOS has earned international recognition for its scientific work and expertise.  Its more than 250 dedicated scientists  and researchers provide up-to-date information and data on all elements of oceanography, from fisheries and ocean research, and environmental science to creating nautical charts and other vital navigation products. IOS and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada are guided by the principles of sound scientific knowledge and effective management.

The work undertaken at IOS contributes to maritime safety, our understanding of the ocean and marine ecosystems, and the sustainability of Canada’s marine resources.

Research efforts at IOS are grouped under two science divisions:

  • The Canadian Hydrographic Service, which produces Canadian nautical charts, and
  • Ocean Science, through which IOS has become a major player in efforts to understand and manage  coastal and open ocean ecosystems.

IOS research ranges from investigating the effects of global warming on marine ecosystems, to contaminants in Arctic ice, the role of plankton in marine food webs, understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of aquaculture, and even predicting where and when a tsunami might strike. Its scientists are experts in ocean currents and ocean temperatures, and in how ocean temperatures impact the abundance if marine species.

Some of the institute’s work highlights notable changes in atmospheric and oceanic conditions that affect commercially important fish such as salmon, herring, groundfish and shellfish. IOS research in the northeast Pacific and Western Arctic helps improve understanding of the ocean and its role in moderating the effects of increased carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. Water properties such as temperature, salinity, dissolved gases, acidification and nutrient concentrations can all affect resident and migratory marine populations in British Columbia, the North Pacific and the Beaufort Sea.

The Institute of Ocean Sciences is a key member of Argo, an international initiative that gathers and makes available high quality data for forecasting a wide array of weather and ocean conditions and phenomena. There are now three thousand Argo floats in service operating in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and southern oceans.

IOS is also home to the Pacific Geoscience Centre of Natural  Resources Canada. The Centre researches and monitors earthquakes in Canada, as well as other marine geohazards, explores the coastal marine environment and investigates present-day movements of the Earth's crust.  This historic seismograph was built in Japan in the early 1900s.

IOS is a hub of activity, and home to a number of other organizations, including a Canadian Coast Guard base, as well as the state-of-the-art Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre.  Canada’s Coast Guard,  part of Fisheries and Oceans Canada,  carries out search and rescue missions, responds to marine pollution incidents, provides and maintains aids to navigation, and operates the research vessels used by scientists at IOS and elsewhere.

Staff from the Canadian Wildlife Service and the North Pacific Science Organization – or PICES - are also located at IOS. PICES is an intergovernmental scientific organization established in 1992 to promote and coordinate marine research in the North Pacific and adjacent seas. Its present members are Canada, Japan, China, Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States. PICES research focuses on the ocean environment, global weather and climate change, living resources and their ecosystems and the impacts of human activities. 

Through PICES and as part of a joint observation study by the RV MIRAI and Canadian Coast Guard vessels the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent and CCGS Sir Wilfred Laurier, IOS enjoys a close relationship with Japanese ocean scientists.The goal of this international joint venture is to prepare for global change and to reduce uncertainties in forecasting shelf/basin interactions-and inter-basin forcing of ice, and water properties of land/ocean exchanges.

Through these initiatives and our ongoing research and hydrographic activities, the Institute of Ocean Sciences and  Fisheries and Oceans Canada are working to ensure  Canadians enjoys safe and accessible waterways; healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems; and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. The scientific expertise and knowledge developed at IOS have made it a world-renowned facility, and its work has contributed immensely to the global understanding of oceans.

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