The Centre for Marine Environmental Prediction at Dalhousie University

Status: September 2006 Prepared by John Cullen, Director

The Centre for Marine Environmental Prediction (CMEP) began in 1998 as an idea shared by seven principal investigators from Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University and one each from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC).

"Researchers from Dalhousie University plan to establish a Centre for Marine Environmental Prediction (CMEP) in which faculty, research associates and graduate students work alongside partners from other university departments, local industry and government. The Centre will be a focus for innovative interdisciplinary research on the observation and prediction of changes in the marine environment driven by atmospheric processes and terrestrial influences. Through the coordinated efforts of the University and its partners, CMEP will also develop new technologies and transform them into operational and commercial products. The Centre will train personnel in the development and use of the new technologies. The observation, prediction and visualization systems developed by CMEP will accelerate multidisciplinary research. In particular, the systems will improve the ability to forecast physical, chemical and biological changes in the marine environment and to assess the impacts of climate change and coastal development."

In 2001, CFI endorsed this vision by investing in the $3.7M Marine Environmental Prediction System (MEPS). This cutting-edge infrastructure for observation and modeling of the ocean comprised ocean-atmosphere observatories, a wireless network linking sensors directly to researchers, a suite of ocean and atmosphere models designed to assimilate data in real time, and a powerful data processing system for web-based access to, and visualization of, the MEPS data and model results (

The MEPS infrastructure, and the research collaborations that it has supported, have generated additional funding for marine environmental prediction, including $4.5M from CFCAS for a five-year study using the MEPS coastal observatory in Lunenburg Bay (Alex Hay and John Cullen), and a four-year, $2.8M network of 16 researchers from across Canada who will study "Prediction and Predictability of the Global Atmosphere-Ocean System from Days to Decades" (Keith Thompson and Hal Ritchie).

The CFCAS Lunenburg Project includes 15 PIs from Dalhousie, MSC and DFO and has supported 13 postdoctoral fellows or research associates, 15 graduate students and 15 undergraduates, besides providing advanced training in new technologies for more than ten technical personnel.

The Global Modeling System secretariat will be based at Dalhousie and the research will be coordinated closely with a joint EC-DFO-DND initiative to establish a coupled atmosphere-ocean prediction system for Canada.

In addition, the MEPS-Bay infrastructure has attracted or leveraged i) contributions valued at $140,000 US from the US Office of Naval Research to Alex Hay; ii) a 5-year, $1.2M NRC/NSERC grant to John Cullen which has led to coordination of coastal observation activities in two bays of Nova Scotia; iii) a five-year renewal of Cullen's Industrial Research Chair ($870K); iv) $260K from the US Partnership for Advanced Interdisciplinary Global Modeling (PARADIGM); v) an equipment grant of $122K from NSERC for an advanced sampling system for use in the Bay and elsewhere; v) funding by CFCAS of an additional research project on remote sensing ($152K), bringing Marlon Lewis to the network; and 6) a Joint Project Agreement with DFO for about $72K per year.

Concurrently, Dalhousie initiated a strategic and highly successful program of recruitment, including the commitment of three Canada Research Chairs to CMEP.Keith Thompson's internal appointment to a Tier 1 Chair facilitated the recruitment of two junior faculty in Mathematics and Statistics, including CMEP member Michael Dowd. Helmuth Thomas and Katja Fennel were successfully recruited and appointed to Tier 2 Chairs.

Strategic advice and tangible support has been provided by the CMEP Advisory Board and associates in government agencies. Members of the CMEP Advisory Board include Dr. Michel Béland, Director General, Atmospheric S&T Directorate, S&T Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada; Dr. Wendy Watson-Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister of Science, DFO; and Dr. Sam Scully, VP Academic and Provost, Dalhousie (now retired; potentially replaced by Dr. Alan Shaver). If the pending CFI proposal is funded, a senior representative of Memorial University, most likely the Vice-President Research, Dr. Christopher Loomis, will be added. Meetings of the Board have been tied to major initiatives involving government-university research and they have been attended by other highly supportive administrators from DFO, EC and Dalhousie. The group has provided critical direction, encouragement, and timely support for CMEP projects.