FORCE to start collecting real-time subsea data

Published August 17, 2021

Photo: A subsea environmental monitoring platform is deployed. A platform like this one will soon be deployed at FORCE and connected to a cable to allow sea to shore data transfer in real time.

As part of continuing efforts to improve environmental data from the Bay of Fundy, FORCE is deploying a large cabled platform in the Minas Passage and sharing that data online with the Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System (CIOOS).

“We’re putting down a platform on the sea floor and connecting it to a cable to that will give us real time data,” says Chuck Taylor, a field researcher at FORCE. “This takes our acoustic monitoring to the next level.”

“We’re using hydrophones that listen for harbour porpoises sound in the water: calling, singing, chirping…’clicking’,” continues Taylor. “With a cabled platform, the instruments will be powered all the time. We’ll be able to triangulate their sound to get a very accurate picture of their location, in real time, over longer periods. It’s just improves our overall marine mammal monitoring capacity.”

FORCE’s subsea environmental observatory is a cabled platform that allows for power and two-way communication between the sea and FORCE’s onshore facility, using hydrophones, ADCP, an optical camera, and subsea lights to bring real-time data ashore for a range of environmental monitoring purposes. Future additions to the platform may include a pan-tilt unit and imaging sonar.

Taylor says: “Normally, we would put ocean instruments out in the water remotely with no connection. We can’t be sure if they’re even collecting data, or be sure of the quality of the data, until we recover the instruments. And because they run on battery power, we can only leave them out for a limited time window. Adding a cable takes our ocean sensors to the next level.”

“We’re also more efficient – which is a critical piece of any marine operation. Typically, the longest a battery powered platform is going to be out there is 3 months. We might be able to have the cabled platform out there for a year or more. That means one marine operations for 12 months of data…versus four marine deployments and recoveries for the same amount of data.”

The project is part of a larger research project called Vitality that is led by Pisces Research Project Management. Vitality is bringing key ocean data to CIOOS – a national online platform for sharing, discovering and accessing ocean data in Canada. CIOOS provides data to researchers, government agencies, coastal communities, ocean industries, First Nations, and non-governmental organizations.

Dr. Joel Culina, FORCE’s physical oceanographer, adds: “Our partnership with CIOOS and Pisces and others is all about sharing ocean data broadly. We hope it can yield meaningful and unforeseen new science discoveries, and not only within the field of tidal energy research.”

Says Taylor: “My family is originally from Parrsboro: I spent summers up there with my grandparents. It’s like my second home. And my undergrad was environmental science, and I studied climate change. I’ve been watching the FORCE project since it started, since I was a kid. So it’s really cool to be a part of it. I would really love to see some more industry in Parrsboro, and for us to be part of the climate solution.”


The Vitality project is a collaboration to develop new, applicable data streams for Ocean Supercluster members, private sector companies, indigenous organizations, and anyone who participates in Canada’s blue economy as well as the development of necessary tools to manage those streams, and software that lowers the barrier to entry for the application of these data.

Vitality will develop tools and linkages between CIOOS (Canadian Integrated Ocean Observing System) and three emerging environmental technology and data-heavy sectors: aquaculture, tidal power, and offshore wind through partnerships. Supercluster members will lead the  development of the tools they need to acquire, manage, visualize and improve the quality of  their decision-making processes.

Learn more about Vitality