Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
CANON Initiative

CANON fieldwork is aimed at testing and applying advancements in ocean observing systems.  Fieldwork involves the deployment of observing systems to acquire scientific data that will answer specific questions about the evolution of phytoplankton. The initial research focus for CANON is on complex aspects of plankton ecology, including the transfer of toxins from phytoplankton to other marine life and interactions between plankton and the environment. Current observing system development efforts of CANON include:

scientific illustration showing the various mobile and fixed platforms used for observing phytoplankton blooms
Illustration showing the various mobile and fixed platforms used for observing phytoplankton blooms. Illustration by David Fierstein © MBARI 2004

The technological advancements of CANON are intended to be applied in ocean research across ocean biomes, from the coastal environment, which is highly dynamic in terms of physical and chemical properties, to the more oligotrophic waters representative of the open ocean environments that cover much of the planet.  Each environment provides a different set of challenges.

Coastal environment

Coastal systems harbor the majority of ocean life, are in direct contact with human populations, and are easier to access. However coastal systems are highly complex due to diverse forcing at all interfaces: air/sea, land/ sea, bottom/water column, and ocean basin boundary current/coastal water.  This complexity as well as rapid change in the coastal environment makes it difficult to accurately conduct in-situ adaptive sampling of coastal waters. CANON coastal experiments will initially center on observing and following the evolution and consequences of harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are caused by certain types of phytoplankton.

Coastal ocean environment next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Coastal ocean environment next to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Open ocean waters

Open ocean waters tend to be more stable and drive global biogeochemical budgets but provide intense technological challenges, requiring long-range autonomous devices and sample preservation techniques for samples that may be collected weeks or months prior to analysis.  Organisms in these environments are very different from coastal communities and are dominated by very tiny phytoplankton (picophytoplankton). There is a limited understanding of which picophytoplankton are the key players in photosynthetic uptake of carbon in open ocean environments. Progress will require measuring not only abundance of individual groups, but also measuring their activities, growth and mortality.


By contrasting fieldwork in these two systems the CANON team aims to tease apart rules of community assembly for each system, which can then be applied to more predictive modeling of how communities might transition under climate change. 

Plans for 2010

CANON fieldwork in 2010 will utilize an array of moored and mobile observing assets to (1) conduct the first autonomous monitoring of the evolution of a microbial community and its environment, and (2) study in detail the forcing of HAB ecology in Monterey Bay.

satellite image of the position of the Research Vessel Zephyr near the Monterey Bay

Click on the image above to see a representative asset map of the positioning of the Research
Vessel Zephyr using the decision support system live interface.
© MBARI 2010

Last updated: Aug. 17, 2010