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Where Our Research is Headed

August 2, 2016

Where We’re Going

We’re evolving rapidly at the Hakai Institute.

It can be difficult for people to stay current with our activities and aspirations: difficult for our partners; difficult even for our staff.

I hope this short summary helps give guidance about where we’re going.

Things Haven’t Changed and Likely Never Will

Our guiding principles are as always:

  • We believe in Long-Term Ecological Research
  • A profound sense of place drives our research
  • We seek integration across research disciplines
  • Our ecology includes human activity
  • We strive to fit our local work into regional, national, and international networks
  • Our motto is still “Science on the Coastal Margin”

Our Maturation as a Science Organization

The Project Era

In the first two years of operation (2010-11) we explored and evaluated the opportunities for science. Research consisted of short term projects, typically driven by the immediate interests of university-based scientists.

The Program Era

By 2012 we were settling on more definitive research activities, working with academic colleagues to define what we called “programs”. Programs were 3-5 years duration, focused on clear objectives, typically involving an interdisciplinary team of scientists, with leadership from a Hakai staff scientist. As of the autumn of 2016, we are still technically within the program era, although many of original programs are coming to completion.

Our Mission for the Duration

We are now defining the research themes that we see enduring for the projected lifespan of the Hakai Institute, nominally another decade. We call these themes our “research axes” to emphasis their fundamental nature and their interrelationships.

Just as the best of our projects inspired our programs, so the best of our programs have inspired our research axes.

We also recognize that the appropriate designation for Hakai is that we are an “ecological observatory”.

Hakai Institute research axes and how they fit together.

Our Research Axes

  • Each axis is led by a Hakai staff scientist
  • Each axis comprises a mixture of long-term observation and shorter-term investigation and experimentation
  • Each axis combines the expertise of Hakai staff and partners from the universities, agencies, and First Nations
  • Axes are not silos. Axes intersect and define areas of collaboration across traditional boundaries

Pervasive Axes: Atmosphere (Weather) and Ocean

We recognize that the dominant drivers of all activity on the coastal margin are our weather and the ocean.

  • We have a growing and increasingly sophisticated array of meteorological stations distributed widely across our research domain. These stations are monitored in real time via our sensor networks.
  • We are expanding our oceanographic research to include sampling from our research vessels, fixed moorings, cabled underwater observatories, gliders, and other methods. We look comprehensively at physical, chemical, and biological oceanography.

Axes That Define the Coastal Margin

A pair of axes define the essence of what it is to be on the coastal margin:

  • Nearshore Marine Ecology: the ocean that is intimately tied to the land. This axis includes our participation in the Smithsonian Institution’s Marine Global Ecological Observatory (MarineGEO)
  • Coastal Watersheds: the land that is intimately tied to the ocean

Crosscutting Axes

Other axes are “crosscutting” in the sense that they are unifying themes that cut across our other axes.

  • Biogeochemistry: So far our main focus has been on carbon cycling, although we will likely expand our attention other materials in future
  • Microbial ecology and genomics
  • Deep time: Looking at phenomena of interest in the context of long term change, taking advantage of the undisturbed landscapes we work on.
  • Geospatial mapping and other techniques for ecosystem mapping
  • Distributed sensor networks and autonomous recording
  • Big data and modeling