Marta Miatta, PhD student, Memorial University
2018 Laurentian Channel Research Cruise Feature

Marta Miatta is working with a team to collect sediment cores from different stations inside the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest (AOI) and to analyze key ecosystem functions and various abiotic and biotic variables. Her research aims to help define effective conservation priorities and strategies for the prospective Laurentian Channel Marine Protected Area (MPA).

Marta is looking forward to collecting new data that, combined with data collected during the 2017 Laurentian Channel Research Cruise, will help address her CHONe research objectives. She is also looking forward to spending two weeks in the middle of the ocean working with an amazing team of scientists from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe).


Q1) What can you tell us about your research objectives and role for the research cruise?
A1) In 2017, during the Martha Black cruise in the Laurentian Channel, we collected sediment cores using ROPOS and measured oxygen consumption and nutrient fluxes (indicators of key benthic ecosystem functions) during on-board incubations. We also evaluated macrofaunal diversity and environmental parameters. One of the objectives was to understand the role of sea pens, soft corals particularly important in the area, and their effect on biogeochemical processes and biodiversity. Preliminary results suggested that sea pens can enhance macrofaunal biodiversity and, possibly, functional processes at the sediment-water interface. During the 2018 cruise, we will collect sediment cores using multicorer and repeat the analysis, exploring new areas of the Laurentian Channel Area of Interest (AOI) and collect new data to help better understand spatial patterns of functioning, role of biodiversity and environment on it and to confirm the role of sea pens as keystone species, to help define conservation targets for this AOI.

Q2) Why is your research important/making a difference? / How is your research related to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) marine conservation planning?
A2) Understanding the biogeochemical processes that occur in the ocean is vital to understand, therefore protect, important functions that are strictly related to nature’s contribution to human welfare. It is recognized that ecosystems’ health and functioning depend on both abiotic (environmental) and biotic (biodiversity) factors but the specific relationships and processes behind that are still under investigation. In an era when marine conservation is one of the biggest global priorities, addressing these questions is vital to improve conservation strategies and Marine Protected Area (MPA) design. This project, identifying spatial patterns of functioning and biodiversity, linkages and important species and habitats in the Laurentian Channel AOI, will help evaluate the design and monitoring protocols proposed for this potential MPA and meet its effectiveness in the future.