Brian Hunt joins the Canada C3 cruise for marine DNA project

MV Polar Prince

Dr. Brian Hunt, assistant professor in UBC’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, and Hakai Professor in Oceanography, will be setting sail on the Canada C3 Expedition on October 2nd.

The Canada C3 Expedition, part of Canada’s 150th Anniversary celebrations, is an epic 150-day voyage from Toronto to Victoria, via the Northwest Passage. Divided into 15 legs, the expedition invited a cross-section of Canadians, including scientists, artists, Indigenous Elders, historians, community leaders, youth, and journalists to learn more about Canada’s environment, coastal communities, and to connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Dr. Hunt is one of the principal investigators for the Trans-Canada eDNA Biodiversity Mapping Project, which will use new genomic technology to analyse trace amounts of environmental DNA shed by marine organisms in the surrounding water. Through the use of ultra fine filters and metabarcoding analysis, the research team will collect information about marine organisms in Canadian waters, including viruses, bacteria, zooplankton, invertebrates, fish, and marine mammals.

The research team will compile this information into a Pan Canadian biodiversity database that can then be used to measure the impacts of environmental changes, such as those from climate change (e.g., rising ocean temperatures, changing salinity, and sea ice loss), on marine species.

Dr. Brian Hunt

“The Canada C3 expedition will provide us with a unique opportunity to gather necessary samples and utilize new technologies to learn more about our marine ecosystems, and engage directly with local communities, individuals, and cruise participants from diverse backgrounds in communicating our science,” said Dr. Hunt. “We have the opportunity to build a database that can become an important reference for Canadians’ understanding of the current distribution of species in Canada’s three oceans, against which we can measure future changes.”

Dr. Hunt will be on legs 13 and 14 of the Canada C3 cruise, from Prince Rupert to Bella Bella, and from Bella Bella to Campbell River. Dr. Kristi Miller-Saunders, from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Pacific Biological Station and a principal investigator on the eDNA Biodiversity Mapping Project, will be the lead scientist on the final leg of the expedition, from Campbell River to Victoria, BC.