Our Researchers

Dr. Katleen Robert
Canada Research Chair in Ocean Mapping
(709) 778-0634
Research Areas:
Seafloor and Habitat Mapping, Ocean Characterization, Spatial Ecology, Acoustic Surveying, Image Analysis, Photogrammetry, Ocean Technology

Dr. Robert holds an MSc from the University of Victoria, BC, and a PhD from the University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, UK.

With research focusing on seafloor and habitat mapping, Dr. Robert aims at improving our understanding of species-environment relationships.  Her main data collection tools are cameras and sonars, and she has primarily worked with benthic megafauna and cold-water corals in the deep sea.‌ 

Dr. Robert’s favorite part of research is going out at sea as she has had numerous opportunities to ‌participate in research cruises in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean, and has worked with ROVs, AUVs and the manned submersible Alvin.

Research Program

The ocean contributes significantly to Canada's economy, yet less than 10% has been adequately mapped and the spatial distribution of most species is not well understood.

The 4D OCEANS Lab's research focuses on mapping the spatial complexity of the ocean from the seafloor to the surface. Our focus is to create an integrated picture of our oceans, which will allow us to understand the relationships between habitats, resources, human activities and changing conditions.

Our research aims at advancing our understanding of spatio-temporal heterogeneity, distributions of benthic communities, how habitats may respond to different human-induced and natural stressors, and how scale (extent and resolution) affects our ability to detect and monitor change. We employ a range of technologies (AUVs, ROVs, sonars, photogrammetry) to provide high-resolution maps from which quantitative insights regarding resource location, infrastructure condition, geological hazards, local oceanographic processes or effectiveness of conservation measures can be drawn.

Specific aspects of our research include:

  • The development, optimization, and implementation of a multi-scale mapping framework for robust monitoring of both economically- and ecologically- valuable habitats.
  • The implementation of automated classification techniques and predictive models as a cost-saving tool to target areas of interest, minimize environmental impacts, and quantitatively monitor change.
  • The production of maps that represent the marine environment in four dimensions; integrating the surface, water column, and seabed to better characterize ocean heterogeneity in both space and time.

MSc Projects in Habitat Mapping

Projects available for students interested in scientific questions relating to understanding species distribution patterns, measuring species-environment relationships and developing automated seabed classification techniques. Data processing will involve both image analysis for fish and megabenthic species identification as well as processing of multibeam bathymetry for seafloor and habitat characterization. Looking for highly motivated students with a strong quantitative background, previous field/research experience, excellent English skills (oral and written) and an interest in working collaboratively.


Potential projects include:

  • Characterizing baseline habitats for Placentia Bay, NL (MSc): Eight sites around the ecologically and biologically significant marine area of Placentia Bay, NL, will be mapped using multibeam bathymetry and video transects from Fall 2018-2020.  This project will involve plenty of fieldwork building seabed classification and habitat maps for long-term monitoring, as well as allow for the development of associated questions regarding the ecology of the area.
  • Mapping fish habitats (MSc):  Combined acquisition of fisheries and multibeam echosounder data will be used to investigate the habitat characteristics of important forage fish species in waters around Newfoundland and Labrador.  Considering current climatic trends, modelling species-environment relationships and how species may shift will be crucial to understanding community structure changes in the coastal Sub-Arctic.
  • 3D classification of point cloud data (PhD): Recent technological advancements are allowing us to map the seabed in greater and greater details, providing detailed 3D point clouds of complex benthic environments.  This project will aim at applying and developing automated approaches to objectively classify point clouds obtained from photogrammetry, laser scanner and/or novel acoustic systems for high-resolution habitat mapping.

To inquire on future opportunities contact Dr. Robert.

Significant Publications:

Lo Iacono C, Robert K, Gonzalez-Villanueva R, Gori A, Gili J-M and Orejas C (2018) Predicting cold-water coral distribution in the Cap de Creus Canyon (NW Mediterranean): Implications for marine conservation planning. Progress in Oceanography, 169: 169-180.

Ismail K, Huvenne VAI and Robert K (2018) Quantifying Spatial Heterogeneity in Submarine Canyons. Progress in Oceanography, 169: 181-198.

Carter GDO, Huvenne VAI, Gales J, Lo Iacono C, Marsh L, Ougier-Simonin A, Robert K and Wynn R (2018) Ongoing evolution of submarine canyon rockwalls; examples from the Whittard Canyon, Celtic Margin (NE Atlantic). Progress in Oceanography, 169: 79-88

Victorero L, Robert K, Robinson LF, Taylor ML, and Huvenne VAI (2018) Species replacement dominates megabenthos beta diversity in a remote seamount setting. Scientific reports, 8: 4152.