Katleen Robert

Researcher Biography

I hold a MSc from the University of Victoria, BC, and a PhD from the University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, UK.Katleen Robert

My research focuses on seafloor and habitat mapping, and aims at improving our understanding of species-environment relationships.  My main data collection tools are cameras and sonars, and I have primarily worked with benthic megafauna and cold-water corals in the deep sea.‌ 

My favourite part of research is going out at sea.  I have had the opportunity to ‌participate in research cruises in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean, and have 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.

‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌RSS James CookROV DeploymentCnidarianNL Bathymetry

Graduate Students

The 4D OCEANS Lab in the School of Ocean Technology is looking for graduate students (MSc, PhD) with interest in ocean mapping. This is an inherently multi-disciplinary field, and we are looking to build a team with a range of backgrounds including: seafloor mapping, spatial ecology, geology, acoustic surveying, remote sensing and geostatistics. Students will be co-supervised in collaboration with colleagues in other schools or departments, and degree requirements will depend base on the academic unit.  At the moment, I have the following funded opportunities:

MSc mapping important fish habitats
Placentia Bay has been recognised as an important coastal area in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), both for its socio-economic and ecological importance. The ‘Coastal habitat mapping of Placentia Bay, Newfoundland’ project aims at collecting coastal environmental baseline habitat data to characterize the current state of coastal habitats in the Placentia Bay area. This project will involve combined acquisition of fisheries and multibeam echosounder data to investigate the habitat characteristics of important forage fish species in waters around Newfoundland and Labrador. Seafloor imagery and multibeam backscatter data will be combined to identify specific acoustics characteristics and create detailed sediment interpretation maps. In addition, the multibeam water-column data and fisheries echosounder data will be used to identify fish aggregations and examine finer scale spatial patterns. The student will have the opportunity to carry out fieldwork and present results at an international conference. Required skills include a quantitative background and familiarity with a programming language, previous experience acquiring or processing acoustic data will be considered a strong asset.

MSc characterizing temporal variations in environmental drivers and responses of megabenthic organisms
Conception Bay in Newfoundland is fjord-like bay with a maximal depth of 300 m, where the Labrador Current keeps most of the waters below 50 m near <0°C. Although species of commercial interest are known to occur, surprisingly little is known regarding megabenthic composition and their responses to seasonal variations in harsh sub-Arctic environments. This project will use a soon to be deployed benthic cabled-observatory to carry out time-series video observations as well as acquire and process sediment trap data to monitor the spring phytoplankton bloom. The aim is to understand the links between environmental fluctuations and changes in species composition in order to improve our ability to forecast ecosystem responses to climate change. Both short-term changes in species activity level in response to daily fluctuations, and longer-term seasonal trends will be examined. The student will have the opportunity to lead data acquisition and present results at both national meetings and international conferences. Required skills include a background in ecology and familiarity with R, previous experience handling time-series datasets will be considered a strong asset.

If you are interested please contact me with a CV and a cover letter stating your main research interests.

Closing date: February 28th 2019

  • New 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.
  • Interested in Why Seafloor Mapping Helps Us Watch Netflix, see short radio interview on VOCM morning show
  • Wondering how life is after getting your PhD, check out the Deep-Sea Biology Society's Blog
  • Recent participation in the scientific expedition: Tectonic Ocean Spreading at the Charlie-Gibbs Facture Zone (TOSCA) onboard the RV Celtic Explorer, 14 May - 08 June 2018
    -Check out the expedition blog Scientist@Sea
Upcoming Conferences