Community Observatories

What is a Community Observatory?

Community observatories are scaled-down versions of Ocean Networks Canada’s existing major observatories (i.e. NEPTUNE and VENUS) that still allow for all the major benefits that come from the capability to conduct year-round, continuous undersea monitoring. Community observatories are significantly less complex, allowing for a quick and easy deployment with a substantially reduced cost. An example of such an observatory is ONC’s first Arctic installation at Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Having a localized system that offers continuous, real-time monitoring and measurements throughout the year is attractive in order to:

  • Complement existing marine research activities that operate at a regional, national and/or global level;
  • Provide interesting opportunities for local school educational programs, using locally collected data;
  • Create technical and educational training opportunities;
  • Provide outreach potential both to the local community and seasonal visitors.

A typical community observatory installation includes an underwater instrument platform located on the ocean floor and linked by cable to a nearby wharf connection. While the instrumentation to be used can be completely customized, it usually includes an HD video camera and lights, underwater microphone, and a suite of sensors to measure standard seawater properties (temperature, salinity, CO2, O2, chlorophyll, etc.). Some installations, such as the community observatory in Cambridge Bay, have also included instruments of special local interest, such as an ice profiler to measure ice thickness.

On the wharf, a small weather station provides information on current atmospheric conditions and other instruments of interest can also be installed, such as a second camera to monitor surface conditions such as ice formation, marine traffic, etc. From the wharf, data can be transmitted over a wireless link to a local receiving station (such as a school or community centre).

Information can be either maintained locally as a fully standalone system, or hosted through ONC’s facility at the University of Victoria where the data can be made available via the internet to all interested parties, including researchers and the broader public worldwide.


British Columbia


Campbell River

The Campbell River community observatory is located within Kwakwaka'wakw and Coast Salish Territory, an area known as Leqwildox in the Kwak'wala language. Installed March 2016 at the Campbell River Discovery Fishing Pier (located next to the Maritime Heritage Centre and the Discovery Passage Aquarium) the observatory also includes a WaMoS RADAR system capable of measuring surface currents, wave heights, and wave direction, installed at the Cape Mudge lighthouse on Quadra Island (known in the Kwak'wala language as Tsa-Kwa-Luten which means "gathering place").

Visit the Campbell River Observatory page.


Kitamaat Village

Kitamaat Village is located at the head of Douglas Channel on the North Coast of British Columbia. Today, the Haisla people and the Haisla Nation are centered around Kitamaat Village which is located approximately 10 km south of Kitimat, British Columbia. "The word 'Kitamaat' comes from the Tsimshian people, who originate from the Prince Rupert and Metlakatla areas. While 'Kitamaat' means ‘people of the snow’ in Tsimshian, the Haisla name for Kitamaat Village is 'Tsee-Motsa', meaning 'Snag Beach.'" —Haisla Nation. The Kitamaat Village Community Observatory is located at the Haisla Public Works Waste Treatment compound along the waterfront in the village.

Visit the Kitamaat Village Observatory page.


Mill Bay

Mill Bay is situated on the western side of Saanich Inlet, a glacially-carved fjord that is approximately 24 km long and reaches a depth of 234 m. The Mill Bay community observatory was located within Coast Salish Territory and was supported by Brentwood College School.  This observatory, though not currently active featured both undersea instruments and a shore-based weather station. Together, these instruments provided insight into the functioning of the bay, atmospheric-ocean interactions, benthic and water column biology, and near-shore water properties.

Access Mill Bay Observatory data using Oceans 3.0 Data Search


Prince Rupert

Prince Rupert is located within Ts’msyen Territory on the North Coast of British Columbia. Kxeen is the Ts'msyen name for Prince Rupert, although there are several interpretations of what Kxeen means, the most widely accepted meaning is "foam on the waters". Today, Prince Rupert extends along the shores of Kxeen, however in the past there were two separate Ts'msyen villages. People walked in between these two villages along the shoreline which they called Wil Hałyał Mediik, meaning "where the Grizzly Bear walks along the shore". People still refer to this area of the Prince Rupert waterfront as Wil Hałyał Mediik today.

Visit the Prince Rupert Observatory page.




Cambridge Bay

Cambridge Bay, a small hamlet, is located in Northern Canada on Victoria Island, Nunavut within Inuit Territory. Cambridge Bay is known in the Innuinaqtun language as Ikaluktutiak meaning "many fish". The water in Cambridge Bay is part of the Arctic Ocean, which is the smallest and shallowest of the world’s five ocean regions. The Arctic Ocean is partially covered by ice for the majority of the year and the seasonal melting and freezing of ice causes changes in surface temperature and salinity.

Visit the Cambridge Bay Observatory page.