Kate Moran

NEPTUNE seeks greater presence in Port Alberni

Kate Moran lobbies to bring NEPTUNE programming into classrooms, give public a better idea of the Pacific Ocean project based in Alberni.

NEPTUNE Canada is at the cutting edge of ocean research, but project directors want to make the facility more valuable to city residents and use it to get students excited about science.

Kate Moran, President of Ocean Networks Canada, which operates the NEPTUNE Canada project out of Port Alberni, was in town Monday, meeting with city officials about how to better use NEPTUNE data and modeling to prepare the city in the event of a tsunami.

She also plans to bring NEPTUNE into classrooms in a much bigger way.

NEPTUNE is the world’s first regional-scale underwater ocean observatory network that plugs directly into the Internet, allowing ocean scientists to run deep-water experiments from labs and universities anywhere in the world, gaining valuable information on subjects like ocean life, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Moran formerly served as assistant director in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C. under President Barak Obama.

Having led the first expedition to find the source of the earthquake that caused the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, she understands the subject well.

“Port Alberni is a high-risk wave town,” Moran said. “Since the Japan tsunami science has learned a great deal.”

She explained computer modeling and data collection from NEPTUNE can be used to better predict the potential results of a large wave and identify safe areas in the city.

Moran also hopes to have NEPTUNE sessions for local science teachers, who in turn can incorporate NEPTUNE into their curriculum.

NEPTUNE vessels have 24/7 high-speed Internet access and that real-time data can be used in schools and museums here and across the country.

“We know we are leading the world with this technology,” Moran said. “We want to make those connections here in Port Alberni.”

Moran also hopes to open the NEPTUNE base building up to tours to give visitors and residents an idea of the technology fuelling this project.