Oceans Networks Canada staff at work in the new Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood. Photo courtesy Ocean Networks Canada, UVic.

Oceans Networks Canada staff at work in the new Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood. Photo courtesy Ocean Networks Canada, UVic.

Oceans and climate scientists have a new centre to work in Victoria and the federal government is investing millions of dollars to help monitor conditions affecting endangered orcas.

Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced $12.6 million dollars over four years for Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) to expand its ability to produce real-time data on ocean surface currents, improved navigation and emergency response.

Wilkinson attended the official opening of the $9.5 million Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood, next to the University of Victoria campus.

The fisheries department says the federal investment will build particularly on ONC’s ocean noise monitoring program.

Data will be used to inform the government on decisions to protect B.C.’s Southern Resident Killer Whale population, which is at 74.

ONC moved into the 30,000-square-foot facility in late July and the university says it is home to 200 researchers, co-op students, scientists and staff.

UVic bought the six-hectare site and buildings in 2010 from the Sisters of St. Ann and is a former residential care facility.

Renovations to the building were done with $3.5 million from the federal government through Canada’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, $850,000 from the province and $5.15 million from the university.

“These investments will also help us better understand our oceans and improve our efforts to protect their health and sustainability, while also aiding efforts to address the effects of climate change and protect aquatic species for our kids and grandkids,” Wilkinson said in a release.

“The Ocean-Climate Building at Queenswood provides Ocean Networks Canada with new headquarters for its world-leading ocean sensor and data enterprise that delivers ‘ocean intelligence’ across science, society and industry—from coastal community observing to national partnerships to international deep-sea research,” ONC president and CEO Kate Moran said in a statement.

Officials say the new complex will help provide space for collaboration among climate and ocean researchers at the university.

Along with ONC, UVic hosts Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium and the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, two other research institutes focused on ocean and climate.

There two Environment Canada labs at the university that specialize in hydro-climatology and the impacts of atmospheric change and variability.

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