John Cullen

John Cullen

Department of Oceanography
Dalhousie University

Chair title

NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Observational Technology

Chair program

Industrial Research Chairs program


Senior Chairholder since 1995


The colour of natural waters, and the penetration of sunlight through them, depend strongly on the particles suspended in the water and the chemicals dissolved in it. So, much can be learned about oceans and lakes by measuring light, whether from satellites, aircraft, moored sensors or self-propelled underwater vehicles. The field of aquatic bio-optics has developed to provide the scientific basis for retrieving useful ecological information from such optical measurements.

This industrial research chair was established to foster rapid development of optical sensor systems as a leading technology for environmental observation, bridging the gap from research to operational use in ocean observatories and monitoring programs. The benefits to the partners are mutual. Satlantic Inc., a world leader in optical instrumentation, receives critical evaluations of its instruments and ideas for new products. Dalhousie has been able to develop a world-class program in a rapidly-growing, interdisciplinary field of oceanographic research, and the chairholder has access to leading-edge technology and infrastructure critical to innovative research.

The Chair program has allowed us to participate actively in a revolution in environmental science. Optical sensing systems are now standard tools for quantifying environmental change in aquatic ecosystems, and Canadian science and industry are at the forefront of this new technology. We now operate a real-time ocean observatory ( and are involved in planning for the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). We continue to pursue scientific research aimed at making optical measurements more simple, understandable, and well related to commonly used measures of water quality. This will bring optical measurements to the forefront of aquatic environmental monitoring.


  • Satlantic Inc.
  • National Research Council Canada

Contact information

Department of Oceanography
Dalhousie University
Life Science Centre, 3rd Floor
1355 Oxford Street
Halifax, Nova Scotia
B3H 4J1

Tel.: 902-494-6667
Fax: 902-494-2039


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