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5 Cool Technologies Being Used at the Hakai Institute - Hakai Institute

5 Cool Technologies Being Used at the Hakai Institute

Cutting-edge science on the coastal margin.

The Hakai Institute is always exploring ways that technology can be employed for scientific research. New hardware and software is constantly being tested at both field stations. Keep reading to see just a few of the science innovations taking place at Hakai.

1. DStretch

Ancient rock art can tell researchers a lot about the First Nation cultures along the Central Coast—if they can find it. Much of the rock art has been eroded and faded over time, making it all but impossible to see. A tool called DStretch has allowed Hakai scholar Aurora Skala to tease out the details of rock art that would be invisible otherwise, and has even helped her find images that have been forgotten over time.

Pictograph image before and after processing with DStretch. Photo by Aurora Skala

2. LiDAR

LiDAR is a RADAR-like system that uses lasers to map the surface features on land. Laser pulses are sent from a satellite or aircraft toward the ground; once they hit their target, the distance is measured based on the time it takes for the light to return to a sensor. This technology has been used to map the entirety of Calvert and Hecate Islands, revealing the exact number of trees over 4 meters tall (just under 2 million). It has also given watershed researchers the exact outlines of the major watersheds, and is even being used to prospect for potential archaeological sites.

This LiDAR map (left) of the northern tip of Calvert Island shows precisely the shape of the land. This information is being used by multiple programs across disciplines. Maps by Jordan Eamer, Dan Shugar, and Keith Holmes

3. Optical Dating

Optical dating is a technique that tells scientists when certain minerals were last exposed to light. Quartz and feldspar have “light-sensitive electron traps” that act as time capsules, keeping a record of when they last saw sunlight. At the Hakai Institute, optical ages are being used to help date natural landforms like sand dunes, as well as archaeological features such as clam gardens. Optical dating has gained popularity in the last 30 years because, unlike radiocarbon dating, it does not require the presence of organic matter and it can be applied to sediments older than 55,000 years.

Left: Libby Griffin and Jordan Bryce process a sediment sample for optical dating. Samples must be prepared under dim, red light to ensure a proper reading. Right: Risø TL/OSL reader used for optical dating in the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at the University of the Fraser Valley. Photos by Christina Neudorf

4. Drones

The LIMPET will be the Hakai Institute’s first cabled underwater observatory. It will be installed in the water off the Quadra Island Field Station.

Flying robots have been sent up in the skies to do work across multiple Hakai Institute programs. They shoot aerial video, allowing the media team to add a new dimension to our short documentaries. They shoot high-resolution photos, which have been converted into maps for use on seagrass surveys. And they can even be used to make 3D models of landforms like sand dunes, the applications for which are just starting to be explored.


The LIMPET is the Hakai Institute’s first underwater observatory. Connected via a cable to the rest of the Hakai network, it will provide real-time data on ocean conductivity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. The LIMPET will also interface with the existing land-based data communications network, meaning the Hakai Institute will be producing a seamless data set simultaneously on land and in the ocean.