David Wells

Dave Wells is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering at the University of New Brunswick;  Affiliate-Researcher in the Division of Marine Science at the University of Southern Mississippi; and affiliated with the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire.  

Since 1999, at USM Dave annually teaches courses in Applied Bathymetry, Kinematic Positioning, and Applied Acoustics.  In 2012 and 2013 he was asked by the USM Provost to address newly-hired USM faculty members on “Pedagogy for today’s professor”, and to lead several seminar series on “Scientific Teaching”.

Honours & Appointments

2017             Inducted, Hydrographer Hall of Fame, The Hydrographic Society of America, Galveston

2013             Recipient, Portuguese Navy Cross, 1st Class from Navy Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense

2001-2003     Member, Subject Matter Expert Team, Oceanography of the (US) Navy

2001             Recipient, US Navy Superior Public Service Award

1990-2005     Member, International Board on Standards of Competence for Hydrographic Surveying and Nautical Cartography

1988-1990     Member, National Marine Council of Canada

1986-1987     Canadian national delegate to International Association of Geodesy

Health System activities

2013-            Member, Maritime SPOR Support Unit (SPOR = Strategy for Patient Oriented Research)

2012-            Member, Patients for Patient Safety Canada

2012-2015     Patient Representative, Expert Advisory Panel of the Labelling and Packaging Project of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada

2012-2015     Patient Representative, Taming of the Queue Conference Steering Committee

2012-2015     Patient Representative, New Brunswick Primary Health Care Steering Committee

2005-2011     Patient Representative & Chair, New Brunswick Surgical Care Network Advisory Committee

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Panels

1995-1998     Member, Women’s Faculty Award Selection Panel, NSERC

1991             Chair, Fisheries and Oceans Strategic Grant Selection Panel, NSERC

1990-1993     Member, International Fellowships Selection Panel, NSERC

1989-1992     Member, Fisheries and Oceans Strategic Grant Selection Panel, NSERC

1984-1988     Member, Advisory Committee on Engineering, NSERC*


1999-            President, HydroMetrica Limited (organized 73 Multibeam Sonar courses since 1994)

1986-1998     President, Canadian GPS Associates, published Guide to GPS Positioning (sold 12,500 copies)

1985-1997     GPS short course instructor, Navtech Seminars Inc (taught 30 courses)

1980-1998     Associate Professor & Professor, University of New Brunswick

1965-1980     Scientific Officer & Research Scientist, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, NS

Visiting Professorships

1997             Visiting Professor, Technical University of Vienna (occupying Christian Doppler’s office)

1996-2001     Visiting Professor (summers), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johore Bahru

1985             Visiting Professor, Hannover University, Stuttgart University, Institut Teknologi Bandung

1984             Visiting Professor, Wuhan Technical University of Surveying & Mapping, China


1974             Doctor of Philosophy (Surveying Engineering), University of New Brunswick

1967             Registered Professional Engineer, Province of Nova Scotia (2007 became Life Member)

1966             Master of Applied Science (Engineering Physics), University of British Columbia

1963             Bachelor of Applied Science (Engineering Physics), University of British Columbia

1961             Bachelor of Science (Physics and Mathematics), Mount Allison University

Arctic adventures

1968: helped to demonstrate that northern Greenland is 10,000 km2 larger than depicted on the best available maps of that day (resulting in undying gratitude from Danish friends).

1974-1975: participated in the Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX), an attempt to model the interaction between wind stress and sea-ice movement north of Point Barrow Alaska.

1979: navigator for the three Lomonosov Ridge Experiment (LOREX) ice camps, drifting across the Lomonosov Ridge and approaching within 12 km of the North Pole.  LOREX determined the ridge is continental in origin (not oceanic), with geopolitical implications regarding Canada’s offshore territorial claims (specifically the “test of appurtenance” required under Article 76 of the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

On 2017-06-29 as Dave’s 78th birthday.  He returned to downhill skiing in January 2014, after a 15-year absence.  During 30 days skiing in Idaho over the past 4 years he has not fallen once.  45 years ago, he was a Ski Patroller.

Student supervision

Since 1980 Dave has supervised the research of 8 students who received PhD degrees, 4 from the University of New Brunswick, 3 from the University of Southern Mississippi, and 1 from the University of New Orleans.  He has supervised the research of 36 students who received Master’s degrees from the University of New Brunswick, and 1 from the University of New Hampshire.  He has also supervised 15 students seeking higher degrees at Laval, Hannover, Delft, Stuttgart, Athens, and Teheran Universities, usually based on research conducted during 3 to 12 month stays at UNB.  At USM he is on the examining committee for the course-only Master’s degree in hydrography, from which 201 students have graduated between August 2000 and August 2017.


In 1982 Dave and three faculty colleagues founded the UNB Geodetic Research Laboratory, that continues today, with research linkages to many other universities across the world, most prominently the CalTech Jet Propulsion Lab, as well as several Canadian and US government agencies.

In 1988 Dave founded, with five faculty colleagues, the UNB Ocean Mapping Group, which evolved into the Chair in Ocean Mapping, attracting two new faculty members.  Over the years, this Chair has been supported in large part by annual sponsorship fees from typically a dozen or so organizations around the world, and research ties to almost all other ocean mapping research groups.  The OMG continues today under the leadership of Ian Church.

Since 1980 Dave co-authored publications with over 100 other researchers, from within his own universities, other universities, government agencies, and commercial companies, in Canada and in the USA. Many of these have been reports on joint research projects.


Since 1962, Dave published or presented 299 scientific and technical papers on a broad range of topics in geodesy, navigation, hydrography, and ocean mapping. A few of the most relevant are:

Hughes Clarke, Mayer, Wells (1996) Shallow water imaging multibeam sonars: a new tool for investigating seafloor processes in the coastal zone and on the continental shelf.  Marine Geophysical Researches. 18, 607-629.

Du, Wells, Mayer (1996). An approach to automatic detection of outliers in multibeam echo sounding data. The Hydrographic Journal, No. 79, pp. 19-23. (won best paper of 1996)

Mayer, Hughes Clarke, Wells, and the HYGRO-92 team (1992) A multi-faceted ground truthing experiment in the Bay of Fundy.  In NG Pace & DN Langhorne, eds., Acoustic classification and mapping of the seabed, Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, v15 Pt 2, 203-220, Bath University Press, Bath UK.

Ware, Slipp, Wong, Nickerson, Wells, Lee, Dodd, Costello (1992) A system for cleaning high volume bathymetry, Intll Hydrographic Review, 69(2) pp. 77-94.  This became the basis for CARIS HIPS.

Wells, Mayer, Hughes Clark (1991) Ocean mapping: from where? to what? CISM Journal 45, 383-391

Ware, Knight, Wells (1991) Memory intensive statistical algorithms for multibeam bathymetric data. Computers & Geosciences 17, 985-993

Research Funding

While at the University of New Brunswick between 1980 and 2000, Dave was awarded 87 grants and contracts worth a total of $4,715,651.  Of these he was sole Principal Investigator for 42 (48%) of these awards, and for the remainder joined with 29 different co-investigators, mainly from UNB, but also from other universities, and industry.  In addition, between 1988 and 1991 Dave worked with the Chair of the UNB Board of Governors to raise $1,500,000 to fund the establishment of the Chair in Ocean Mapping.


Since 2011, with permission and cooperation from the International Hydrographic Bureau (now International Hydrographic Secretariat), Dave lobbied for, organized and personally funded establishment of a Digital Repository for the International Hydrographic Review.  This involves digital capture of the full collection of the International Hydrographic Review, published since 1923, representing the continuous “corporate record” of international hydrographic methods and technological evolution.  The collection is available as a no-charge digital journal, using the Open Journal System.  All issues from 1963 are now available, and the full set from 1923 will be available by late 2018 at

Last Updated: 2017-12-05