Whale, Habitat, and Listening Experiment (WHaLE)
As a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow (2015 - 2017) and Postdoctoral Fellow (2017 - 2018), I collaborate with colleagues on the MEOPAR-supported 'Whales, Habitat and Listening Experiment' (WHaLE) project led by Dr. C. Taggart at Dalhousie University. Our research involves the deployments of bottom-mounted passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) devices and the use of ocean gliders equipped with PAM (and a host of other sensors) to detect and identify whales off Canada's Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
In addition to detecting and describing whale species spatiotemporal occurrences, our research aims to use vessel location information (AIS) to inform whale-vessel intersections. Because ship strikes are a leading cause of known mortality for whales species in Canada, with particular concern for North Atlantic right whales, this research is highly relevant for efforts to mitigate ship strike risk.
Marine Birds on Canada's Pacific Coast
After finishing my PhD, I was awarded an NSERC IRDF Postdoctoral Fellowship with Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the University of Victoria (2013 - 2015; Advisor Dr. P. Paquet). Although varied, much of my research focus involved the analysis of line-transect marine bird survey information. We generated predictive density models for over 20 species, including a number of species listed under Canada's Species at Risk Act. Acting as a quantitative baseline, this information is also available for a wide array of conservation activities in the region, including spatial planning, marine protected areas (MPA), emergency response, spatial assessments of risk, and more.
Pacific Herring Ecological Interactions
My PhD (2009 -2013), undertaken with Dr. T Reimchen (University of Victoria) and with mentorship from Dr. P. Paquet (Raincoast Conservation Foundation), focussed on the cross-ecosystem interactions of Pacific herring, which are a foundation species and often dominant forage fish in many coastal ecosystems that fringe the North Pacific Ocean. Pacific herring, once the most lucrative commercial fisheries target on Canada's Pacific coast, are also of immense ecological and cultural importance.
Each year, these small, silver migrants aggregate and spawn upon nearshore and intertidal substrates. Attracting often massive numbers of predators and scavengers to these spectacular events, Pacific herring spawn events are typically a high quality resource boon for many coastal species. When we began this research, virtually no scientific knowledge regarding Pacific herring and intertidal and terrestrial ecosystems existed. As with many things however, fishermen and others had long observed terrestrial wildlife such as black bears and wolves feasting on the washed up herring eggs.
We explored the relationships between herring and intertidal (amphipods) and terrestrial (black bears) consumers. In doing so, we documented the first scientific evidence that Pacific herring resources influence both intertidal and terrestrial ecosystems. Because Pacific herring have declined along the Pacific coast, this research also traces a diminished spatial subsidy to intertidal and terrestrial ecosystems, and describes species interactions that have undoubtedly weakened over time.