My research interests have long focused on the interaction between people and marine biodiversity, at a regional to global scale. I am interested in how patterns of marine biodiversity arise, how hotspots of high species richness are formed and maintained. On the more applied side I have been tracking changes in marine biodiversity over time and space, with some emphasis on large marine predators such as sharks, tuna, billfish and whales. I am keen to understand what forces these changes, and what the relative contribution is of human-induced versus natural variation. A lot of my work has focused specifically on the impacts of fishing and climate change, and how they may interact in contemporary ecosystems. From this basis of understanding my students and I try to devise management solution that can help to conserve and restore marine biodiversity worldwide.
Climate-smart Marine Protected Areas
A major new research initiative I co-lead under the Ocean Frontier Institute addresses the challenge of designing Marine Protected Area networks which are resilient to climate change. Marine Protected Areas are often designed to protect biodiversity, sustain or enhance productivity and critical habitat, and provide insurance against sudden or drastic changes in the ecosystem and its resources. At present Canada is committed to expanding its Marine Protected Area coverage from ~1% to 10% by the year 2020. This research aims to complement existing efforts to help ‘future-proof’ such Marine Protected Area networks and other spatial management tools such as fisheries closures and critical habitat designations. By integrating observational data on shifting habitats and ecosystems with real-time remote sensing, animal movement, and vessel tracking data, this project will help to understand in ocean conditions, biological resources, and human use patterns relevant to Marine Protected Areas.
Core support for my current research program ‘Ecosystem oceanography: understanding the dynamics of a changing ocean’ comes from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The goal of this program is to analyze the causes and consequences of recent changes in marine food webs. Specifically, our lab attempts to analyze the potentially complex interdependencies of observed changes in predator and plankton abundance throughout the world’s oceans.