Investigating contaminant-related health effects in killer whales (Orcinus orca) using omics

Resident killer whale populations in British Columbia (BC) are listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) as “threatened” and “endangered” for the northern and southern populations, respectively. Common pollutants such as PCBs and PBDEs, are considered a significant impediment to the recovery of resident killer whales. These chemicals bioaccumulate throughout the food web and strongly affect apex predators in marine ecosystems.

Marine resilience in the Anthropocene: understanding the adaptive capacity of marine social-ecological systems to change

The ocean is experiencing drastic declines in biodiversity due to the cumulative impact of human activities, including habitat loss, resource exploitation and fossil fuel emissions. These declines in species abundance and diversity have dire consequences for coastal communities whose economic and social systems depend upon healthy oceans. While global analyses of human impacts on marine ecosystems motivate international political action, often coastal communities struggle to make use of large- scale analyses in their decision-making.

The real world of environmental pollutants: New approaches to identifying priority contaminants in the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale food web

The Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW, Orcinus orca) population is assessed at 73 individuals, and significant threats include high levels of endocrine disrupting contaminants, alongside other anthropogenic threats. Studies have painted a partial picture of the contaminants of concern in the SRKW food web. For example, preliminary studies of chinook salmon suggest that some resident populations are more contaminated than others which may be contributing to the high PCB burden in SRKW.

Development of new approaches to identifying priority contaminants and evaluate their biological effects in the endangered St Lawrence Estuary Beluga population

The beluga population living in the St. Lawrence Estuary (Quebec) is endangered, and exposure to organic contaminants (i.e., polychlorinated biphenyls, short-chain chlorinated paraffins and polybrominated diphenyl ethers) may be one of the reasons that explain their steady decline. Recent studies using skin/blubber biopsies of St. Lawrence belugas showed that several of these organohalogens may perturb their regulation of thyroid and estrogen axes as well as lipid metabolism.

Insight into killer whale habitat quality

British Columbia’s (BC) resident killer whales are listed under the Species At Risk Act as ‘threatened’ and ‘endangered’ for the northern and southern residents, respectively. Contaminants have been recognized as one of the main threats affecting the survival and recovery of these populations. This project will look at the levels of contaminants of concern in sediment samples collected from killer whale habitat.

Risk assessment and population viability for the critically endangered Taiwanese white dolphin

The Taiwanese white dolphin is a subspecies only found in Taiwan. Since 2008 it has been listed as Critically Endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning that it is globally recognized as facing an extremely high risk of extinction. The dolphins face a plethora of human human threats, such as fisheries mortality and habitat degradation. This research aims understand how different threats may impact the persistence of this small population, both temporally and spatially.

Expanding SIKU across the Canadian Arctic: an Inuit-driven platform for climatechange resiliency and self-determination

For the Inuit communities that reside in the Canadian Arctic, climate change and regional development have impacted people’s access to essential resources and their preservation of Inuit knowledge. By partnering with the Arctic Eider Society (AES) and Ocean Wise Ikaarvik program, I will translate my primary research in phytoplankton remote sensing into relevant information for northern communities using, an information sharing and social media platform that provides tools for monitoring, archiving and responding to environmental change.

Anthropogenic impacts on the population dynamics of a critically endangered marine mammal

Economic development often has dire consequences for wildlife and environmental conservation. In Taiwan coastal waters, a small dolphin population is being affected by large-scale habitat loss and degradation resulting from development projects, pollution, vessel traffic and a massive fishing industry.

Understanding glass sponge reef structure and function using a structure-from-motion approach

Glass sponges build their skeletons out of silicon dioxide (i.e. glass). While these animals are found all over the world in very deep water, they only exist shallower than 50 m in a few places in the world. In very rare cases, new sponges grow on top of existing, dead sponges and form reefs in a similar manner to coral reefs. As with coral reefs, the structure formed by the reefs is ecologically important because it provides complex habitat and shelter for other animals.

Using commitment to reduce plastics waste in the marine environment

Given that plastic pollution in the marine environment has been a critical issue in Canada and in the rest of the world in recent decades, our project aims to provide a possible solution to mitigate plastic waste in the ocean. Previous findings have shown that asking people to make a commitment can effectively change their behaviours. In the current, we will ask people to make a commitment by signing a pledge to reduce their plastic waste. We hypothesize that people who signed the pledge will show a reduction in their plastic waste disposal, compared to those who did not sign.