Assistant Professor

Tel: 604.822.8184
Fax: 604.822.8180
Education: BSc Marine Biology (University of Guelph); MSc and PhD Biopsychology (Memorial University of Nfld)
Research Interests: ecological physiology of marine mammals, bioenergetics, animal nutrition

Professional Credentials:

Research Associate UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
Director Marine Mammal Energetics and Nutrition Laboratory
Research Associate Vancouver Aquarium
President Comparative Nutrition Society
Review Editor Frontiers in Aquatic Physiology

Research: My main research interest lies in understanding how animals have evolved to function – as individual units – within a variable and (to our eyes) hostile environment. My central scientific paradigm is that an animal’s physiology and behaviour interact to satisfy the demands of the environment and the necessities of its life history.

My research focuses primarily on marine mammal bioenergetics and physiology. I have studied a range of species, but have worked most with Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, and harbour seals. Currently, my investigations form the core of the Consortium’s captive Steller sea lion and northern fur seal research programs at the Marine Mammal Energetics and Nutrition Lab and the Open Water Research Lab. The goal of the project is to address the population declines in Steller sea lions and northern fur seals in Alaska. We use trained fur seals and sea lions to understand the consequences of changes in their biotic and physical environment using the disciplines of bioenergetics, comparative nutrition, and physiology.

Current and Recent Projects:

  1. Steller sea lions. This species has suffered catastrophic declines in western Alaska since the 1970s, yet other populations in southeast Alaska, British Columbia, and the western seaboard remain healthy. As part of a coordinated, international effort, we have been using trained Steller sea lions in the laboratory to test various hypothesized reasons behind these declines, such as the Nutritional Stress hypothesis. Sea lions held at the Vancouver Aquarium (MMEaN Lab) are used to examine how changes in the biological or physical prey quality or distribution might affect the health of individual animals. Sea li0ns at the Open Water Research Lab are used for studies of diving physiology and energetics, away from the physical constraints of an aquarium. The results of this research has contributed greatly to the current scientific understanding and helped formulate and interpret research on sea lions in the wild.
  2. Northern fur seals. This species lives primarily on St. Paul and St. George Islands, two small outcrops in the Bering Sea off of the Alaskan coast. Their populations have also been declining in recent years. In 2008 we began an intense research program using trained northern fur seals at the MMEaN lab at the Vancouver Aquarium. We have been studying the energetic and nutritional demands of 6 female  fur seals during their first two years of life. In the wild, this time is spent at sea, with the result that scientists know very little about this species during this critical time period.

Graduate Student Opportunities: I generally co-supervise one to two students per year with Dr. Andrew Trites through the Department of Zoology ( Past students have covered research topics that included hormone controls and metabolic consequences of changes in food intake, seasonal changes in bioenergetic priorities, and the relationship between heart rate and other behavioural and physiological parameters.

Click here to see list of my Publications