Juan Jose Alava, PhD.

Juan Jose Alava, PhD.

Research Associate

Tel: 604-291-0019


Education: BSc. Biology, (Universidad de Guayaquil, Ecuador);

Master of the Earth and Environmental Resources Management, MEERM

(School of Ocean, Earth and Environment, University of South Carolina);

Ph.D. Environmental Toxicology (School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University).

Research Interests:

Marine ecotoxicology, environmental toxicology and chemistry; food web-bioaccumulation modeling of pollutants (Bioaccumulation Science); climate change science, adaptation and mitigation; sea turtles and marine mammals’ ecotoxicology; marine ecology, conservation biology, tropical biodiversity and ecology, fishery science and management, impact of climate change in marine organisms and fisheries, population dynamics and conservation of marine mammals, biology and conservation of marine mammals, birds and sea turtles; field ornithology; aquatic microbiology; eco-toxicological risk assessment; environmental impact assessments and environmental policy, public health, tropical parasitology and environmental/conservation medicine.

Professional Credentials:

Principal Investigator UBC Ocean Pollution Research Unit | INSTITUTE FOR THE OCEANS AND FISHERIES

Nippon-Foundation Ocean Litter Project

Research Associate Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
Adjunct Professor



Science Director

School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University

Fundación Ecuatoriana para El Estudio de Mamíferos Marinos (FEMM)/Ecuadorian Foundation for the Study of Marine Mammals

Associate Editor


Editor/Guest editor

Topical Advisory Panel/ Guest editor

Frontiers in Marine Science (Marine Pollution)

Aquatic Mammals

Journal of Marine Science and Engineering

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Leading the Ocean Pollution Research Unit (OPRU) at IOF, my research focuses on the assessment of environmental pollutants and multiple-anthropogenic stressors and impacts (i.e., ocean pollution, climate change, fisheries interactions and bycatch mitigation strategies) on marine fauna and ecosystems, using marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles and other top predators as sentinels of ocean health and “the canaries in the coal mine.”  I also co-lead the Nippon Foundation-Ocean Litter Project at IOF/UBC to assess the pollution footprint and hazard risk of plastics/microplastic in the global ocean and conduct food-web bioaccumulation modelling of microplastics and pollutants in marine-coastal food webs.

I have studied several marine species, including Galapagos pinnipeds (Galapagos sea lions and fur seals), Steller sea lions, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and killer whales, as well as sea turtles and seabirds. I have also a passion for public health and investigating tropical parasites in humans and aquatic/marine organisms.

Research Philosophy. My three central philosophical principles for research, teaching and mentoring are focused on i) caring for students to strengthen their skills and motivate them to learn and pursue knowledge independently; ii) interaction and brain-storming activities in the classroom and outside of the classroom to encourage critical thinking, develop and enhance knowledge and generate their own ideas; and, iii) learning by doing through field work, lab analysis, oral presentations, small group activities, paper reading and writing, and use or application of modelling approaches. At OPRU, our research ultimately aims to pursue conservation science and solutions-oriented research to support ecotoxicological risk assessments and inform environmental and fisheries policy.

Graduate Student Opportunities: In collaboration and co-supervision with track-tenured and tenured faculty at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF), I co-supervise undergraduate and graduate students through IOF to work me at the Ocean Pollution Research Unit (OPRU). I’m generally looking for students with substantial passion and/or expertise to undertake and champion research on environmental sciences, ocean health and conservation, marine ecotoxicology/ocean pollution, and public health. I also accept and welcome marine mammal, sea turtle and seabird biologists and lovers, as well.

Relevant Publications:

Alava, J.J., Kazmiruk, T., Douglas, T., Schuerholz, G., Heah, B., Flemming, S., Bendell, L. and Drever, M. 2021. Occurrence and size distribution of microplastics in mudflat sediments of the Cowichan/Koksilah Estuary, Canada: A baseline for plastic particles contamination in an anthropogenic-influenced estuary. Marine Pollution Bulletin 173: 113033.

Avila, I.C., Trujillo, G.A., and Alava, J.J. 2021. Primeros registros de elefantes marinos en el Pacífico colombiano: ¿Elefantes marinos del sur, Mirounga leonina? (First records of Elephant Seals in the Colombian Pacific: Southern elephant seals, Mirounga leonina?). Caldasia 43(1):408–411. doi:

Alava, J.J. 2020. Modelling the bioaccumulation and biomagnification potential of microplastics in a cetacean foodweb of the Northeastern Pacific: A prospective tool to assess the risk exposure to plastic particles. Frontiers in Marine Science (Marine Pollution).7:566101. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.566101

Alava, J.J., Calle, P., Tirapé, A., Biedenbach, G., Alvarado Cadena, O., Maruya, Wenjian Lao, K., Aguirre, W., Jiménez, P.J., Dominguez, G.A., D. Bossart G.D., and Fair, P.A. 2020 Persistent organic pollutants and mercury in genetically identified inner estuary bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) residents of the Guayaquil Gulf, Ecuador: Ecotoxicological science in support of pollutant management and cetacean conservation. Frontiers in Marine Science (Marine Pollution) 7 (122):1-24 doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00122

Castro, C., Van Waerebeek, K., Cárdenas, D., Alava, J.J. 2020. Marine mammals used as bait with improvised Fish Aggregating Devices in marine waters of Ecuador, Eastern Tropical Pacific. Endangered Species Research 41:289-302.

Alava, J.J., Jiménez, P.J., Tirapé, A., Calle, P., Alvarado Cadena, O., Dominguez, G.A., D. Bossart G.D., Calle-Delgado, M., and Fair, P.A. 2019. El Canario en la mina de carbón: delfines Bufeos (Tursiops truncatus) del Golfo de Guayaquil como Centinelas de Polución marino-costera en Ecuador. Acta Oceanográfica del Pacifico 23(1):57-65.

Alava, J.J., Jiménez, P.J., Fair, P., Barrett-Lennard, L. 2019. First Record of a Live Stranded Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) in Coastal Ecuador and Insights on the Occurrence of Killer Whales in Ecuadorian Waters. Aquatic Mammals 45(1): 106-115, DOI 10.1578/AM.45.1.2019.106.

Gustavo Jiménez-Uzcátegui, G., Wiedenfeld, D., Valle, C.A., Vargas, H., Piedrahita, P., Muñoz. L.J., Alava, J.J. 2019. Threats and vision for the conservation of Galápagos birds. The Open Ornithology Journal 12:1-15 DOI: 10.2174/

Alava, J.J., Tatar, B., Barragán, M. J., Castro, C., Rosero, P., Denkinger, J., Jiménez, P.J., Carvajal, R., Samaniego, J. 2019. Mitigating Cetacean Bycatch in Coastal Ecuador: Governance Challenges for Small-scale Fisheries. Marine Policy 110: 102769 DOI 10.1016/j.marpol.2017.05.025

Alava, J.J. 2019.Ocean Pollution and Warming Oceans: Towards Ocean Solutions and Natural Marine Bioremediation. pp. 495-518. In: Predicting Future Oceans: Sustainability of Ocean and Human Systems amidst Global Environmental Change.Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M., Cheung, W.W.L. and Ota, Y., A. (Eds.).  Elsevier. Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Alava, J.J. 2019. Legacy and Emerging Pollutants in Marine Mammals’ Habitat from British Columbia: Management Perspectives for Sensitive Marine Ecosystems. pp. 87-114. In: Stewarding the Sound; the challenge of managing sensitive ecosystems. L.I. Bendell, P. Gallaugher, L. Wood and S. McKeachie (Eds.). CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Group.

Alava, J.J., Cisneros-Montemayor, A.M., Sumaila, R., Cheung, W.W.L. 2018. Projected amplification of food web bioaccumulation of MeHg and PCBs under climate change in the Northeastern Pacific. Scientific Reports 8:13460 DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-31824-5

Alava, J.J. and Ross, P. S. 2018. Pollutants in tropical marine mammals of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: An Ecotoxicological Quest to the Last Eden (Chapter 8). pp. 213-234. In: Marine Mammal Ecotoxicology: impacts of multiple stressors on population health. Fossi, C. and Panti, C. (Eds.). Elsevier/Academic Press. London, UK.

Páez-Rosas, D., Riofrío-Lazo, M., Ortega, J., Morales D., Carvajal, R., Alava, J.J. 2018. Southern elephant seal vagrants in Ecuador: a symptom of La Niña events? Marine Biodiversity Records 11: 13.

Jiménez, P.J., Alava, J.J., Castro, C., Samaniego, J. and Fair, P. 2018. Stranding of Small Cetaceans with Missing Fins Raises Concerns on Cetacean Conservation in Ecuador: Bycatch or Targeted Fisheries? International Journal of Fisheries Science and Research 2(1): 1006.

Calle, P., Monserrate, L., Medina, F., Calle Delgado, Tirapé, A., Montiel, M., Ruiz Barzola, M., Alvarado-Cadena, O., Dominguez, G.A., and Alava, J.J .2018. Mercury assessment, macrobenthos diversity and environmental quality conditions in the Salado Estuary (Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador) impacted by anthropogenic influences. Marine Pollution Bulletin 136: 365–373.

Alava, J.J. and Gantner N. 2018. Risks and radiation impacts in the B.C. coastal-marine environment following the Fukushima nuclear accident. pp. 107-116. In: Ocean Watch. K. Bodtker (Ed.). Coastal Ocean Research Institute, Ocean Wise Conservation Association-Vancouver Aquarium. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Domingo, T., Starosta, K., Chester, A., Williams, J., Lehnert, S.J., Gantner, N., Alava, J.J. 2018. Fukushima-derived radioactivity measurements in Pacific salmon and soil samples collected in British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Journal of Chemistry 96: 124–131

Edited Book: Alava, J.J. (Editor). 2017. Tropical Pinnipeds: Bio-Ecology, Threats and Conservation. CRC Press and Taylor & Francis Group. Boca Raton, FL, USA. p. 325.

Alava JJ, Paladines F. 2017. Illegal fishing on the Galapagos high seas. Science 357(6358): 1362.

Alava, J.J., Cheung, W. W.L., Ross, P. S. and Sumaila, R. U. 2017. Climate change-contaminant interactions in marine food webs: Towards a conceptual framework. Global Change Biology 23:3984 -4001. doi:10.1111/gcb.13667

Alava, J.J., Calle, N. 2017. Pipelines imperil Canada’s ecosystem. Science 6321(355):140-141.

Alava, J.J., Ross, P.S., Gobas, A.P.C. 2016. Food web bioaccumulation model for resident killer whales from the Northeastern Pacific Ocean as a tool for the derivation of PBDE-Sediment Quality Guidelines. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 70(1): 155-168 DOI: 10.1007/s00244-015-0215-y

Jiménez, P.J., Alava, J.J., 2015. Strand-feeding by coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 10(1): 33-37.

Alava, J.J., Palomera, C., Bendell, L., Ross, S.P. 2014. Pollution as a threat for the conservation of the Galapagos Marine Reserve: Environmental Impacts and Management Perspectives. pp. 247-283. In Vinueza, L. & Denkinger, J. (Eds.). The Galapagos Marine Reserve: A dynamic socio-ecological system.©Springer Science and Business Media, New York.

Hickie, B.E., Cadieux, M., Riehl, K., Bossart, G.D., Alava, J.J., Fair, P.A. 2013. Modeling PCB-Bioaccumulation in the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus): Estimating a Dietary Threshold Concentration. Environmental Science and Technology 47: 12314-12324.

Alava, JJ.and Gobas, F.A.P.C. 2012. Assessing Biomagnification and Trophic Transport of Persistent Organic Pollutants in the food chain of the Galapagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki): Conservation and Management Implications. pp. 77-108 In:  Romero, A. and Keith, E. O. (Eds.), New Approaches to the Study of Marine Mammals. ISBN 979-953-307-948-5, InTech, Available from:

Alava, J.J., Ross, P.S., Lachmuth, C.L., Ford, J.K.B., Hickie, B.E., Gobas, F.A.P.C. 2012. Habitat-based PCB Environmental Quality Criteria for the Protection of Endangered Killer Whales (Orcinus orca). Environmental Science and Technology 46: 12655−12663.

Alava, J.J. 2012. Cetaceans: Monitor sea pollution to stop strandings. Nature 486:323.

Páez-Rosas, D., David Aurioles-Gamboa, D., Alava, J.J., Palacios, D.M. 2012. Stable isotopes indicate differing foraging strategies in two sympatric otariids of the Galapagos Islands. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 424-425:44-52.

Alava, J.J., Lambourn, D., Olesiuk, P., Lance, M., Jeffries,S., Gobas, F.A.P.C., Ross, P. S. 2012. PBDE flame retardants and PCBs in migrating Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada. Chemosphere. 88:855-864.

Alava, J.J., Barragan, M.J., Denkinger, J. 2012. Assessing the impact of bycatch on Ecuadorian humpback whale breeding stock: a Review with Management Recommendations. Ocean and Coastal Management 57: 34-43

Alava, J.J., Keller, J.M., Wyneken, J., Crowder, L., Scott, G.I. Kucklick, J.R. 2011. Geographical variation of Persistent Organic Pollutants in eggs of threatened loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) from Southeastern USA. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30: 1677-1688.

Alava, J.J.; Ross, P. S.; Ikonomou, M. G., Cruz, M., Jimenez-Uzcategui, G., Salazar, S., Costa, D. P., Villegas-Amtmann, S., Howorth, P., Gobas, F.A.P.C. 2011. DDT in endangered Galapagos Sea Lions (Zalophus wollebaeki). Marine Pollution Bulletin 62: 660-671

Alava, J.J.; Salazar, S., Cruz, M., Jimenez-Uzcategui, G., Villegas-Amtmann, S., Paez-Rosas, D., Costa, D. P., Ross, P. S.; Ikonomou, M. G., Gobas, F.A.P.C. 2011. DDT Strikes Back: Galapagos Sea Lions Face Increasing Health Risks. Ambio 40:425-430

Alava, J.J.; Ikonomou, M. G., Ross, P. S.; Costa, D. P., Salazar, S., Aurioles-Gamboa, D., Gobas, F.A.P.C. 2009. Polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in Galapagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki). Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 28 (11): 2271-2282.

Alava, J.J., Keller, J.M., Kucklick, J.R., Wyneken, J., Crowder, L., Scott, G.I. 2006. Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) egg yolk concentrations of persistent organic pollutants and lipid increase during the last stage of embryonic development. Science of the Total Environment 367:170–181.

Alava, J.J. and Carvajal, R. 2005. First records of elephant seals on the Guayaquil Gulf, Ecuador: On the occurrence of either a Mirounga leonina or M. angustirostris. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Mammals 4(2):195–198

Alava J.J., M.J. Barragan, C. Castro and R. Carvajal. 2005. A note on strandings and entanglements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Ecuador. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 7(2):163–168.