Acadia University's newest Canada Research Chair, Dr. Michael Stokesbury, has an issue with the adage "there are plenty of fish in the sea." He cites some unsettling studies and statistics - that the biomass of large predatory fish has been reduced by 90 per cent since the birth of industrial fishing methods, and that approximately 70 per cent of the world's fish species are considered to be fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion.
"We desperately need to determine the changes in fish survival and fish behaviour caused by commercial and recreational fishing and by implementing coastal engineering projects, like tidal energy turbines," Dr. Stokesbury says. "We want this research to contribute to the sustainability of fisheries and to determining costs and benefits of coastal sources of renewable energy."
Dr. Stokesbury joined Acadia in July as Chair in Ecology of Coastal Environments. His award is valued at $500,000. At Acadia, he will be identifying ways to lessen the negative impacts of coastal disturbances on important fish populations. His appointment was officially announced today, November 24, by the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, as part of a $275.6 million investment to fund 310 new or renewed Canada Research Chairs at 53 Canadian universities. The investment also includes $13.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for research infrastructure associated with the new Chair awards.
"The Harper Government is continuing its longstanding commitment to invest in science and technology to create jobs, strengthen the economy and improve the quality of life of Canadians," said Minister Clement. "For the past 10 years, the Canada Research Chairs Program has brought breakthroughs in clean energy, the control of infectious disease, business management, and digital technologies. This funding will help strengthen Canada's capacity for leading-edge research while, at the same time, building economic opportunities for Canadians."
Dr. Tom Herman, Acadia's Vice-President, Academic, welcomed the addition to Acadia's Canada Research Chair team. "Dr. Stokesbury's expertise and interests will strengthen our capacity to address one of the most pressing issues of our time - the need to re-define our fundamental relationship with the planet's biodiversity," says Dr. Herman. "His knowledge and extensive network will provide a wealth of research opportunities for our students, who have always played a pivotal role in Acadia's research strategy and record."
Dr. Stokesbury is excited to be back at Acadia, and making an impact - locally, regionally, and globally.
"The Biology Department at Acadia has traditionally been incredibly strong and has always produced high quality graduates that are now working on important applied questions in industry, government, and academia," says Dr. Stokesbury. "For me to be able to work with Acadia researchers to answer important questions while helping to train the next generation of biological scientists is truly a unique opportunity."
Dr. Stokesbury's appointment at Acadia has brought him full circle. Growing up just outside Wolfville, his passion for fish conservation was ignited during his undergraduate study at Acadia, where he assisted his brother Kevin Stokesbury, now Chair of Fisheries Oceanography at the University of Massachusetts, and Dr. Michael Dadswell in determining the impacts of the Annapolis Royal hydro power turbine on anadromous fish populations in the Annapolis River.
This experience started him on the path to a marine biology career. Along the way, he earned additional degrees from Acadia, University of New Brunswick, and Dalhousie, and has worked on an impressive range of projects. He has examined the natural history of large arctic sharks, and the survival and migration of Atlantic salmon populations in the Bay of Fundy. He has a particular interest in Atlantic bluefin tuna - a highly valuable commercial species that was recently evaluated for protection. His work with this species has helped define the stock structure of bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic Ocean, and continues to contribute to better international fisheries management and conservation strategies for the species.
Most recently, Dr. Stokesbury helped form the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN). Created with support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($35 million) and the National Science and Engineering Research council ($10 million), the OTN is a global network of animal trackers and oceanographers based at Dalhousie University, who are following the movements and migrations of hundreds of animal species around the world. As the Director of Research for the OTN, Dr. Stokesbury has overseen collaborations with more than 50 researchers in over 18 countries. He's been at the forefront of the use of innovative technologies in the remote monitoring of fish, and has extensive experience with electronic tags.
Dr. Stokesbury's work at Acadia will complement research already underway at the University, as he is currently collaborating broadly with many partners including the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research, the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Carleton University, Stanford University, the University of Tasmania, Vemco Inc. and the Prince Edward Island Tuna Fisherman's Association.
The chair holders included in the government's announcement will conduct research across a range of important fields, including in water security, molecular neuroscience and globalization. The results of their research will hold the potential to benefit all sectors of Canadian society.
A full list of the chair holders is available on the Canada Research Chairs website.