Danielle Denley

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Danielle is passionate about marine conservation that incorporates spatial and temporal variability to implement dynamic management practices at appropriate ecological scales within larger scale management boundaries. As a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Anne Salomon’s Coastal Marine Ecology and Conservation Lab, she is working in collaboration with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance (CCIRA), with funding from the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, to determine whether adaptive management of traditional community-based kelp harvest and related fisheries practiced by BC’s coastal First Nations can minimize indirect effects of climate change on kelp forest ecosystems.

What inspired your current research topic?
This collaborative research project was motivated by observations made by First Nations Coastal Guardian Watchmen in the summer of 2015 during what would later become known as the “warm blob”, an unprecedented marine heat wave in the northeast Pacific Ocean. The Guardians observed an expansive outbreak of an encrusting animal that grows on kelp, called a bryozoan, with giant kelps becoming so heavily covered in the bryozoan that they sank to the seafloor and died. This concerned First Nations communities on BC’s Central Coast, who rely heavily on these kelp forest ecosystems for commercial, as well as, food, social and ceremonial purposes. In collaboration with CCIRA, Danielle is examining the effect of increasing ocean temperature on interactions between this epiphytic bryozoan and its kelp host with the goal of co-developing adaptive management strategies to minimize the negative impact of temperature-induced bryozoan outbreaks.

Why do you think this topic is important?
Climate change is threatening food security for coastal nations world-wide, requiring solutions to maintain access to traditional foods and other marine resources. This project is important because it directly targets a specific climate change related risk, temperature-induced bryozoan outbreaks and their negative impact on kelp forests, identified by BC’s Central Coast First Nations. Fortunately, the ecosystem- and community-based approach to marine stewardship practiced by the coastal First Nations facilitates an iterative process of continued monitoring and adaptive management in response to local environmental variability, such as episodic bryozoan outbreaks. This provides an exciting opportunity for local-scale adaptive management to enhance coastal resilience and sustain access to critical marine resources. This is particularly relevant on the coast of BC, where ocean warming events like the “warm blob” of 2015 are becoming more difficult to predict in the face of global climate change.

How will the MEOPAR Postdoctoral Fellowship Award help you achieve your research goals?
Danielle is grateful to have received a MEOPAR Postdoctoral Fellowship Award because it will help her achieve her goal of facilitating collaborative community driven research that can directly inform local to regional scale ecosystem-based management by increasing opportunities for knowledge exchange and capacity building with research partners, resource users and local experts within the communities. MEOPAR funds will be used to support travel costs to remote First Nations communities to co-conduct field work and Traditional Knowledge interviews and to disseminate research results through community presentations. Alternatively, in this new age of remote research due to COVID-19, funds will be allocated towards innovative research techniques such as online survey tools that allow interview data to be collected remotely and mobile data collection applications that will facilitate and support First Nation Coastal Guardian Watchmen in surveying kelp and bryozoans in the field.