People Profiles

Oliver Love, PhD, Biological Sciences

November 06, 2015

According to National Geographic, climate models predict that the Arctic’s permafrost could be almost entirely melted by the end of the century. However, predicting the future of the wildlife that depends on it is a little trickier. Luckily, Dr. Oliver Love is on it.

Love is an associate professor and a Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology at the University of Windsor’s Department of Biological Sciences. He completed his PhD in biological sciences at SFU in 2007 with Dr. Tony Williams.

Love’s research examines the role of environmental stressors in shaping population health in our Northern-most climate.

“The Arctic is changing faster than any ecosystem on the planet. The species we study face a warming world that they must adjust to rapidly to ensure successful breeding. For example, from 2006–2008 the Avian Cholera was introduced to the region for the first time ever and wiped out 60% of one of the largest seaduck breeding populations. The question we explore is why some individuals survived but not others?” says Love.

Love’s lab is one of the only labs in Canada that is working to answer this question by linking the physiological state, geographical movement, breeding success and survival of multiple Arctic-breeding bird species. Through combining the spatial tracking and the physiological resilience of individual animals, Love explains, his team can make predictions about the entire population’s ability to respond to a changing environment.

“If we can understand how and why different individuals vary in response to multiple environmental stressors, we can predict which populations are likely to persist into the future. This information is vital to help conservation biologists and government scientists in determining the relative fate of populations and how species will be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years,” he says.

Love explains that this innovative and highly collaborative approach to researching the present and the future was strongly influenced by his SFU past.

“Much of the tools that I am applying and the theory that we place these responses within to understand what is happening in the Arctic were ones that I learned from my supervisor, Tony Williams,” he says.  

Author: Jackie Amsden

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