"I see my postdoctoral position as an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the conservation of Canada's marine ecosystems."

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Postdoctoral Profile: Kieran Cox

Department of Biological Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Science

March 19, 2021
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I grew up in the interior of British Columbia. A childhood spent swimming in Okanagan lake and later beginning my SCUBA career while travelling through Cambodia fostered my connection to aquatic ecosystems. Following this passion led me to pursue a BSc and later a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Victoria, the latter of which I will defend in the summer of 2021 prior to starting at Simon Fraser University.

Conducted in collaboration with the Hakai Institute, under the supervision of Dr. Francis Juanes and Dr. Sarah Dudas, my dissertation research focuses on identifying how intertidal resource use over millennia has shaped coastal habitats and the marine species that reside within them. Specifically, I investigate how First Nation’s clam gardens and contemporary shellfish farms influence biological communities throughout the northeast Pacific. Pursuing this thesis topic has made me acutely aware that a social-ecological lens is vital for effective marine conservation, which I am excited to carry forward into my postdoctoral research.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I chose Simon Fraser University to work with Dr. Isabelle Côté. As a faculty member within the Biological Sciences department’s Earth to Ocean Group, Dr. Côté has established a research program vital to redefining our understanding of ecosystem resilience and mitigating ecological threats through the application of field-intensive studies, modelling, and examinations of ecological theory. This innovative and collaborative research setting will be the ideal environment to conduct my postdoctoral research.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

Since the First Industrial Revolution, anthropogenic noise has transformed aquatic soundscapes. Modifications to the prevailing acoustic conditions have centered on nearshore marine ecosystems due to the global population’s proximity to coastlines, extensive foreshore developments, and maritime vessels. Consequently, the intensity of ocean noise has doubled every decade since the 1950s. Despite the bombardment of marine noise pollution, and projected increases in sonar activity, ocean traffic, and marine resource extraction, little is known about the ecological effects of noise pollution on fish and invertebrate communities. Therefore, we are unaware of how to mitigate species exposure to noise pollution effectively. This uncertainty represents an emerging challenge facing 21st-century conservationists.

My postdoctoral research will apply a three-tiered approach to integrating bioacoustics into the conservation of marine ecosystems. The three-tiers of this project will be species-habitat interactions, spatial planning, and policy. The proposed project will focus on the marine fish and invertebrate communities of the Northeast Pacific, and expand upon the contributions to marine conservation made by myself, the postdoctoral supervisor Dr. Isabelle Côté, and the academic collaborators Dr. Natalie Ban, Dr. Aaron Rice, Dr. Francis Juanes, and Dr. Christine Erbe. We will collectively address the concerns shared by our collaborating conservation practitioners Hussein Alidina of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, Dr. Margot Hessing-Lewis of the Hakai Institute, and Dr. Dana Haggarty and Dr. Sarah Dudas of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Together we will identify the ecological implications of anthropogenically modified marine soundscapes and construct an evidence-based framework for mitigating the impacts of this pollutant.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I'm particularly excited to join the Earth to Ocean (E2O) Group. As one of Canada's foremost research collectives, E2O provides a collaborative working environment, encourages interdisciplinary approaches, and fosters cooperative partnerships. I am thrilled to join this collective and contribute to its objectives.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I have received a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellowship and NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship to support my research at Simon Fraser University. The generous support provided by these fellowship programs will allow me to focus solely on my research. Furthermore, the Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellowship program provides fellows with the support, mentorship, and training needed to facilitate applied conservation research that links institutions, researchers, and conservation practitioners.

My ongoing doctoral research has involved multiple partnerships, awards, and fellowships. Specifically, my research has been supported by the Hakai Institute, the NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship Doctoral program, the Montalbano Scholars Fellowship, the Smithsonian Link Fellowship, and the PADI Foundation. This support has been fundamental to my success as a graduate student and allowed me to pursue a diverse array of research topics.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM/POSTDOC POSITION TO SOMEONE STILL SEARCHING FOR A PROGRAM OR POSTDOC POSITION?

I see my postdoctoral position as an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the conservation of Canada's marine ecosystems. This opportunity's uniqueness and value are incredible, and I consider myself very fortunate to be in this position.

Contact Kieran: kierancx@gmail.com

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