Oceans Initiative is a team of scientists on a mission to protect marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks, salmon & seabirds, in Canada and beyond. Like the whales we study, we are highly migratory. We spend half our time getting our feet wet in the field, wherever our work is needed, but the other half is spent using our science to inform smart decisions to conserve wildlife. Oceans Initiative was co-founded by Erin Ashe and Rob Williams.
I’m the kind of scientist who asks and answers conservation and research questions that are not being asked, that advance our knowledge about the natural world, and that identify strategies for protecting it. I study wide-ranging, wild animals, usually on a small budget and in a small boat, but I solve these challenges by following the “Pony Club way” to marine conservation. I’ve had the great fortune of working on various whale and dolphin studies in Patagonia, Antarctica, Hawaii and in the basement of the National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle. Each one taught me something new. In 2007, I completed my masters degree at the University of St Andrews. But my interest in these animals was triggered many years ago. When I was four, my aunt used to wake me up in the middle of the night to stand on her balcony and listen to the sound of killer whales (orcas) breathing and splashing in the waters below her home on San Juan Island. I love that I published my first paper on the killer whales in my aunt’s front yard. Now I’m a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews (Scotland). My current work is primarily focused on assessing the population health of Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Pacific Northwest, through photographs (more on this here). I can’t imagine running out of questions to ask about these fascinating dolphins.
I’m a marine conservation biologist. Some happy accidents led me to studying whales in 1995, and although my work occasionally veers toward salmon, sharks or sunfish, most of my research involves whales and whale conservation. Marine conservation biology allows me to marry creative science to a good cause. It combines my love of travel, science and math, and the ocean and the animals that live in it. I like identifying gaps that affect our ability to protect marine wildlife, and developing pragmatic ways to fill in those gaps cheaply and well. I enjoy building connections between ideas and people. A lot of my time is spent sharing findings in the scientific literature. My work is finding a niche: I serve on the editorial boards of three well-respected scientific journals (Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment, Journal of Zoology, and Animal Conservation); have been a member of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission since 2000; was the Canada-US Fulbright Chair at the University of Washington (Seattle, 2009-10); and am currently a Marie Curie Research Fellow (University of St Andrews, Scotland, 2010-2012). Erin and I have fun doing what we do for a living, and we love the fact that our dog, Wishart, is part of our research team.