Brian Hunt – Associate Professor 

Born and raised in Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, I was torn between a love for the mountains and all things aquatic before an opportunity to participate in an Antarctic voyage opened my eyes to pelagic ecosystems. So began a life in ocean science that has taken me across the Southern Ocean, tropical South Pacific, Mediterranean, North Pacific and Arctic, and brought an incredible richness in experiences, colleagues met and friends made, and infinite ongoing learning. Today, as an ecosystem oceanographer and together with the wonderful members of the Pelagic Ecosystems Lab, I research the structure and function of pelagic marine ecosystems, and their connectivity to adjacent ocean, land and climatic systems. Much of our research is conducted through the lens of marine food webs, paying close attention to unravelling the complex connections between lower trophic levels, emergent properties of food web nutrition, and connecting across the length of the food chain from viruses to killer whales. Through developing an understanding of how food webs work, including both their internal and external connectivity, we aim to advance a mechanistic understanding of ecosystem response to climate change and other anthropogenic impacts, and a framework for ocean solutions.




Deniz Coskuner – MSc candidate (2024-)


Hello, my name is Deniz and I am a MSc student in Oceans and Fisheries. I am interested in short and long term trends in zooplankton assemblage dynamics, particularity in areas of importance for juvenile salmon. I originally come from Ankara, Turkey, but I grew up in Calgary and now live in Vancouver. I have been privileged enough to spend my summers growing up on the Mediterranean and Aegean sea coasts. Spending endless hours in the sea with goggles on as a kid made me fall in love with these amazing ecosystems. Fun fact, my name, Deniz, directly translates to “Sea” in Turkish!”






Sama Patnaik – Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award (2023-)


My name is Sama and I am a 3rd year B.Sc. student studying the Combined Major in Science with Mathematics, Physics and Earth Ocean Sciences as my disciplines. I joined the Pelagic Ecosystems lab as a Data Scientist because it gave me the opportunity to meet fantastic new people alongside further exploring my interests in both the Ocean and Data.”








Anna McLaskey – Research Associate; BCSRIF Grant awardee (2023-)

I am a zooplankton ecologist and biological oceanographer who researches the lower trophic levels of marine food webs—from phytoplankton, through zooplankton, to fish. Much of my work focuses on how nutritional quality is influenced by food web structure, and how that can impact higher trophic levels. A new focus of my research is thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency complex in BC salmon and the potential food web drivers of low thiamine. I grew up on San Juan Island, WA and joined the Pelagic Ecosystems Lab in 2019, after completing my PhD at the University of Washington. My communities and passions have always centered around the ocean, and I love working with our students on a wide variety of marine questions.







Natasha Buckiwicz – PhD student, UBC 4 Year Fellowship (2023-)

Although I grew up in the landlocked city of Mississauga, Ontario, my summers spent in my maternal homeland of the Açores archipelago were the spark that developed my fascination with the ocean. After completing my B.Sc. in general Biology and Chemistry, I made the jump across the Atlantic Ocean to complete my M.Sc. in Marine Biological Resources at Ghent University. This mobility program broadened my understanding of global issues facing marine life with learning opportunities in Italy, Sweden, France, and international campaigns on the shores of Senegal and the Mozambique Channel. My master’s thesis focused on characterizing the distribution of phytoplankton fatty acids in the south Senegalese upwelling center to support baseline measurements needed for managing declining fish populations. My interest in phytoplankton and experience with algal lipids brought me to the Ph.D. program at UBC Vancouver with the Pelagic Ecosystems Lab. My Ph.D. research focuses on understanding the effects of urbanization on phytoplankton dynamics in the Salish Sea. Using fatty acid and stable isotope analyses, my aim is to answer the question of how urban inputs are changing phytoplankton communities, and what that means for the transfer of energy to higher trophic levels and the overall functioning of these coastal ecosystems. When I’m not in the lab I enjoy rollerblading, hiking with friends, and meeting new people from around the world.



Grace Melchers – MSc candidate; NSERC Graduate Fellowship (2023-)


Hi! I am an MSc student in Oceans and Fisheries with an enthusiastic interest in kelp ecosystems and their role in providing habitat. My research focuses on employing environmental DNA techniques to compare biodiversity, food webs and juvenile salmon use within a variety of different kelp ecosystems along the coast of British Columbia including kelp farms and urban kelp forests.

I spent my childhood in the streams and lakes of oceanless Ontario, collecting whatever aquatic life I could find to bring into my elementary classrooms, much to my teachers’ dismay. While I was drawn to the Pacific Northwest for it’s mountains and UBC Forestry’s Natural Resources Conservation BSc program, it’s the ocean that has convinced me to stay. Before returning to UBC to pursue my Master’s, I worked for The Kelp Rescue Initiative on kelp culturing and restoration in the remote coastal town of Bamfield, furthering my admiration for the Pacific Ocean.





Loïc Jacquemot – Post Doctoral Researcher; Fisheries and Oceans Canada Marine Planning and Conservation Fund (2023-) 

I am a biological oceanographer and my main research investigates how marine organisms adapt to a changing environment. I use recent molecular biology technologies (DNA/RNA metabarcoding, omics) coupled with bioinformatics analyses to study the diversity and distribution of marine communities and how they interact in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Although I grew up far from the coast, I have always been fascinated by the sea and the marine life. After completing a Master degree at Aix-Marseille University, I decided to move to Canada to complete a Phd in Oceanography at Laval University (Quebec). During my Phd, I studied the influence of freshwater on microbial communities in the Hudson Bay (Canadian Arctic). Now working as a postdoc at UBC, my current project investigate how eDNA can be used to characterize biodiversity in BC fjords and explore the role of these fjords as critical habitat and refugia for fish and invertebrate species. I am particularly interested on how this technology can be applied to help and guide marine conservation planning and strategies.

Email: l.jacquemot(at); Twitter : @JacquemotLoic; ResearchGate:


Christie Aoki – Work Learn International Undergraduate Research Award (2023-)

Hi! I’m Christie and I’m a third-year B.Sc. student in Biology. Having been born and raised in Brazil, I have always been interested in ocean ecosystems, but haven’t had the opportunity to explore that field until now. Throughout my undergrad, however, I have grown a love for marine ecology and I’m intrigued to learn more about human impacts on pelagic ecosystems in the Vancouver area. Overall, I’m excited to explore further into this topic and deepen my passion for the field!






Dilan Sunthareswaran – MSc candidate (2022-) 

Hello everyone! My name is Dilan and I am an MSc student in Biology and Oceanography. I developed a passion for ocean life very early in my life, watching Blue Planet documentaries with my mother all night (and I still do whenever I get the time!). I am starting my MSc degree after completing my Honours Thesis project with Dr. Hunt’s lab. That project focused on fatty acid analysis of micronekton species across various BC locations, with the goal to understand regional and community differences in food web nutrition.








Sadie Lye – MSc candidate (2022-)


I am a Master’s Student with the Institute for Oceans and Fisheries. I am interested in studying land to sea connections especially within urban marine ecosystems. In addition, I am curious about anthropogenic effects on the nearshore environment and the species that call them home such as herring. Originally from New York City, I spent my summers on Orcas Island, WA falling in love with the Pacific Northwest, beach walks, and the big trees. I moved to the PNW as soon as I could and I completed my undergrad at the University of British Columbia in Environmental Sciences. I joined the PEL as a Co-op student and became interested utilizing stable isotopes to answer ecological questions. During my thesis work, I plan on applying these techniques in an urban context.






Emily Brown – MSc candidate; NSERC Graduate Fellowship (2022-)

I am a MSc. student in Oceanography interested in land-sea connections. For my thesis, I will be studying the impacts of wildfires on coastal ocean biogeochemistry. I will be using the Fraser River as a model system to identify impacts of runoff from burned forest areas on our coastal oceans.

I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spent my Summers in Mashpee, Massachusetts, which is where my fascination with the ocean began. Many of my childhood memories are ocean-related, from digging quahogs to eat for dinner, to watching ospreys hunt for fish in the river outside my house. I graduated with my BSc. in Biology at McGill University in 2021, and during this time I did a lot of work with the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which got me hooked on studying coastal systems! For a bit over the past year, I have been working as the head grower at a vertical farm in Montreal (a departure from my research interests, but very interesting nonetheless!).






Andreas Novotny – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative & Mitacs scholar (2022-)

As a marine molecular ecologist, I am fascinated by the complex ecosystems hidden under the sea surface, especially tiny organisms that make up the base of the marine food web. Recent advances in molecular biology and computational science have given ecologists a new toolbox to study ecosystems with higher magnification than ever before. In my research, I want to explore how we can best utilize these new tools to understand better how ecosystems work and how human activities interact with vital ecological processes. I got my Ph.D. from Stockholm University in Sweden, where I used DNA metabarcoding to study the diet of a variety of zooplankton and fish species in the Baltic Sea. When combining the dietary data with time series of zooplankton and phytoplankton, we were able to identify the main sources of primary production in the Baltic Sea food web.

Here at UBC, I will work with the Marine Food Webs Working Group of the Hakai Coastal Initiative to develop the molecular methods used to study zooplankton diversity of the coastal North Pacific. I will collaborate with the genomics laboratory at Quadra Island to ensure that key players in the pelagic community become represented in our genetic databases. I will then utilize these databases to study population dynamics of the diverse plankton communities in the Strait of Georgia. Hopefully, this will lead to a better understanding of how the base of the marine food web responds to changes in the coastal environment.

Researchgate profile:



Jessica Schaub – PhD student; Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (2022-)

I am a biological oceanographer with a special interest in jellyfish. I am currently working to define the role of jellyfish as keystone species in marine ecosystems and I hope to improve the resolution of jellyfish in whole-ecosystem models.

I also completed my MSc with the Pelagic Ecosystems Lab, where I used feeding experiments to determine how biomarkers are incorporated by jellyfish. Then I applied these calibrations to wild moon jellyfish in BC to describe changes in feeding and nutritional quality of moon jellyfish with size. I was also fortunate to research jellyfish during my undergraduate honors thesis, where I developed a novel method for measuring jellyfish aggregations using drones. Despite growing up in rural, northern Alberta, I have always been infatuated with the ocean and I am lucky to call Vancouver my home!

Researchgate profile:

Email: j.schaub(at)



Julia Fast – MSc candidate; NSERC Graduate Fellowship & Mitacs  Scholar (2021-)

I am an M.Sc. student in the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries with an interest in climate change impacts on marine ecosystems. I am currently working on identifying spatial variations in foraging conditions for zooplanktivorous fish along the BC coast and assessing how these foraging conditions have changed over the past thirty years as a result of changing ocean conditions. I will be using zooplankton abundance and biomass data from the Institute of Ocean Science (Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada), as well as fatty acid and elemental composition data collected by the Pelagic Ecosystems Lab.

I am originally from Toronto, ON, but moved to Halifax, NS in 2016 to complete my B.Sc at Dalhousie University. While on the east coast, I developed a love of the ocean and an interest in marine ecosystem dynamics. I am excited to develop a better understanding of BC coastal ecosystems.




Max Miner – MSc candidate; Mitacs Scholar (2021-)


I am an M.Sc. student interested in the impacts of anthropogenic change on coastal marine ecosystems. My work at IOF uses environmental DNA (eDNA) and ancient DNA (aDNA) methodologies to examine harmful algal bloom dynamics along the Pacific Northwest coast. For my thesis, I will be using DNA extracted from nearshore marine sediment core samples to reconstruct past HAB events at a clam garden site in the traditional territory of the Gitga’at Nation.

My love of learning and sense of wonder at the natural world drive my research; sharing that sense of wonder with others gives me purpose. I completed my B.S. in Environmental Sciences in 2016 at Western Washington University. After graduating, I worked as an instructor and, later, an administrator at an environmental education center on the San Juan Islands. Prior to joining IOF, I worked most recently as the Coastal Science Intern for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, where I conducted research on the environmental drivers of nearshore planktonic community dynamics in the Salish Sea. Additional research interests include marine ecology, archaeology and anthropogenic change.






Genyffer Troina – Post Doctoral Researcher; International Year of the Salmon – BCSRIF Scholarship (2021-)

I am a biologist with a joint Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (Brazil) and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium). My main research interests are predators’ trophic ecology and habitat use, food web dynamics and human-induced changes in marine ecosystems. Since my masters I have been applying natural chemical tracers, such as carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes, to investigate cetaceans’ feeding habits, trophic interactions and foraging areas. In my postdoc, I will be investigating the feeding ecology and trophic interactions of oceanic North Pacific salmon and the pelagic food web that sustain these species using stable isotopes and fatty acids.







Patrick Pata – PhD Candidate; NSERC PhD Scholarship (2019-)

I am an oceanographer interested in biophysical interactions and how large ecological and oceanographic datasets can be integrated to create tools that would aid in the management of marine ecosystems. I mainly use quantitative analysis, ecological modelling, GIS, and remote sensing. For my PhD, I will work on the zooplankton and oceanography archives of British Columbia towards understanding the drivers of zooplankton community dynamics and creating a bioregionalization of the BC coast.

I obtained my MS in Marine Science from the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute. For my MS, I investigated the connectivity patterns of the North Indo-West Pacific coral reefs with the aim of identifying potentially important areas for management based on larval connectivity. I was previously part of a project that developed a spatially-explicit fisheries model which integrates habitat quality, larval connectivity, population dynamics, and fishing activity to explore alternative marine reserve network designs. I also worked on the sardine fisheries of the southern Philippines in which I programmed an individual-based sardine ecosystem model to help inform the scheduling of the seasonal closure of the fisheries.


Jacob Lerner – PhD Candidate; UBC Four Year Fellowship (2019-)

I am a marine scientist with an interest in trophic ecology, biochemical tracers, and the impacts of climate change on marine food webs. I came to UBC to pursue a Ph.D. researching Chinook salmon ecology off the BC Coast by utilizing fatty acid as well as bulk/compound specific stable isotope analysis. I aim to investigate Chinook trophic ecology and habitat-use and to connect these analyses with regional food web dynamics. I am also interested in using these tools to examine the quality of Chinook salmon as prey for threatened resident killer whale populations.

Originally from Connecticut, I completed my M.Sc. at the University of New England, researching the use of stable isotopes to infer the diets of grey seals in the Northwest Atlantic. I have always had a passion for marine life, and while working at a lab at McGill University I became interested in fisheries research the natural way: by catching and then dissecting hundreds of fish. I have been hooked on that feeling ever since.

Email: j.lerner(at); Researchgate profile:





Jacqueline Maud – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative & Mitacs scholar (2018-)

I am a plankton ecologist with interests in zooplankton population dynamics, feeding ecology, sources of mortality and the effect of climate change on zooplankton distributions and ecology.  I completed my PhD on the population dynamics and importance of mortality in the key marine copepod Calanus helgolandicus at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) in the UK. I interrogated the station L4 marine time-series (now spanning 30 years) from the western English Channel to investigate seasonal and temporal variability and to understand the balance between births and deaths. I focused on the importance of different sources of mortality, including non-predator (using vital stains to distinguish between live and dead copepods) and predator (via molecular gut content analysis to determine gelatinous zooplankton predators of C. helgolandicus). My postdoctoral research will build on these molecular biology techniques (metabarcoding, Next Generation Sequencing, high-throughput sequencing) to develop and implement DNA-based approaches to understand the zooplankton feeding ecology of British Columbia coastal waters – basically to understand what eats what!

Twitter: @DrJackieMaud; Researchgate profile





Emma Lam – Co-Op Student (2023)







Lauren Portner – Research Technician / Assistant (2018-2023)






Eloise Savineau – Visting PhD student (Fall 2023)


Avijot Grewal – BSc, Directed Studies Student (2023)







May Fujiwara-Forster – CO-Op Student (2023)







Alicia Anderson – MSc candidate; Mitacs-Tula scholar (2020-23)



Kyra St Pierre – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative and Banting Fellowship (2019-2023)











Shuyi Fang – Undergraduate (2022-2023)










Anita Rodrigues – BSc, Directed Studies (2022-23)







Christian Marchese – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative (2020-)








Natalie Benoit – MSc candidate; Mitacs-Tula scholar (2020-2022)


Thomas Smith – MSc candidate (2018-2022)







Caterina R. Giner – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative (2018-2021)








Andrea Frommel – Post Doctoral Researcher; MITACS-Tula Foundation scholar (2020-2021); 









Jessica Garzke – Post Doctoral Researcher; Mitacs-Tula scholar (2017-2021)











Andrew Margolin – Post Doctoral Researcher; MITACS-Tula Foundation scholar (2019-2021)









Vanessa Zahner – MSc graduate; Aboriginal Graduate Fellowship Awardee (2017-2021)


Thesis: “Strategies for coexisting : juvenile pink and chum salmon diets and interactions in a challenging section of coastal migration.”

Download thesis here




Caroline Graham – MSc graduate; Monell & Vetlesen Foundation (2018-2020); 


Thesis: “A compilation and meta-analysis of salmon diet data from the North Pacific Ocean” Download thesis here





Natalie Mahara – MSc graduate; NSERC & Mitacs-Tula scholar 


Thesis: ”  Zooplankton community composition across a range of productivity regimes in coastal British Columbia.” Download thesis here









David Costalago – MITACS-Pacific Salmon Foundation scholar (2018- 2020); Current position – Fisheries Analyst (OceanMind)











Wade Smith –  Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative (2016-2019);  Current position – Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, Science Division











Fernanda Colo Giannini – Post Doctoral Researcher; Hakai Coastal Initiative (2017-2019); Current Position – Professor, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande, Brasil











Boris Espinasse – Monell & Vetlesen Post Doctoral Researcher (2016-2019)











Hayley Dosser – Post Doctoral Researcher (2017-2018)









Samantha James – MSc graduate; NSERC & Mitacs-Tula scholar  (2016-2019); 

Thesis: Foraging ecology of juvenile Fraser River sockeye salmon across mixed and stratified regions of the early marine migration. Download thesis Here. Thesis Data package.