Boris Worm, professor

A day in the life

Boris Worm, professor

biology_boris_worm_profile_10959-P-025165 (2) (214x214)

The Biology Department has very good marine researchers. That excellence combined with collaboration makes it a great place to be—people are very supportive.

Concerned with ocean conservation

“I’ve always had an intense curiosity about the natural world, and in exploration,” says Boris Worm, professor in the Biology Department. “It began at an early age—‘water’ was my first word,” he smiles. “In my teens, I became aware of conservation issues. Because of my intense love for nature, finding out how compromised it was didn’t sit well with me.”

That curiosity and drive to find solutions has propelled Dr. Worm to pursue research on species diversity, both while doing his PhD at the University of Kiel, Germany, and now, as a Dal professor. “My current research involves understanding how ocean ecosystems work, with respect to changes in biodiversity and how people affect it.”

One of the main rewards of being a biologist is “doing something worthwhile,” Dr. Worm says. “The ocean is still unknown, and we need more information to navigate those waters, quite literally.” When he adds, “The timing is rather urgent—I feel as though we’re on a breaking wave,” it’s hard not to think of his recent prediction that the world’s fish stocks could be depleted within 50 years.

“In Canada specifically, oceans are low on the political agenda,” Dr. Worm frowns. “Canada is an ocean super power—it has the longest coastline in world and an enormous ocean territory, which is a huge benefit economically. But most policy makers aren’t aware of this, or,” he concedes, “choose to ignore it.”

“It’s easy to get people interested in conservation and sustainability,” Dr. Worm says. “Once it becomes a bigger priority, we’ll need to discuss what uses of the ocean are permissible.”

He describes a process called ocean spatial planning, which involves deciding what kind of activities can take place and where. “It’s increasingly being recognized that we must map the oceans for use in order to maintain their health.”

And awareness of sustainability issues is growing, certainly amongst students in his second-year Introduction to Ecology and the third-year Conservation courses.

“More and more students have an active interest in conservation and a desire to apply their knowledge to conservation activities," he says. "So we should give them the skills they need to follow that passion—to identify and analyze conservation problems and come up with solutions.”