Sobey Fund for Oceans Scholar Spotlight

Gregory Britten

Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Sobey Fund gave me the perfect start to grad school when I began my M.Sc. at Dalhousie. I was primarily responsible for developing my own Sobey Fund research proposal which gave me my first opportunity to sit down and think about how I wanted to synthesize my research interests into an impactful piece of science. I enjoyed the process a lot and receiving the funding was a huge boost of confidence. It convinced me my ideas had merit and encouraged me to go on to become an independent scientist. 


Career Highlights

During my M.Sc. at Dalhousie (and while holding the Sobey Fund) I was asked to participate in a round table discussion with German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visited Dalhousie to discuss German-Canadian research partnerships. This was again very motivating in showing me that science matters on the biggest stage.

After my M.Sc. at Dalhousie, I went on to the University of California to do my PhD. A highlight from that time was publishing a cutting edge paper in the journal Science that demonstrated unanticipated climate impacts predicted from very long term climate and ocean model forecasts. Until that study, most climate impacts on the ocean had been forecasted to the end of year 2100; our paper extended those forecasts to show a dramatic reorganization of ocean productivity expected as climate change continues several hundred years into the future.

I have been at MIT since finishing my PhD in 2018. I am now using my undergraduate training in statistics to merge observational datasets with ocean and climate models. A big highlight so far has been a workshop I developed and ran here at MIT where oceanographers came together from all over Canada and the United States to learn how to leverage modern statistical tools to better understand the uncertainty in ocean model predictions. I think the workshop will have an important impact on many scientists research going forward.

Gregory's Tips for Incoming Students

A big tip I give younger students is to avoid excessive career strategizing – particularly early on. Just work hard and follow things that catch your attention. I can’t count the time I wasted stewing over all the various career paths I could choose and how my choices in the short term would impact my long term goals. As time played out, I realized that paths through science are *always* serendipitous. A year’s worth of planning might (and often should!) fly out the window when, for example, a great scientist asks you to participate in an exciting project. The project might not be exactly the topic you planned, or you might not know much about it, but it’s an opportunity that could lead you down a wonderfully interesting path you could have never imagined. 

Scott McCain

PhD Candidate
Department of Biology
Dalhousie University

I’m a biologist and oceanographer working on a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Erin Bertrand. I study what microbes do in the ocean mostly using proteomics and computational modelling. I’m interested in the processes that govern the base of the ocean food web, but also how ocean microbes can influence the environment they live in and large-scale ocean processes.

The Sobey Fund for Oceans was crucial to the start of my scientific career. It was an extremely generous scholarship, and enabled me to work with Dr. Heike Lotze for my masters degree. Heike and I still collaborate on projects related to coastal ecology and fisheries!


Career Highlights

For my PhD, I am studying Antarctic phytoplankton communities, and had the opportunity to collect samples for 2 months on a Korean research vessel in a remote part of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica. This was an incredibly challenging and fascinating experience.

Scott's Tips for Incoming Students

My PhD supervisor Erin told me at the beginning: ‘if you’re not feeling stupid you’re not challenging yourself’. I’ve held onto that advice, and now it just feels like I’m always challenging myself!

Julie Reimer Britten

PhD Candidate
Department of Geography
Memorial University of Newfoundland

My research explores the potential of marine spatial planning and management in bridging ocean conservation and sustainable resource use.

With the support of the Sobey Fund for Oceans Scholarship, I was able to engage fully with the Marine Affairs Program and explore new interests as the program unfolded. This led me to the conservation social sciences, the field of research where I have situated my career and am currently working to provide science-based, socially informed solutions for marine management. 


Career Highlights

Since the Marine Affairs Program, my career has taken me to new provinces and countries. In 2018, I began my doctoral studies in St. John’s, Newfoundland. In 2019, my research took me to southern France where I explored the European context of marine spatial planning and engaged with lead scientists and practitioners working to bridge conservation and sustainability. As an Atlantic Canadian, I’ve had the pleasure of representing our communities on the Board of Directors for several environmental organizations and continue to connect my research to the real communities impacting and impacted by oceans.

Julie's Tips for Incoming Students

Make space to be inspired—try something new, talk to mentors, and learn from your peers!

Maryann Watson

PhD Candidate
University of Groningen

I have been a Scientific Diver for over six years working on a variety of conservation science projects, and have worked with non-governmental organizations on marine protected areas and fisheries management policy.

Support from the Fund enabled me to attend the Masters of Marine Management program, the knowledge and experience I gained during my time in the program has played an integral part in my academic development and career, and has opened up many exciting opportunities for me. 

My time in the MMM program confirmed my desire to pursue marine conservation as a career. For example, I completed my masters graduate research project on the salmon fisheries on British Columbia’s North coast, exploring solutions for reducing salmon bycatch mortality through combining both biological and social data. This experience and project fundamentally changed the way I understand and approach fisheries and other marine management issues. 


Career Highlights

Since graduating from the MMM program, my work in marine science and conservation has taken me to multiple diverse ecosystems. These experiences include managing and training dive teams at a remote field site in the Philippines to gather data on locally-managed marine protected areas, working as the Lead Scientific Diver on my fourth research expedition to Kiritimati Atoll in the Republic of Kiribati to examine climate change impacts to coral reefs, working as an expedition guide and lecturer in marine conservation in regions from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and, most recently, conducting research on marine protected area co-management in New Zealand. 

My passion for linking marine ecology to management and law in support of marine ecosystem conservation has been fortified through several years of work as Marine Scientist at West Coast Environmental Law, focused on advocating for science-based decisions to guide MPA establishment and minimum standards of protection, and for co-governance of MPAs in British Columbia between Indigenous and Crown governments.

I am very excited now to be starting my PhD in Marine Ecology this spring at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, where I will be focusing my research on fish habitat management and restoration in the Wadden Sea using bioacoustics. 

Maryann's Tips for Incoming Students

Take advantage of the great diversity of courses available to you as graduate students in the Marine Affairs program at Dalhousie. Mixing courses from outside your direct area of interest can contribute to broadening your perspective, and gives you the opportunity to interact with and learn across programs and disciplines. 

Coming from scientific background and training, one of the key aspects of the MMM program for me was this opportunity to bring this science perspective to courses in other disciplines and to learn from the perspectives of my classmates. 

Monica Reed

Policy Analyst
Natural Resources Canada

I completed the Marine Affairs Program at Dalhousie University (2014-2016) with generous support from the Sobey Fund for Oceans Scholars. My graduate studies took me to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to study marine protected area management. Planning and delivering the Sustainable Oceans Conference alongside my peers was a highlight of my time at Dalhousie. 

I was very honoured to receive the Sobey Fund for Oceans scholarship. It gave me confidence in my ideas, encouraged me to think outside the box, and provided very generous financial support. Further, I believe the award made me more competitive for the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship, which I received to support my graduate studies in the Grenadines. Similarly, it is likely that the award helped with my recruitment into the federal public service. 

Following grad school, I completed Natural Resources Canada’s Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program -  I highly recommend the program for graduates interested in a public service career.


Career Highlights

Prior to grad school, I interned with a marine conservation group off the coast of Cambodia, as well as with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. I studied Environmental Science at Acadia University, gaining experience in tidal energy and plant physiology research through co-op work terms. My honours research assessed marine mammal activities near the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy in the Bay of Fundy.

From searching for seahorses and conducting reef assessments in Cambodia, to free diving in the Grenadines to assess anchor damage, I’ve been so fortunate to experience truly wonderful days submerged while ‘on the job’. While these experiences offered a lot of joy, they also revealed sobering marine degradation and poverty in fishing communities. I note this, not because I’m terribly dark, but to raise the need for action and to be clear that this type of work entails multifaceted challenges.

I have also had the opportunity to travel to Canada’s North, where I met many incredible people that live in what seems like a different reality than the one we experience in the South. 

All of my experiences have taught me that humans are incredibly resilient beings and that diversity contributes to this resilience (remember that ecology class on adaptability?!). In facing the intensifying climate crisis, I believe we need recognize the significance of diversity – individual, cultural, and biological – as we come together to create and implement solutions. 

Monica's Tips for Incoming Students

Step outside your comfort zone! If you pursue research or job opportunities that are outside of your area of expertise, you’ll only enrich your perspective and broaden your skill-set. 

Leah Beveridge

PhD Candidate
Interdisciplinary PhD Program
Dalhousie University

The financial support of the Sobey Fund for Oceans helped ensure that I could focus my attention on my studies and related endeavours. This included collaborating on select research projects, even if they could not pay me, and traveling and participating in conferences and other networking opportunities.



Career Highlights

Since starting the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program I have published two articles as sole author:

1)    Beveridge, L. (2018). Arctic pilots for Canadian Corridors: Is there a role for pilotage in the Canadian Low Impact Shipping Corridors? Ocean Yearbook, 32 (1), 409-426. 

2)    Beveridge, L. (forthcoming). What’s in a Worldview? Inuit conceptualizations of and relationships with marine spaces and the implications for the governance of Arctic shipping in Canada. In: A. Chircop, F. Goerlandt, R. Pelot, C. Aporta (Eds.), Governance of Arctic and Northwest Atlantic Shipping: Perspectives, Issues and Approaches.

In the Summer 2018 issue of the StFX AlumniNews Magazine, the cover story was on StFX, Women, & Leadership. As part of this story, the writers highlighted some of the female graduates who have gone on to various leadership roles in different fields, and I was selected as one of the women to speak to the role and influence of StFX in developing my leadership. 

In the summer of 2019, I became a candidate of the federal public services’ Recruitment for Policy Leaders Program. Applicants were evaluated based on academic excellence, knowledge of public policy, policy-relevant experience, and a record of personal initiative and leadership. Less than 10% of applicants from across Canada became part of the 2019 cohort, which provided me a mentor in the federal government and opened the door to unique learning opportunities and a wide professional network.

Leah's Tips for Incoming Students

My biggest piece of advice for incoming students is to invest time into meeting and listening to people who work in your field, and to letting them get to know you. It is not simply about going to conferences, but about engaging with others; sharing ideas, building partnerships, broadening your perspective of the issues you are studying, and ultimately opening doors for your future.

Laurenne Schiller

PhD Candidate
Interdisciplinary PhD Program
Dalhousie University

I am a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary PhD program at Dalhousie University in Halifax. My thesis is evaluating how public and private governing bodies in multinational tuna fisheries compliment or undermine one another through their unique conservation and management strategies. Specifically, my work analyses the relationship between Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), third-party certification bodies, industry-led conservation groups, and states.

Although I study the largest fisheries in the world, I have a particular interest in the role of tuna fisheries in food and livelihood security. Through my work I seek to develop practical solutions for ensuring those who depend most on tuna for sustenance and income have sufficient access to these resources—as well as a voice in conserving them—for generations to come.

While the scholarship was massively helpful from a financial standpoint for my first year of studies at Dal, I took more away from what it represents: that being granted this award meant others saw value in the work I proposed, even before I started. Having that kind of intellectual encouragement at the start of a graduate program was massively helpful in terms of giving me confidence to pursue the questions I was most interested in addressing through my research.


Career Highlights

It probably sounds crazy, but attending and annual ICCAT meeting in 2018 was huge for me. This RFMO—the Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas—is composed of over 50 different countries, all with a mutual interest in fishing tuna in the Atlantic Ocean and over 800 people sit together and spend over a week negotiating different management measures for all the different fleets and species. ICCAT first fascinated me over a decade ago and was a huge part of the reason I made the shift from studying marine ecology to fisheries governance and policy. In a sense, having the chance to attend this meeting (and the meeting again in 2019) made me feel like I am finally working in the space I always wanted to be in.

Laurenne's Tips for Incoming Students

Remember that although your research is an important part of who you are, it is not the only part of who you are. Research—as with all aspects of life—will be filled with ups and downs, so try to maintain perspective and seek help to ensure you feel balanced if and when you need it.