Our Team

Our team of researchers is constantly changing, as students graduate and leave while other students begin their studies either as an undergraduate or graduate student.

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Dr. Mike Stokesbury
Dr. Michael Stokesbury is a Canada Research Chair in the Ecology of Coastal Environments. He has published research studies on several diadromous and marine species including migrational and behavioural research on Atlantic salmon, and Greenland sharks, and a co-authored paper in Nature on Atlantic bluefin tuna population structure. His research focuses on the study of movement and behaviour of large marine predators through the use of satellite, archival, and acoustic tagging equipment.

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Dr. Mike Dadswell
Dinsey's mere presence in the lab has catalyzed countless studies and projects.  His lengthy career as a marine biologist has spawned publications on the ocean migration patterns of Atlantic salmon, American shad and striped bass; the biology of Atlantic and shortnose sturgeon, and dogfish shark in Minas Basin and the Bay of Fundy; and the interaction of fishes and fisheries to anthropogenic changes such as the Canso Causeway and tidal power. He has also been involved in sea scallop and American lobster management and research and developed sea scallop aquaculture in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia.  He is currently retired as an Acadia Biology Professor, so now spends more time on research (that is when he is not layin' low down in Abaco, The Bahamas).


Current Students

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Dr. José Luis Varela, Post-Doctoral Fellow
José Luis is a Spanish researcher who is performing a long-term internship in our department. His research is focused on trophic ecology studies of large pelagic fishes by stomach content analysis and stable isotope analysis. At present, he’s developing a project at Acadia University aimed to study the trophic ecology of bluefin tuna in two locations of the Atlantic Ocean: Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Strait of Gibraltar.  He also has aspirations to include Atlantic sturgeon as another one of his many research species.


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Dr. Aaron Spares, Post-Doctoral Fellow
After taking a SCUBA diving course at the age of 13, Aaron became hooked on marine biology. His doctorate at Dalhousie University focussed on Salmoninae and the environmental factors that influence their marine migration (Arctic char and sea-run Brook trout (Salvelinus spp.). His MSc at Acadia University researched the open ocean migration of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). His past research has involved bivalve (Placopecten magellanicus) aquaculture in Mahone Bay, coral reef conservation off East Africa, Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) and Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus) tagging in Minas Basin, and Atlantic Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) tagging off North Carolina and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Aaron currently holds a post-doc fellowship partnered with the Coastal Ecology Lab and Ducks Unlimited Canada investigating the impact of fishways and tide gates on the spawning migration of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). Aaron loves to travel, and has devoted his career to finding out how ‘finned travelers’ get around.


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Colin Buhariwalla, M.Sc. Candidate
Colin graduated from Acadia University with a B.Sc. in Biology (Co-op) in 2010. He was introduced to the joys of fisheries work studying Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) during undergrad positions at the Nova Scotia Department of Inland Fisheries. Upon graduation he garnered experience with acoustic telemetry as a research assistant with Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research working on Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) tagging projects and deployment of Ocean Tracking Network hydrophone arrays. After Acadia, Colin worked in the Diadromous Fish Division at Fisheries and Oceans Canada with the team responsible for Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) assessments in the Maritime region. In 2012, curiosity led Colin back to Acadia to join the Coastal Ecology Lab. He is now finishing his MSc research on the population characteristics, seasonal movements, and origins of Striped Bass in Cape Breton, NS.  In 2016, he participated in a sub-Antarctic salmonid research expedition in the Kerguelen Islands (France).  Currently, he works at the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture -Inland Fisheries Division (Pictou).


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George Nau, M.Sc. Candidate
Hailing from Maine, George is now a seasoned member of our alewife team studying fishway efficiency and marine nutrient transfer within the wetlands on the border of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. He can even make alewife jump on command (see profile photo).  George's Honours project in our lab involved analysis of long-term variation in tidal cycles and their various environmental effects on fishes, as seen in historic commercial fisheries data from the Bay of Fundy. In the past, he has spent months tagging Acipenser oxyrinchus, and harvesting/cleaning fish at an intertidal fishing weir.  He is currently holding a DFO position acoustically tracking Atlantic salmon post-smolts.  


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Mathieu Grégoire, M.Sc. Candidate
Through tagging and receiver transmission data, Mat will be able to assess the effectiveness of fishways for anadromous fish installed decades ago in Nova Scotia spawning rivers.  Mat's project started off small, but soon the scope was expanded to include many spawning rivers throughout Nova Scotia.   He is currently writing his MSc thesis on straying behaviour of alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) between three rivers on the Isthmus of Chignecto.


Danni Harper, M.Sc. Candidate
Danni is a new Masters candidate at Acadia University in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts. She completed her BScH (Co-op program) in Marine Biology at Dalhousie University in 2016. Her Honours research partnered her with the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to investigate anoxic/uninhabitable sediments as indicators of benthic health around aquaculture sites. She has also worked on invasive species for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Gulf Region. Throughout her undergrad she developed a passion for field work and everything marine. Her Masters research will use video surveying to estimate abundance, density, habitat preference, and aggregation size of the sea cucumber (Cucumaria frondosa) on the Scotian Shelf. Results may provide insight towards sustainable fishery development.


Jillian Hunt, M.Sc. Candidate
Jill originates from Gander,the inland part of Newfoundland (Yes, there are places without a view of the ocean in Newfoundland); but she grew up in Moncton/Sackville, New Brunswick. She completed her BSc in Biology and Environmental Science at Mount Alison University in 2014. At Mount A, she was introduced to field work, mainly involving wetlands. Since graduation, she has worked as a wetlands field technician. In 2017, she commenced her Masters in our lab. Her research will focus on understanding wetland health, and specifically focus on the marine nutrient signature found in aquatic invertebrates to evaluate energy input from the ocean to freshwater via anadromous fishes.



Jessie Lilly, M.Sc. Candidate
At the age of 15 Jessie became fascinated by marine biology after being certified in Scuba Diving. She completed a BSc at the University of Alberta in 2016, and then moved out East to be closer to the ocean. Jessie started her Masters in January 2018 in the Coastal Ecology lab. Her research will focus on studying the movement of Atlantic Sturgeon through the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) test site in Minas Passage. To determine if Atlantic Sturgeon pass through the FORCE test site, the Coastal Ecology Lab at Acadia will be using new high residency (HR) tagging technology developed by VEMCO. To detect a tag, only one ping of 170 kHz from HR2 tags needs to be detected by HR receivers. These receivers will record the time, data and unique tagging ID of Atlantic Sturgeon passing through the FORCE test site. This will be one of the first uses of the tagging technology in highly turbulent environments. This information central to forming predictive models of the possible effects of in-stream turbines on Atlantic sturgeon.


Emma Laskey, B.Sc. (Hon.) Candidate
Emma, a native of the Annapolis Valley, joined the Coastal Ecology Lab in 2017 to begin work for her Honours. Her research will focus on whether or not alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) are feeding during their spawning  run. She is also assisting with tracking alewife using PIT tags and readers.




Erin Harris, Research Technician
Erin finished her first year as a Biology major at Acadia University in 2017. Her love of marine life began while scuba diving in the Bahamas, and she has since immersed herself in marine biology. Her assistantship has already added alewife tagging and tracking to her skills and she will continue helping other Masters students with their projects throughout the summer of 2017. She intends to complete her BSc and continue on at Acadia to pursue a MSc degree.



Rachelle Breau, Research Technician (Ducks Unlimited Canada)
Rachelle completed her first year at Saint Mary's University in 2017, majoring in Environmental Science and Geography. She was hired by Ducks Unlimited Canada as a summer research technician, and was promptly assigned to track alewife in the fishways and tide gate monitoring project. Although not officially at Acadia, Rachelle does own, and wears, more Acadia clothing than any other person currently in the lab.



Sarah Stewart, B.Sc. (Hon.) Candidate, Co-op Option
Sarah discovered her love for water growing up at the tip of the Bay of Fundy in Sackville, New Brunswick. Sarah started her fieldwork at the Tantramar Wetlands Centre, and then with the Canadian Wildlife Services on various wetland-related projects. Now completing her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at Acadia University, Sarah hopes to expand her knowledge completing fieldwork and providing aid to various projects in the Acadia Coastal Ecology Lab, as well as beginning a marine-based honours project in May 2018. 


Sarah Mitchell, B.Sc. (Hon.) Candidate
Sarah came to Acadia from Ontario, driven by her love for the ocean. Sarah's passion for fieldwork has developed through her experiences working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for the past four summers on various stewardship projects. She is currently completing the 3rd year of her undergraduate degree with a double major in Biology and Environmental Science. Sarah will be working with the Acadia Coastal Ecology Lab beginning May 2018 on a marine-based Honours project, as well as assisting with other projects in the lab.


Anna Murphy, B.Sc. (Hon.) Candidate, Co-op Option
Originally from Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia, Anna Murphy is a 4th year Environmental Science student. Her past work experience ranges from fish passages and river restoration with local not-for-profits such as the Sackville Rivers Association and the Bluenose Coastal Action Association, to the analysis of total mercury levels in American eel and Striped bass. Starting May 2018 she will begin working with the Acadia Coastal Ecology Lab on various projects as well as her Honours research on stress in marine life.


Brandon Nilsen, M.Sc. Candidate
Brandon will be a new masters candidate beginning in the Spring of 2018 in the Coastal Ecology Lab . He completed his BScH (Co-op) in Biology and Economics at Acadia University in 2018. Brandon’s honours thesis was supervised by Dr. Trevor Avery and Darrin Reid as he partnered with Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. His thesis investigated Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) movement patterns using PIT tagging and historical data sets he also looked at lake thermocline profile development. He has worked also worked on invasive species (Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieu) control projects with Parks Canada. His Masters research project will use multiple methods to assess and enhance American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) elver passage through anthropogenic barriers. Brandon’s masters work is partnered with Ducks Unlimited Canada-Atlantic Region.


Past Students

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Seth Newell, B.Sc. (Hon.) Candidate, Co-op Option
Seth Newell, from Wolfville, NS, completed an Honours project examining the annuli of Atlantic sturgeon pectoral fin spines to determine age at spawning.  While in our lab, Seth spent time hunting for mini-PAT satellite pop-off tags off Cape Breton and survived the mud and scales of alewife tagging at Beaubassin.


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Laura Logan-Chesney, M.Sc.
In 2012, Laura joined the lab as an Honours student. Her project involved attaching a high frequency icListen hydrophone (Ocean Sonics Ltd.) to an Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) to measure ambient noise from the Minas Basin, Nova Scotia. Following her graduation in May 2013, Laura happily stayed on in the Coastal Ecology Lab for a Masters investigating potential Atlantic sturgeon spawning rivers and breaching behaviour around Minas Basin using acoustic telemetry.  She successfully defended and submitted her MSc thesis in December 2016 and graduated in May 2017.  She worked on fisheries surveys in Minas Basin for the spring and summer of 2017, and has since secured a science teaching position at a private school in Sherbrooke, Quebec, her hometown.


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Erin McConnell, B.Sc. (Hon.), Co-op Option
An Acadia student from Annapolis Royal, NS, Erin completed two Co-op placement in the lab assisting with ongoing projects and completing her honours research. For her Honours, Erin studied multi-species fish movement in the Habitant River through fishways using PIT antenna tracking systems.


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Jillian Bennet, B.Sc. (Hon.)
After graduating with an Environmental Science degree in 2014 from Acadia, Jillian joined the Coastal Ecology Lab to complete an Honours thesis. Her project was based in Saint John, New Brunswick where she studied the fish population, with a focus on Brown Trout, within Little River. The Brown Trout were tagged using both PIT and acoustic tags, which allowed their movement patterns to be tracked throughout the river system. Jillian hopes to continue with her studies in aquatic ecology.


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Nathan Stewart, B.Sc. (Hon.)
A Biology student from Wolfville, NS, Nathan conducted his honours project on aging sturgeon from the Saint John River to determine the age-growth relationship within the population. This project was done in cooperation with researchers at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, and its results will be useful in management of the Saint John River sturgeon fishery. Nathan has moved on from the Stokesbury lab to do his Masters at Trent University in Ontario.


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Sam Andrews, M.Sc.
After growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Sam moved out east to earn his B.Sc. in Marine Biology at Dalhousie University. His MSc at Acadia tracked the movements of alewife throughout three fishways in the Tantramar Marshes. This information served as the first step towards evaluating fish passage through anthropogenic obstructions throughout the Maritimes.  Sam is perhaps one of the most talented and addicted fishermen to survive our lab's field work.  If Sam wasn't catching fish, it was highly possible there wasn't any there. He has moved on to pursue his PhD researching Striped Bass in the St. John River Estuary.


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Jeffrey Beardsall, M.Sc.
Jeff received his B.Sc. (Hon.) from Acadia University in Psychology and Biology. He studied how physiological stress responses influence fish behaviour and their adaptive function for survival. Jeff's work in the Stokesbury lab included collection of blood samples from Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus). The blood samples were used to measure stress associated with two capture methods (fish weir and trawling techniques). Various physiological indicators of stress and physical activity (i.e. plasma cortisol, glucose, lactate, ions, and pH) were used to identify the capture method that minimizes physiological disturbance and the likelihood of subsequent impairments.  He also tracked long-range movements of Atlantic sturgeon in the Bay of Fundy using PAT tags.


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Montana McLean, M.Sc.
Montana earned her B.Sc. (Hon.) at the University of Guelph, Ontario. Her research at Acadia involved the use of passive acoustic receiving technology paired with coded transmitters to investigate the movement of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus) in the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy. Her project also involved the investigation of fine-scale movement patterns in order to examine spatial distribution using VR2W Positioning System technology. Along with gut analysis via gastric lavage and taxonomic identification of prey, she identified areas of critical feeding habitat as well as principle components of the Atlantic sturgeon diet. Montana is now working on her PhD at Dalhousie University studying White Sturgeon in the Fraser River, BC. 


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Marylise Lefèvre, M.Sc.
Starting out her career as a veterinary technician in France, Marylise Lefèvre, soon decided that her calling was to work as a field biologist. Among other projects, she has worked on reintroducing and tracking California condors in Big Sur, California and chimpanzees in the Republic of the Congo. After completing her B.Sc. in Wildlife Biology at McGill, Marylise worked for the Atlantic Salmon Federation research project on the Rivière Saint-Jean on Quebec's north shore, using acoustic telemetry equipments. Two years later, she came to Acadia to study the effects of environmental factors (water temperatures, diel and tide cycles) on the seaward migration of Rivière Saint-Jean Atlantic salmon juveniles and to define their emigration pathways in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.


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Sierra Wehrell, M.Sc.
Sierra grew up near the shores of the Bay of Fundy and completed her B.Sc. (Hon.) at Acadia University. Her honours thesis was a survey of the groundfish caught by summer trawl fishery in Minas Basin and Scots Bay. This began her interest in sustainable, small community fisheries and the challenges involved in the recovery of overexploited fish stocks. After 2 years of adventures in Alaska and working for the Canadian government, Sierra returned to Acadia to start a Master's thesis. Atlantic sturgeon have been intensely studied since the 1970s but the details of their marine migration in Canadian waters remain unknown. Sierra hopes to shed some light on this aspect in this small part of the vast ocean.


Lab Alumni

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Luc Boudreau, B.Sc.
A New Minas-native, Luc is very interested in aquatic ecology and marine life. For two summers, Luc worked as a lab technician, and collected data for his Special Topics project on aspects of population distribution of smelts (Osmerus mordax) in the Gaspereau River.  Since graduation, he became involved in land-based finfish aquaculture.


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Thomas Grégoire, B.Sc.
Tom helped out with field work for the various projects that took place in the lab between 2011-2013.


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William Roberts, B.Sc.
After his 3rd year of his Biology undergraduate studies, William joined the lab to help with the on-going Atlantic Salmon and Atlantic Sturgeon research projects. As a graduate, William helped with several projects as needed and helped to develop the lab website.


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Alex Johnson, B.Sc.
An Acadia Biology alumnist, Alex came to our lab as a research technician for the summer of 2016.  He spent the majority of his time monitoring alewife spawning run movements using PIT tagging technology in the Tantramar Marshes.  In the lab, Alex helped to age hundreds of alewife scales and was co-author on a report for alewife movements through a new tide gate on the LaPlanche River.