Conservation Connections: Using Evolution to Guide Conservation Priorities

Award Month: 
November - December 2013

The Conservation Connections project supports Canada’s leading role in conservation biology by developing new data management and modelling techniques to help identify, organize, and track species of greatest concern in Canada. Though phylogenetic data are critical both for setting conservation priorities and for predicting species vulnerability, no current conservation database explicitly incorporates such data. Our project will harness existing taxonomic databases (ubio.org) to National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) genomic data and graft these outputs to 'known' backbone trees by adapting new methodologies, e.g., from medical genomics and supertree approaches. This dynamic phylogenetic framework will form the core of a world-wide, freely accessible conservation scientific gateway for sharks and rays. This approach will change the way phylogenies are integrated with ecological, morphological, genomic and conservation data, and to our knowledge is a unique application of phylogenetic information in a dynamic environment, extensible to all endangered Canadian species.

About Project Leader: Dr. Nick Dulvy

Dr. Nicholas Dulvy completed his B.Sc. in Animal Zoology at the University of Birmingham, UK before taking up a position as scientific officer for an expedition to Mafia Island, Tanzania. On his return he completed his Ph.D. in evolutionary ecology at the University of East Anglia, UK in 1999, before moving to Fiji to begin a postdoctoral fellowship on "alternate stable states of coral reefs." On his return he was a lecturer at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK and in 2003 he became a policy advisor and research scientist at the UK government fisheries agency. Nick is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences after joining SFU in 2008 as an Associate Professor and CRC tier II in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. He has been the Co-Chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist Group - a global volunteer network of around 160 scientists and experts from 90 countries in 12 ocean regions. The SSG has a mission: "to secure the conservation, management and recovery of the world's sharks, rays and chimaeras through the mobilisation of global technical expertise". The focus of his work is to understand the nature and scale of global change using comparative analyses of populations, communities and ecosystems along temporal and spatial gradients of human impact. He has published over eighty peer-reviewed paper and book chapters on life histories, extinction risk, the ecosystem impacts of fishing and the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of climate change. In 2009 he was presented with the Zoological Society of London's Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation which is awarded for "contributions of fundamental science and its application to the conservation in marine and/or freshwater ecosystems." The award citation was for "research on the effects of climate change on fisheries and coastal communities, as well as threat and extinction risks in the context of improving fisheries management". In 2010, he was made a Conservation Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, an award "to honour individuals who have made exceptional contributions to conservation."