Steve Ferguson

Research Scientist
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Current research and/or projects

I am responsible for the population health of marine mammals in the Canadian Arctic that includes seals and whales. I am gathering information on how global warming and human economic development in the Arctic affects the ecology of marine mammals and ways to mitigate potential problems. The goal is to conserve the region’s diversity of marine mammals and their immediate environment. I conduct research into marine ecosystem ecology and have developed a string of communities across the Canadian Arctic to as part of a Community-Based Monitoring network.

The objective is to empower Inuit to lead an Arctic Observation Network that adds considerably to our ability to monitor and understand the profound changes occurring in the circumpolar Arctic. Local Inuit hunters provide samples from harvested marine mammals that are being analyzed for contaminants, genetics, disease, reproduction, food habits, reproduction, survival, and growth rate. Marine mammal, fish, zooplankton, algae, water, and sediment samples are tested in labs to monitor chemical signals, such as fatty acids and stable isotopes, that reveal spatial and temporal trends in trophic relations.

I study global climate change and how a reduction in sea ice extent will affect marine mammal fitness and ultimately impact their distribution and abundance. How will change affect northerners and how can we assist to provide mitigative solutions that will help them adapt? The ultimate goal is to preserve Arctic biodiversity.

Research and/or project statements

Steve Ferguson joined Fisheries and Oceans Canada in 2002 as a research scientist working on population ecology of Arctic marine mammals.

The goal of his research is to identify and assess conservation practices that will improve marine mammal population persistence under future climate change and increased human development. The progressive modeling approach describes both spatial and temporal patterns among individual marine mammals, population, community, landscape, and ecosystem relationships. The research relies on the use of satellite remote images, telemetry, and genetic technologies to enable quantification of demographic patterns and linkages across a range of scales. Knowledge from this research will be used to conserve marine mammals and the integrity of their arctic environments.

Education and awards

PhD Biology, University of Saskatchewan, 1998

Honours Zoology, University of Guelph, 1979

MSc Biology, University of Victoria, 1986

Expertise