From Canada’s southern coast along the Great Lakes, a UWindsor graduate student represents the country’s northern shore in a new series from the CBC Creator Network.
Coastlines dives into the future of Canadian seas and marine life, and the young researchers trying to protect them.
In a segment called “Sharks may be the most misrepresented species in the ocean”, doctoral candidate Eric Ste-Marie (MSc 2020) educated its audience about the metabolic rate of the large and slow Greenland shark, in Nunavut.
“I love going up there to work on what is thought to be the oldest vertebrate on the planet, with a current lifespan estimate of more than 250 years,” says Ste-Marie.
“Metabolic rate is fairly understudied in sharks because it is not easy to capture and hold them to record the required measurements, especially for large sharks such as the Greenland shark.”
Ste-Marie, a researcher in the lab of professor Nigel Hussey based in the Department of Integrative Biology, works with field respirators — basically big tanks used to measure oxygen levels in the water as the animal breathes.
“Metabolic rate is tied to so much of our biology and ecology,” he says. “Since we use oxygen when we break down our food to use as energy, oxygen consumption is closely linked to metabolism so we can measure metabolic rate through that.”
Learning how much energy the Greenland shark requires to survive will tell researchers where a shark can and cannot live, depending on the available food source.
Ste-Marie’s social media presence landed him on the series, which also features researchers from the west and east coasts.
“It was an interesting project because we filmed ourselves talking about our research,” says Ste-Marie.
“It was cool to be featured but also to see the other work happening in Canada, work people might not associate with Canadian research.”
Ste-Marie’s PhD research focuses on the movement and feeding behaviour of the Greenland shark.
“Greenland shark populations are vulnerable to decline,” he says. “If we know more about their behaviours and how they interact with their environment, we can make better management and conservation decisions.”
Watch the episode featuring Ste-Marie, produced by filmmaker and environmentalist Erinn Drage.