Lauren Law, MSc Candidate

University of Alberta

Bio:  I am an avid surfer and fisherwomen and my love affair with the ocean has steered me towards pursuing a career in marine science. I completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at the University of Victoria with a concentration in coastal communities. Before starting my masters research, I worked as an At-Sea Fisheries Observer and lived on-board commercial groundfish vessels, gathering and reporting on biological catch data. I now study glass sponge reef ecology at the University of Alberta and have interests in marine protected areas establishment and approaches for monitoring marine ecosystems.

Supervisor(s): Sally Leys

Institution: University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences

Start to Finish: 9/2015 to 12/2017

CHONe Project: 2.2.3 Evaluating ecosystem function, vulnerability, resilience, and ability to recover from multiple stressors

Project Title: Distribution, biodiversity, and ecosystem function of glass sponge reef ecosystems

Project Description:
Glass sponge reefs are unique to Hecate Strait, British Columbia, Canada and are among the most ecologically productive ecosystems on the planet. They function in deep-sea nutrient recycling and form complex habitat structures that increase biodiversity. Trawling and oil and gas exploration threaten to destroy these unique formations. To mitigate these threats, Canada declared the Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound reefs a marine protected area (MPA) in February 2017. I use multi-scale mapping to study the spatial pattern and distribution of glass sponges in the Hecate Strait to address the following questions: What fauna assemble around the reefs? Is there a discrete difference in biodiversity on and off reef? How much water do the reefs pump and what are their effects on deep sea nutrient cycling? My research aims to determine differences among species abundance, taxonomic diversity, structural complexity, and energy flux of live, dead, and buried sponge cover in the Hecate Strait reefs. My findings will inform policy-makers about the health and status of glass sponge reefs to improve long-term MPA monitoring and conservation strategies.