Dr Natalie C. Ban

Natalie joined the School of Environmental Studies in January 2013. Trained in geography, resource management and environmental studies, Natalie Ban draws upon many disciplines from natural and social sciences in her work. Her research interests span ethnoecology, conservation biology, marine spatial planning, conservation planning and implementation, and evaluation and mapping of cumulative impacts, all mainly in marine and coastal systems. Natalie’s current research focuses on identifying options for management and conservation of biodiversity whilst respecting people’s needs and uses of resources.

Students, postdocs, and research assistants

Caitie Frenkel

lab-bio-pictureCaitie joined the lab as a MSc student in September 2020. She earned her BSc Biology (concentration: marine biology) from UVic in 2016. Her previous experience includes working as an intern with Ocean Networks Canada, a naturalist in Victoria’s whale watching industry, coordinating commercial fishing data at Archipelago, and participating in the Global Ghost Gear Initiative via Archipelago. Caitie’s experiences with academia, tourism and commercial fishing have encouraged her to further her education to understand how different stakeholders can work together to benefit B.C.’s marine environment. She is interested in the anthropological impacts on B.C.’s oceans in regards to commercial fishing and lost gear, and how those impacts can be mitigated through research and involving fisheries management and commercial fishers in conservation efforts.

Chris Rhodes

chris_newChris started his PhD in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria in September 2013. He earned his MSc in Sweden, where he studied strategic leadership towards sustainability at the Blekinge Institute of Technology. His MSc thesis focused on applying the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development – a science-based whole systems approach to addressing society’s current sustainability challenge – towards engendering more sustainable food habits. Chris’ ten years of experience leading river rafting expeditions in the Arctic and abroad have inspired his interest in human relationships with natural ecosystems. His PhD research explores the concept of shifting baselines syndrome in coastal First Nations communities in British Columbia, and how culture affects our perceptions and connections with the world around us.

Kim-Ly Thompson

kim-ly-at-old-town-july-2015Kim-Ly’s Masters research with the Marine Ethnoecology Research Group was centered on community-based marine ecosystem management on the North Coast of British Columbia, and she continues this work as a research assistant. In partnership with the Gitga’at First Nation, she examined the ways in which Local and Traditional Knowledge is being, or could be, integrated with Western Scientific Knowledge to inform local marine monitoring, management, and governance. The humbling cetaceans and cedar-lined fjords first drew her to the North Coast during research she conducted while earning a B.Sc. in Biology at McGill University. Its dynamic ecology and communities have kept her coming back since. She will soon be pursuing a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Anne Solomon at SFU and with the Gitga’at First Nation. She is grateful for the opportunity to continue learning with and from a place and people that have taught her so much.

Jaime Ojeda

Jaime joined the Lab as a Ph.D. student in September 2017. He is from Patagonia, Chile. JaimeHe is a marine biologist and he did a Master’s degree in management and conservation. His experience of research has been on three topics: i) Coastal Ecology of Sub-Antarctic and Antarctic environments, he has worked on spatial and temporal scales with macroalgae, mollusks, fish, and seabirds. ii) Ethno-ecology, he has had the opportunity to work with first nations and artisanal fishermen on the southern tip of South America, observing their biocultural interactions with marine ecosystems. iii) Environmental ethics, he has investigated the links between ecological science and philosophical research. Currently, its objective is to contribute to the management of marine protected areas in Chile and Canada.

Mairi Miller-Meehan

Mairi joined the lab as a visiting PhD student from Memorial University of Newfoundland in January 2019. She earned an MS in Biological Oceanography from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, USA, and MA in International Environmental Policy from Monterey Institute of International Studies where she studied fisheries co-management in Bonthe, Sierra Leone. P6180081She worked as a fisheries consultant with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation for several years before turning her attention back to education. Mairi is interested in how management tools such as MPAs perform in achieving social and ecological goals and objectives set forth in local, national and international policies. Her project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of Marine Protected Area Networks in achieving the qualitative elements of Aichi Target 11.

Jackson Chu

Jackson joins the lab as a Canadian Healthy Oceans Network (CHONe II) postdoc in July 2020. jchu_penguinsOriginally from Vancouver, BC, his research interests have focused looking at how marine biodiversity is changing in the oceans. He started this journey by mapping sponge communities with an MSc at the University of Alberta. He followed with a PhD that developed deep-sea monitoring strategies at Uvic in collaboration with Oceans Networks Canada. More recently, he has looked at the macrophysiology of cold-water ecotherms which included a couple of field deployments to research stations in Antarctica. His research in the Marine Ethnoecology Lab is done in collaboration Fisheries and Oceans Canada and will look at the spatial intersect between multiple drivers, stressors, and biodiversity in the Salish Sea.

Lauren Burton

Lauren joined the lab as a PhD student in the fall of 2020 from the beautiful (albeit landlocked) state of Colorado.IMG_2225 (2) She earned both a BS and MS in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources from Colorado State University. Her previous experience includes environmental education in the Salish Sea, collaborative forestry in Northern California, and community conservation projects in Senegal, Uganda, and the Philippines. Her primary interest is in exploring the different ways communities engage in natural resource management, and the barriers that can prevent their involvement. She enjoys experimenting with creative forms of storytelling as a way to share complex ideas with the general public.

Sara Mynott


Some of the most exciting opportunities for research exist at the boundaries between disciplines. Here at UVic, Sara is a Knowledge Broker, helping to span boundaries between social and ecological science, policy and society. Her postdoctoral research explores how complex models can be used to improve the management of marine activities, such as shipping and oil transport. And, by working closely with a broad set of stakeholders, her work aims to help practitioners respond effectively to marine environmental challenges, including the risks of oil spills and noise pollution. Ultimately, helping keep our oceans clean, safe and healthy for current and future generations. Sara has a multidisciplinary background, with research experience in fisheries, geosciences and climate change. Before joining UVic, she led the Science and Policy Team at Mindfully Wired Communications, where she facilitated the delivery of national and international marine research programmes, and helped build consensus around the diverse issues facing the UK fishing and mariculture sectors. In particular, she explored how scientific evidence can support marine policy for the betterment of the environment and benefit of wider society.

Sarah Harper

Sarah joined the lab in November 2020 as a Mitacs Accelerate Postdoctoral Fellow working with Nature Sarah harperUnited on advancing climate-ready fisheries in BC. Through a synthesis of existing social-ecological knowledge and analysis of a survey that went out to fish harvesters, Sarah aims to understand vulnerability of fisheries and fishing communities in BC to climate change and to develop a road map for advancing climate adaptation planning in Pacific region fisheries. Sarah completed her PhD in 2019 at the University of British Columbia’s Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, where she focused on estimating the contributions by women in fisheries economies around the world. Her research continues to weave together social, economic and policy dimensions of fisheries in BC and around the world, including gender equality, Indigenous fisheries, fisheries access and licensing policies, subsidy provision and reform, among other topics. Sarah is currently co-leading the gender theme for the Illuminating Hidden Harvests project, a collaboration between the FAO, WorldFish and Duke University, and she is an instructor for the Haida Gwaii Institute where she teaches a course on fisheries co-management in the North Pacific Coast.


Tanya Tran

MERWebsite_TTranTanya joined the lab in September 2017. She earned her BSc Biology from McGill University in 2011, and a Diploma in Integrated Environmental Planning from Selkirk College in 2016. Her experiences in academia, government, and non-profit sector has shaped her beliefs in the importance of involving various worldviews, values, and peoples within environmental stewardship. For her MSc, Tanya drew from global research and a collaborative case study with the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation to investigate how and why Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas can be an effective alternative to conventional protected areas to advance biodiversity conservation and Indigenous resurgence.

Elena Buscher

Elena completed her BSc at the Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Elena has a lifelong passion for marine conservation. elena_newBefore attending graduate studies at UVic, she worked for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Shark Specialist group where she completed elasmobranch Red List status reassessments for the European Union. Currently, she works with the Songhees First Nation on creating a marine use plan that aims at garnering official conservation status for part of Songhees traditional territory. As part of this project, she will employ an underwater drone to survey culturally important species in the marine environment as well as assist in conducting interviews with Songhees traditional knowledge holders. Elena has also been involved as a director, diver and dive coordinator with the Marine Life Sanctuary Society of British Columbia since 2013. In her free time, Elena enjoys exploring the subtidal waters around Victoria, yoga and meditating.

Sarah Friesen

Sarah has worked as a marine ecologist and naturalist throughout coastal British Columbia.sarah-f She completed her MSc thesis in June 2019, studying connectivity among marine protected areas (MPAs) and how this may shift with climate change. She contributed data to a tripartite planning process in the Northern Shelf Bioregion of British Columbia, helping to inform the placement of new MPAs. She is currently working for Pacific Wild, representing marine conservation interests in two MPA planning processes in British Columbia.

Charlotte Whitney

Charlotte joined the lab as a PhD student in in September 2014. She hails Char for website2from the mountains of Whistler and spent much of her youth indoctrinated in marine conservation issues and environmental education while being raised on a sailboat. Her interests lie in identifying marine conservation planning solutions for temperate coastal ecosystems that consider the effects of global climate change, as well as the needs of local communities. Her work integrated her academic experience with her passion for the BC west coast by working on the Central Coast of BC, areas of rich ecological and cultural diversity. Her work contributed to the field of marine ecology and social-ecological systems planning in a warming global climate.

Prior to starting her PhD, Charlotte completed her MSc at the University of British Columbia where she studied the effects of climate change on juvenile sockeye salmon populations in the Fraser River. She has worked as a biologist locally in BC with municipal government and First Nations as well as with artisanal farmers on sustainable aquaculture research in SE Africa. Charlotte is currently the Program Director for Fisheries Management & Science with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, supporting governance, stewardship, and research initiatives of Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, and Wuikinuxv Nations.

Rafael Magris

Rafael joined the lab as a Postdoctoral visiting scholar earlier in 2017. His work is focused on integrating catastrophic events related to mining disasters in conservation planning. Rafael finished his PhD in February 2016 at ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (James Cook University). In his PhD he investigates ecologically-meaningful ways of integrating ecological processes related to connectivity and climate change into conservation planning. The thesis produced 5 scientific papers, all already published. Rafael has also been working at the Brazilian Ministry of Environment since 2007. His work focuses on attempting to integrate scientific-based approaches into the decision-making process. He is passionate about nature and loves spending time outside.

Aerin Jacob

Aerin’s postdoctoral research evaluated and mitigates environmental and  AerinJacob economic trade-offs among marine uses and activities on the Central Coast of British Columbia, co-supervised by Chris Darimont. She completed her PhD at McGill University on tropical rainforest ecology and restoration in Uganda.  Her outreach work includes advocating for evidence-based decision-making, helping to develop Canadian climate change policies, and science communication through social media and storytelling. Aerin is currently working for the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative.

Darienne Lancaster


Darienne completed her Masters in Environmental Studies working with Dr. Natalie Ban in 2015.  Her thesis used coastal trail camera monitoring and surveys to quantify levels of illegal recreational fishing in Rockfish Conservation Areas in the Southern Gulf Islands and Victoria area.  She also assessed levels of recreational rockfish bycatch and perceptions of rockfish conservation among fishers. Darienne also worked in the MER lab analyzing central coast rockfish video data for the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance.  Darienne also works as the diver in charge and research assistant for a joint Galiano Conservancy Association/UVic ecological assessment of rockfish abundance in the Southern Gulf Islands.  An avid diver, Darienne also volunteers with the Fish Eye Project as an underwater live dive host, streaming educational underwater video into schools and IMAX theatres. She worked with Coral Cay Conservation in the Philippines, and is currently a BC Parks ranger on the Sunshine Coast.

Georgina Gurney

GGurney_bio photoGeorgina completed her PhD candidate at James Cook University, Australia,in 2015,  co-supervised by Natalie. She is from Tasmania, where she completed her BSc in Marine, Freshwater and Antarctic Science. Preferring tropical rather than Antarctic waters for diving, she headed north to do her Honours research in the Philippines, where she used bio-physical simulation modelling to explore potential reef futures under multiple management and climatic scenarios. Georgina’s experiences in the Philippines inspired her to pursue a PhD in understanding the human dimensions of marine resource management.  Supervised by Bob Pressey, Natalie Ban, Josh Cinner and Nadine Marshall, her research focused on how social factors can be incorporated into several stages of systematic conservation planning with two key aims. First, she is investigated how to explicitly integrate fisheries livelihood objectives into spatial prioritization procedures to enable MPA designs to be better aligned with the needs of local stakeholders. Second, to inform the selection of contextually appropriate conservation actions, she explored the social impacts of MPA management, and the relative role of multiple-scale factors in influencing stakeholders’ engagement in collective MPA management. She is now a postdoctoral fellow at James Cook University.

Lauren Eckert

Lauren is pursuing a Master’s in Science under the guidance of Dr. Natalie Ban. After an undergraduate career at the University of Notre Dame replete with diverse ecological field experiences around the globe, Lauren’s exposure to the wisdom of local communities motivated her to delve into interdisciplinary conservation in ethnoecology, which values local and traditional knowledge systems alongside empirical scientific studies for successful and inclusive resource management. This research brought Lauren to the Central Coast of BC, where she works collaboratively with Coastal First Nations (Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Wuikinuxv, and Nuxalk) to bolster local Marine Use Plans and understand changes to groundfish populations over the last century. She is endlessly inspired by the “sea-marrying-cedar” vistas and wildlife adventures that the Great Bear Rainforest provides, as well as the wisdom and welcome emitted by the First Nations she works with. Lauren is now embarking upon a PhD with Chris Darimont.

Tammy Davies

TammyTammy joined the School of Environmental Studies in September 2014 after completing her PhD at the University of St Andrews and Institute of Zoology (UK). Her main research interests focus on how an interdisciplinary approach can be used to develop locally specific and sustainable conservation management solutions. Tammy developed an interest in this area after working for a marine conservation NGO in Madagascar and witnessing the conflict between restrictive conservation measures and the food security of local people. Since then, Tammy has been involved in numerous conservation-focused research projects, including her PhD which assessed the relationship between biodiversity and poverty in the context of land use change, in a remote and poorly studied region of the Solomon Islands. She is now working for Birdlife International in the UK.

Others will be listed here as they join the research group.

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