Melissa Orobko

Melissa-Orobko-2017-professional-BISC-193x300My degrees

BSc Environmental Science (Honours), Simon Fraser University

MSc Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

What I am now
PhD candidate

Email :          Twitter: @Melissa_Orobko

My research

I am broadly interested in understanding nature and how it is affected by people, and in applying this understanding for effective management of nature. In the past I have worked on bioeconomic dynamics of fisheries and aquaculture, coral reef management effectiveness for ecological and socioeconomic outcomes, stock assessment and spatial structure of Pacific herring, and climate change effects on agriculture community dynamics. In my PhD I am scaling up to the ecosystem level to study how multiple stressors in the oceans affect resilience, and how to improve assessment of multiple stressors (also called cumulative effects) in ecosystem-based management. The context for my PhD research is that human activities and associated impacts are increasing in the oceans worldwide. Ecosystem-based management can mitigate these impacts, enhance ecosystem resilience, and prevent crossing potentially irreversible tipping points. Ecosystem-based management can be difficult to implement because multiple stressors can interact in different ways (additively, synergistically, antagonistically) and at different spatial and temporal scales, affecting different levels of ecological organization. Current assessment frameworks may not fully account for these challenges.

In my thesis, I plan to: (1) review empirical studies of multiple stressor impacts on marine ecosystem components to determine trends in these relationships across stressors and levels of ecological organization; (2) develop theory for combining multiple stressors in different ways to ask various questions about multiple stressor impacts in ecosystems, including asking how likely it is that stressors can combine to create tipping points, and which management actions enhance resilience and are robust to different interaction types; (3) critically review how existing ecosystem-based management frameworks incorporate multiple stressors and tipping points, then identify gaps and recommend improvements; (4) apply knowledge gained in the previous parts to case studies of multiple stressor impacts and assessment (possibly in the Pacific Northern Shelf Bioregion and the Gulf of St Lawrence); and (5) survey ocean managers in Canada to understand the decision-making process for ocean management, including how scientific information generally, multiple stressors, and tipping points are incorporated, with the goal of guiding how to package previous parts to most effectively inform ecosystem management worldwide.

I hope that my interdisciplinary research will advance our understanding of and ability to predict multiple stressor impacts on marine ecosystem resilience, and to improve integrated ocean management globally.

My PhD is funded by the Canadian Healthy Oceans Network.