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Sarah Fortune
University of British Columbia

Sarah Fortune is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia (Dr. Andrew Trites) and a Guest Student at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Dr. Mark Baumgartner) and collaborates with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (Dr. Steve Ferguson). She is studying the foraging ecology of bowhead whales in the Eastern Canadian Arctic and North Atlantic right whales in the Gulf of Maine. Sarah previously worked for the North Atlantic Right Whale Habitat Program (Dr. Charles Mayo) at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies where she studied the foraging ecology of right whales in Cape Cod Bay. She completed her Master's research at UBC on the growth and energetics of North Atlantic Right Whales, and studied marine mammal energetics as a Research Assistant in the Marine Mammal Research Unit (Canadian Fisheries Research Network).


Project Member

Innovative Research on Monitoring Marine Mammals to Mitigate Impacts of a Changing Arctic

Student Information

Thesis Title:
Evaluating the energetic consequences of environmental change for bowhead whales in the Eastern Canadian Arctic.

Thesis Abstract:
Bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) are a long-lived species that are endemic to Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. Bowhead whales are also among the largest animals on earth and are composed of high amounts of body fat. Due to their large body mass and composition, bowhead whales are expected to have high gross energetic requirements. Although bowhead whales are recovering from pre-exploitation stock sizes in Canadian waters, concern remains regarding their future because of anthropogenic factors such as climate change that is expected to alter ice conditions and the quantity and quality of prey available to them. Bowheads are closely related to North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), which are predominately temperate species that have not recovered to pre-exploitation stock sizes and appear to show signs of nutritional stress. Climate change is predicted to alter the quality and quantity of bowhead and right whale prey (zooplankton) overtime. However, the manner in which both species will respond to environmental change is unknown. Possible replacement of high-lipid Arctic species of zooplankton by lower-energy temperate species may strongly affect the foraging success and sustainability of bowhead whales. However, little is known about the diet and foraging behaviour of bowhead whales in Canadian waters and the impact that environmental change will ultimately have on them. The primary goals of my thesis are to: 1) determine the diet and feeding behaviour of bowhead whales under current environmental; and 2) evaluate the potential impact of environmental change and future shifts in prey availability on bowhead whales in the Eastern Canadian Arctic.

Primary Address

University of British Columbia
Room 247, AERL, 2202 Main Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4