Profile: Steven Cooke

Profile: Steven Cooke


Steven Cooke - Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair


Our laboratory maintains broad interests in all aspects of aquatic ecology, conservation biology, physiological ecology, animal behaviour and environmental science. Freshwater and marine fishes are used as research models for experiments conducted in laboratory tanks, experimental ponds, and most commonly, field sites. Specific interests are (1) determining the energetic, fitness, and potential evolutionary consequences of a variety of natural (e.g., winter, reproduction) and anthropogenic (e.g., angling, environmental pollution) stressors and, (2) understanding the diversity of energetic, physiological, and behavioural responses of fish to stress at the individual, population, and species level. We then apply the fundamental knowledge derived from these basic research activities to aid in the conservation and management of aquatic resources. Of late, we have been involved with defining the new discipline of “conservation physiology” – a field dedicated to understanding the mechanisms underlying conservation problems. Because our work is heavily based in the field, we rely on technologies including underwater videography and telemetry to monitor free-swimming fish in the wild.

Our current and prospective research activities focus on three specific study systems that enable us to test hypotheses associated with our research programme and to address applied issues in fish ecology. Our work is currently focused on temperate centrarchid fishes (the sunfish) in Midwestern North America, the Pacific salmonids of British Columbia, and flats and mangrove communities of the Caribbean. Although these systems are all rather disparate in geography, there are common problems and challenges experienced by fish in these very different environments. Specific research projects currently underway include assessment of the compatibility of catch and release angling with marine protected areas, evaluation of the physiological correlates of reproduction and fitness, and understanding the factors influencing the spatial ecology of fish.

Selected Publications

Cooke, S.J., L. Sack, C.E. Franklin, A.P. Farrell, J. Beardall, M. Wikelski and S.L.Chown. 2013. What is conservation physiology? Perspectives on an increasingly integrated and essential science. Conservation Physiology 1: doi: 10.1093/conphys/cot001.

Donaldson, M.R., G.D. Raby, V.N. Nguyen, S.G. Hinch, D.A. Patterson, A.P. Farrell, M. Rudd, L.A. Thompson, C.M. O’Connor, A.H. Colotelo, S.H. McConnachie, K.V. Cook, D. Robichaud, K.K. English, and S.J. Cooke. 2013. Evaluation of a simple technique for recovering Pacific salmon from capture stress: integrating comparative physiology, biotelemetry, and social science to solve a conservation problem. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 70:90-100.

O’Connor, C.M., M. Nannini, D.H. Wahl, S.M. Wilson, K.M. Gilmour, and S.J. Cooke. 2013. Sex-specific consequences of experimental cortisol elevation in pre-reproductive largemouth bass. Journal of Experimental Zoology A 319:23-31.

Sutter, D.A.H., C.D. Suski, D.P. Philipp, T. Klefoth, D.H. Wahl, P. Kersten, S.J. Cooke, and R. Arlinghaus. 2013. Recreational fishing selectively captures individuals with the highest fitness potential. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109:20960-20965.

UN FAO. Recreational fisheries. FAO Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries. No. 13. Rome, FAO 2012. 176 pp. (Written under contract by R. Arlinghaus, S.J. Cooke and B. Johnson).