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Jane Watson, PhD (Emeritus)


  • Marine Ecology
  • Community Ecology
  • Marine Mammal Biology
  • Conservation Biology


  • BSc (Hons) University of British Columbia (1981)
  • PhD University of California, Santa Cruz (1993)

Courses Taught

  • Biology 121 - Introductory Zoology
  • Biology 329 - Vertebrates of British Columbia
  • Biology 351 - Population and Community Ecology
  • Biology 358 - Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
  • Biology 360 - Animal Behaviour
  • Biology 403 - Current Topics in Biology
  • MASC 445 - Biology of Marine Mammals (Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre)

Supervised Students

At VIU I have supervised about 20 undergraduate students in a broad variety of ecological research projects. Example projects include:

  • Foraging ecology of sea otters
  • Crab predation on red turban snails
  • Hauling out behaviour of harbour seals
  • Seasonal variation in the diet of river otters (scat analysis)
  • Sand dollar behaviour in response to simulated predation
  • The effects of sand dollar burrowing on sea grass beds
  • The effect of size on turban snail locomotion

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Adjunct Professor, Marine Mammal Unit, UBC
  • Research Associate Vancouver Aquarium Marine Sciences Centre
  • Ecological Society of America
  • Society of Conservation Biology
  • Western Society of Naturalists
  • Marine Mammal Species Specialist Committee (COSEWIC)
  • Canadian Sea Otter Recovery Team

Interests and Philosophy

My academic training and practical experience is in marine ecology, with particular emphasis on community ecology. My primary research interest has been in how marine vertebrates affect and interact with coastal ecosystems on ecological and evolutionary scales. My current research is on sea otter community ecology particularly in how sea otter predation affects nearshore community structure and prey life history characters. Much of my past experience has involved studies of small coastal fisheries. I believe that the resolution to many conservation issues and resource-use conflicts lies in education and local involvement in conservation activities and research. My approach to ecology is multi-disciplinary; I have been involved in academic and applied studies of sea otters, pinnipeds, cetaceans, marine birds, marine fish, algae, macro-invertebrates and plankton as well as archaeology.

Recent Reports and Publications

Watson, J.C. and J.A. Estes. 2011. Stability, resilience and phase shifts in rocky subtidal communities along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Ecological Monographs 81:215-239.

Gregr, E.J., L.M. Nichol, J.C. Watson, J.K.B. Ford, and G.M. Ellis. 2008. Estimating carrying capacity for sea otters in British Columbia. Journal of Wildlife Management 72:382–388.

Update status of the sea otter (Enhydra lutris) in Canada. 2006. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Written by L.M. Nichol and J.C. Watson for COSEWIC.

Nichol. L.M., J.C. Watson, G.M. Ellis, and J.K.B. Ford. 2005. An assessment of abundance and growth of the sea otter population (Enhydra lutris) in British Columbia. DFO Res. Doc. 2005 / 094.