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The ‘Anthropause’

Researcher receives $150,000 to examine impacts of pandemic lockdown on marine environment

By Kelly Foss

An associate professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science, has been selected by The Pew Charitable Trusts as a recipient of the 2021 Pew Fellowship in marine conservation.

As one of nine international conservation researchers awarded the fellowship this year, Dr. Amanda Bates will receive US$150,000 over three years to examine the long-term impacts of the pandemic lockdown on marine systems worldwide.

Changing patterns of behaviour

Global lockdown measures to control the spread of the novel coronavirus have changed patterns of human behaviour on an unprecedented scale.

Some researchers have termed this sudden reduction in human mobility and economic activity “the Anthropause,” referring to the drastic and temporary shift in the way humans interact with the environment.

“From this very difficult challenge I suspect we will better understand the collective power of ocean stewardship.” — Dr. Amanda Bates

While impacts such as improved air and water quality have likely benefitted biodiversity, others, including reductions in conservation enforcement and ecotourism, may have compromised the effectiveness of ocean protection measures.

Dr. Bates will analyze global environmental data to shed light on the effects of the Anthropause on marine life and ecosystems.

She will also develop case studies linking altered human activity to changes in biodiversity and will make the findings publicly available through a web-based platform designed to help decision-makers understand key ecological responses to lockdown conditions.

“The Pew award supports my efforts to work with a global community to understand what the COVID-19 lockdown can tell us about how to maximize our efforts to support healthy oceans,” she said. “The lockdown has impacted almost everyone on the planet, and from this very difficult challenge I suspect we will better understand the collective power of ocean stewardship.”

Seeking solutions

Dr. Bates joins Pew’s global community of 189 marine fellows from 40 countries all working to expand knowledge of the ocean and advance the sustainable use of marine resources.

For 25 years, the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has supported mid-career scientists and other experts seeking solutions to challenges affecting the world’s oceans.

Fellows are selected by an international committee of marine science experts following a rigorous nomination and review process.

“I love wildness and nature, and having my project selected to advance this specific objective is both thrilling and such an honour,” she said.

Dr. Bates earned a doctorate in marine biology from the University of Victoria and holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Simon Fraser University.

Learn more about Dr. Bates and her research effort here.

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