Alexis Savard-Drouin

Honours Candidate

Current Research

Water temperatures are increasing in Nova Scotia, especially in the shallow subtidal zone. Kelp beds have been suffering from this shift in temperature. This is partly because warmer waters are rendering the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia more favourable for opportunistic algal species such as turf algae, which take over open substrate and then persist under these warmer conditions. Additionally, the invasive epiphytic Bryozoan Membranipora membranacea, abundantly found throughout the coast of Nova Scotia, are known to defoliate kelp beds. They inhibit kelp from acquiring nutrients, photosynthesising, and by making them brittle and therefore more vulnerable to wave action. As kelp get defoliated, they get uprooted and make space for turf algae, which can quickly take over. Once turf is in place, kelp can no longer recolonize the area. This dynamic has led to a shift from kelp dominated subtidal zone, to a turf dominated ecosystem along the southwestern shore of Nova Scotia. My project is focused on investigating the uncommon resilience of kelp beds in the Eastern Shore Islands (ESI) to climate change and invasive species. I am trying to figure out why luscious kelp beds persist in the ESI and have escaped the same fate as the southwestern shore. More specifically I will be investigating how nutrients concentrations and wave exposure levels of the area influence algal community composition and kelp populations by measuring algal species cover, and kelp: mortality rate, fecundity, population structure, growth rate, biomass, and stipe tensile strength. The kelp population data from my project will later be used to parameterize a connectivity model for kelp populations in the ESI.

Publications

Bouchard Marmen, M., Odenthal, B., Murillo, F. J., Tompkins, G., Baker, E., Savard-Drouin, A., Walkusz, W., Siferd, T.  and Kenchington, E. 2021. Sponges from the 2010-2014 Paamiut Multispecies Trawl Surveys, Eastern Arctic and Subarctic: Class Demospongiae, Subclass Heteroscleromorpha, Order Poecilosclerida, Families Mycalidae and Isodictyidae. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3452: v + 60 p. 

Bouchard Marmen, M., Tompkins, G., Harrington, N., Savard-Drouin, A., Wells, M., Baker, E., Odenthal, B., Walkusz, W., Siferd, T. and Kenchington, E. 2019. Sponges from the 2010-2014 Paamiut Multispecies Trawl Surveys, Eastern Arctic and Subarctic: Class Demospongiae, Subclass Heteroscleromorpha, Order Poecilosclerida, Families Microcionidae, Acarnidae and Esperiopsidae. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 3349: v + 76 p.

Scholarships and awards

Top Coop Student award nomination (2021)
NSERC USRA Scholarship (2021)
Dalhousie In-course Scholarship (2021)
Dalhousie In-course Scholarship (2020)
Dalhousie University Dean’s list (2018-2021)
CABIOS (2020)
Dalhousie Entrance Scholarship (2018)

Relevant Experience

Teaching Assistant
Invertebrate Biology, Biology Department, Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
January 2022 – present

CABIOS Research Intern  
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
St George’s, Bermuda
September 2020 – December 2020

Teaching Assistant
Introductory Chemistry, Chemistry Department, Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
September 2019 – December 2019