2019 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award nominee: Steven Cooke

Steven CookeSteven Cooke, Canada Research Chair and Professor, Carleton University (BES 1997, Environment & Resource Studies | MSc 1999, Biology)

From the littlest of fish to the biggest of fish, Dr. Steven Cooke studies them all. After receiving his BES in Environment & Resource Studies in 1997, Steven went on to complete a master’s in biology. From there, he earned his PhD at the University of Illinois and has been breeding research and salmon ever since as a tireless advocate for aquatic ecosystems.

Currently a Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology at Carleton University, Steven serves as the director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary and Environmental Sciences.

As an applied aquatic biologist, Steven has made extensive contributions to fundamental and applied aquatic ecology with a remarkable 700+ peer-reviewed publications and some 26,100 citations to his credit. However, he is equally committed to sharing his work with the public and ensuring that the mission-oriented research he does is of relevance to end-users such as policymakers and conservation practitioners. Recognized as one of the top 100 science communicators in Canada by Science Borealis, Steven launched the Canadian Centre for Evidence-Based Conservation in 2014, which focuses on developing capacity for evidence synthesis and evidence-based conservation in Canada. In 2020, his lab is hosting the first Global Environmental Evidence Summit in Ottawa.

Steven’s five chief contributions to the field include: (1) applied migration biology of fish (findings used by Fisheries and Oceans Canada); (2) understanding the behaviour and physiology of free-living aquatic animals for which he has been interviewed on BBC World News, CTV and CBC Radio; (3) conservation and management of freshwater fish and fisheries (led him to work with the World Wildlife Fund, create a model for incorporating fisheries into the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and co-found InFish.org); (4) defining and shaping the field of “Conservation physiology” (founding editor of the Oxford University Press journal “Conservation Physiology”); and (5) enhancing the sustainability of fisheries.

Steven holds a number of leadership positions including chair of the Sea Lamprey Research Board of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and chair of the Science Advisory Committee for the Ocean Tracking Network. He is currently the secretary of the College of the Royal Society of Canada.

In 2008, Steven received the Fisheries Society of the British Isles Medal in recognition of his contributions to global fisheries issues at an early stage in his career. In 2015, he was selected as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) E.W.R. Steacie Fellow (for the top six NSERC researchers under age 40 in Canada). He was also elected to the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists in 2016 and is a fellow of both the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the American Fisheries Society.

While his contributions to academic knowledge and knowledge mobilization are impressive, Steven considers his greatest accomplishment to be his, “contributions to training the next generation of environmental problem solvers.  Watching your students or other trainees ‘fledge’ and go on to do great things is humbling.  ‘Great things’ also means so many things – from starting families to becoming #scicomm leaders, to informing policy, to generating new knowledge.”