David MarmorekDavid Marmorek, Lead Scientist and Senior Partner, ESSA Technologies Ltd. (BES’ 75, Man-Environmental Studies & Mathematics)  

David Marmorek (BES ’75) is an aquatic ecologist who has led ground-breaking work in the restoration and assessment of human-involved impacts to natural landscapes.

David’s academic background began at Waterloo where he was the first person to obtain a joint honours degree in Man-Environment studies and Mathematics. He went on to receive an MSC in Zoology from UBC, studying the effects of lake acidification on zooplankton.

Since then, Marmorek has established himself as an international expert in adaptive management modeling and the use of scientific information to inform environmental decision-making. Moreover, he’s done so while building a reputation with his peers for his laser-sharp mind, quick wit, and collegiality.

Over four decades at ESSA (now ESSA Technologies Ltd.), David has worn many hats, including systems ecologist, director (1983-2000), president (2001-2016), and most recently lead scientist (2016-2020). 

By combining his impressive command of technical specifics and aptitude for building consensus with large groups of people, David enjoys the collaborative journey to find creative solutions to challenging (sometimes wicked) environmental problems. 

“I get inspired by working with great scientists on a team-approach to tough problems, exploring hypotheses, challenging each other's assumptions, doing the best we can, and recognizing that solutions require actions by decision makers that may or may not occur, depending on political will.”

David’s work has helped give decision-makers the clarity and tools they need to manage a wide range of environmental problems. His collaborative research on the impacts of acidic deposition in Canada and the U.S. established the technical foundation for amendments to the U.S. Clean Air Act and earned him the Bronze Medal for Commendable Service from the U.S. E.P.A.

Man collecting sample of lake waterMarmorek measuring the pH level of Lakelse Lake, near Terrace BC, in May 2017, as part of a 9-year study to evaluate the effects of an expanded aluminum smelter in Kitimat BC.

Other successful project outcomes include collaborative efforts to improve water management in Okanagan Lake and the Okanagan River, which contributed to a ten-fold recovery in the abundance of Okanagan sockeye salmon. Collaborative efforts on the mainstem Columbia River have led to improvements in the operations of hydro-electric dams to increase the survival of at-risk salmon and steelhead populations. The tools and adaptive management experiments David and his colleagues collaboratively implemented were also applied to habitat restoration projects in the Trinity River and Dry Creek in northern California, also aimed at improving the survival of at-risk salmon and steelhead populations. His leadership of an Independent Science Advisory Committee over the last decade has improved the design and implementation of habitat restoration actions on the Platte River in central Nebraska, which has contributed to increased use of this area by three at-risk bird species (piping plovers, least terns, whooping cranes).

David has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications and serves as an adjunct professor at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University. This has led to ESSA hiring more than a dozen students from SFU.

From 2012 to 2019, he served as a director for the Northwest Wilderness Society, which runs a wilderness camp at Fry Creek on Kootenay Lake and led the camp’s adaptation to a major flood event in June 2013 (the same storm that flooded Calgary).

Most recently his volunteer work chairing the Technical Advisory Committee for the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre in Gibsons, B.C. resulted in a timely speaking series on the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, and actions we can take to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.