When Dr. Christophe Guinet was growing up in France, he, along with other French children, was inspired by Jacques Cousteau’s marine adventures. But unlike most of those children, Cristophe actually followed his dreams of studying killer whales in British Columbia.
He spent an entire year here in the mid-eighties while working on his master’s degree. That’s when he met the Aquarium’s Cetacean Research Program head Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard. They have reunited once again in Vancouver – but this time around, they’ll be studying the foraging ecology of humpback whales.
Christophe is based near the town of La Rochelle on the west coast of France in a small research lab called Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé. The lab is associated with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the University of La Rochelle. Christophe is one of nine researchers studying the ecology of top marine predators, including seabirds and marine mammals. When he isn’t working on the administrative aspects of his research in France, he does field work in what must feel like the edge of the world: the French Southern and Antarctic Territories.
He spent 1987 to 1988 there for his first stint, studying killer whales while island-hopping through a small archipelago. Over time, most of his research shifted to elephant seals and their foraging success in relation to oceanographic features. He also uses elephant seals to assess the consequences of climate change regarding the warming of the southern ocean.
Chrisophe’s background in seals and sea lions (pinnipeds) will come in handy while he’s in Vancouver. He will also co-supervise the PhD project of Tiphaine Jeanniard Dudot on the bioenergetics of fur seals with Dr. Andrew Trites, a University of British Columbia researcher partnering with the Aquarium. This research aims to measure the balance between the amount of energy needed to sustain a fur seal and the amount of energy it gets by eating prey.
Christophe says being here will allow for an exchange of ideas between himself and his Canadian counterparts. Plus, he says, it will be a great opportunity for him to continue to improve his English – the language in which the international scientific community operates.
Welcome to the Aquarium, Christophe.
Written by Karen Horak, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium.