Dr. Colin Bates brings a breadth of knowledge, passion and personality to his new role with Ocean Wise

With a uniquely double-edged ability to both sequester CO2 and provide rich habitat for a vast array of marine life, it’s becoming increasingly clear that seaweed forests have the potential to be game-changers in the quest to reverse climate change.

But how to harness that potential? It’s a question Ocean Wise is leading the charge to find answers to by placing a major focus on ‘seaforestation’ in 2021 and beyond.

At the helm will be Dr. Colin Bates, Ocean Wise’s first-ever Director of Seaforestation. Born and raised in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Bates comes to Ocean Wise after spending a decade as a professor teaching the marvels of biodiversity at Quest University Canada. He has also taught at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre and the University of British Columbia.

“It’s a dream to play a direct role in shaping a new direction for an organization that played a key role in my own development,” says Bates about joining Ocean Wise and its many conservation initiatives. “I also feel like my breadth of experience has uniquely prepared me to realize the potential of seaforestation.”

Bates completed his undergrad in Biology at Simon Fraser University before going on to receive his M.Sc. in Biology at the University of New Brunswick and his Ph.D. in Botany at the University of British-Columbia, all with a focus on seaweed and intertidal ecology.

And his enthusiasm for these wondrous underwater forests is certainly infectious.

“Seaweeds are simply amazing!” says Bates. “They have so many properties that are ecologically and economically important, yet they remain rather underappreciated and misunderstood. Seaweeds, particularly kelps, hold many solutions within their fronds (the seaweed equivalent of leaves, more or less!). And the world needs solutions – to climate change, ocean acidification, food security, biodiversity, habitat loss and equitable access to livelihoods. Seaforestation can play a role in all of these!”

Though he’s brand new on the job, Bates has already identified three major agendas Ocean Wise’s Seaforestation program is addressing: 1) To develop “Seaforestation Intelligence” through mapping, monitoring, and modelling of wild seaweed populations; 2) to drive kelp restoration and conservation at scale; and 3) to support cultivation of kelp at scales that have climate positive impacts.

“All three of these will interface with education and outreach efforts that Ocean Wise is so good at, to inspire and educate people about the power of Seaforestation,” explains Bates. “Most of my previous conservation work has had impact at the level of individuals, and I look forward to making a difference more broadly, with global scale results. Let’s go!”

An avid multidisciplinarian, Ocean Wise’s new Director of Seaforestation also has experience running multiple conservation-supportive outreach and data startups. He has worked extensively on all coasts of Canada, as well as the Antarctic (Fun facts: He has been to Antarctica almost 50 times, and participated in the search for John Franklin’s HMS Erebus the year it was found in 2014).

Through it all, Bates still makes sure to find enough hours in his days to spend time with his family, do some gardening, play music in one of his four bands, tinker in his garage, restore vintage Italian scooters and enjoy some mountain biking.

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