Advisory Council, Sable Island Institute

Pierre-Yves Daoust

Atlantic Veterinary College

Pierre-Yves Daoust is Professor Emeritus of Anatomic Pathology and Wildlife Pathology at the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC), University of Prince Edward Island, and former coordinator of the Atlantic regional node of the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC; It was his interest for wildlife and the environment that led him to choose veterinary science as a career. His professional activities have centered around diagnostic work as a tool to investigate causes of natural and human-related mortality in free-living wildlife. In this context, Pierre-Yves has dealt with a very wide variety of animal species, mainly, but not exclusively, birds and mammals. Through the many years that he has spent at the AVC, he has developed a particular interest in marine mammals and birds and in the marine ecosystem in general. As a pathologist, he has also been extensively involved in assessing hunting methods for seals and other mammals from an animal welfare perspective.

Thanks to a good working relationship with colleagues at Fisheries and Oceans Canada and, especially, with his friend and colleague, Zoe Lucas, Pierre-Yves has had a few occasions to work on Sable Island. These few occasions have been more than enough to convince him of the remarkable uniqueness of that Island with respect to its beauty, its tremendously dynamic geography, and its rich biodiversity. He has since continued his collaboration with Zoe through a project on plastic ingestion and causes of mortality in pelagic birds, primarily those of the family Procellariidae.

“I consider it a great privilege to contribute my knowledge and experience to the mission of the Sable Island Institute. In particular, I will continue to promote the Institute’s collaboration with the CWHC’s regional node at the AVC in order to better understand causes of mortality in wildlife.”

Brenna Frasier with a big smile and her young son's playful bare feet propped up on her shoulders.

Brenna A Frasier

Researcher and Educator

Brenna is interested in the use of genetic analyses to better understand species history, evolution, diversity, and status of a variety of marine mammals. Primarily, though not exclusively, her research involves the assessment of genetic diversity within historic (using ancient DNA) and contemporary marine mammal populations that have been reduced by hunting/whaling activities. In addition, her interests lie in the use of ancient DNA analysis to explore and elucidate species demographic history as it relates to historical climate change. Understanding of species history, current status, and recovery, is essential to optimize use of resources and strategies for conservation and management of marine mammals. Using ancient DNA analysis, Brenna led the study of the extirpated Maritimes walrus, a population that had existed on Sable Island (and around the Maritimes) until the early 1700s. She is also a co-researcher with Tim Frasier and Zoe Lucas on several genetic studies of the Sable Island horses.

Brenna has a PhD. in Environment and Life Science from Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario) and a Professional Specialization Certificate in Collections Management from the University of Victoria (Victoria, BC). She is currently a part-time Saint Mary’s University(SMU) faculty member and research associate with the Frasier Lab of Molecular Biology and Evolution. With a particular interest in education and outdoors adventure outreach, she coordinates two SMU summer camps for teens (Marine Mammal and Forensic Science), hosts a year-round Outdoor Adventure group for families, and is on the Board of Directors of Roots and Boots Forest School Society.

“My interest in working with the Sable Island Institute is threefold. First, the beauty and wonder of Sable Island’s natural and cultural history is enchanting and awe-inspiring to me. Second, Sable Island offers a unique and rare opportunity to study biological and ecosystem processes in isolation. And finally, I think that bringing diverse opportunities for individuals to experience the wonder and beauty of Sable Island (even remotely) is an exceptional endeavour.”

Jordan Eamer, crouched next to the small Scots Pine, the only tree on Sable Island.

Jordan Eamer

Geological Survey of Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography

Jordan was born and raised on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where his research interests in coastal geomorphology and Quaternary geology developed. Jordan’s research has until recently been focussed on the coastal areas of BC, where he worked up and down the coast in areas such as Haida Gwaii, the Hakai Protected Area, and western Vancouver Island. His focus was sediment budgets for coastal restoration projects, climate change adaptation, coastal erosion, and late Quaternary reconstruction and paleogeography. He did a postdoc at the University of Calgary where he acted as a project manager/science advisor for UAV application development.

From there, Jordan took a bit of a turn (east, to be precise) and joined the federal Public Service with Parks Canada Agency in 2017, working for the Sable Island National Park Reserve. While there, he worked in operations: landing planes, forecasting storms, and fixing buildings. Notably, he was gifted the incredible opportunity to spend 8-10 weeks at a time out on Sable. He frequently had his eye on the interesting science that could be done out there and was always keen to discuss his observations with Zoe at the Institute. In 2019 Jordan joined the Geological Survey of Canada at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth to further his career in the geosciences.

“Sable Island gives us a unique opportunity to explore the geomorphology of a sandy barrier island that isn’t a barrier at all – with open ocean on both sides and nary an outcrop of bedrock to be found, it’s as if Sable is a purpose-built laboratory for coastal geoscientists. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with the Sable Island Institute to help further the understanding of this unique geological setting.”

Timothy Frasier

Department of Biology, Saint Mary’s University

Tim is an Associate Professor at Saint Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia), in the department of Biology and the Forensic Science Program. As a biologist, he is primarily involved in using genetics to better understand the biology of populations, with an emphasis on marine mammals and conservation issues facing small and/or endangered populations. Tim is particularly interested in the ways in which genetic characteristics influence the fitness of individuals, and how these individual-based patterns scale-up to influence population-wide trends and extinction probabilities. He has been conducting genetic analyses on the North Atlantic right whale since 1999, when he began his graduate work at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario), a program that continues. Tim is also involved in genetic studies of several other whale species (including the St. Lawrence beluga, and eastern North Pacific gray whales). His other interests include forensic DNA typing, computer programming, and developing new statistical and analytical methods to study populations.

A few years ago, Tim and Zoe Lucas began collaborating on research projects relating to Sable Island, including studies of the Sable Island horses and the extinct walruses. Recently, Tim was accepted into the Marine Mammal Subcommittee of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), a group that decides whether (and to what degree) species are endangered in Canada.

Tim is particularly interested in education and public outreach, and, with Brenna McLeod/Frasier, leads Saint Mary’s Marine Mammal Summer Camp. This ten-day overnight camp offers youth ages 14 to 17 the opportunity to learn about the biology and evolution of marine mammals and to participate in the daily operations of scientific fieldwork and field-camp life. The program is a partnership of Saint Mary’s University and the Canadian Whale Institute. In August 2018, the program included an afternoon workshop at the Sable Island Institute.

Artist Susan Tooke with one of her abstract paintings in the background.

Susan Tooke

Visual Artist

Susan’s practice includes painting, illustration, animation and media arts. She received her BFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, with post-graduate studies in Media from the New School for Social Research in New York. Selected by the Centre for Art Tapes (Halifax) for a Media Arts Scholarship, Susan is currently working with sound, video and sensors to create a virtual environments based on endangered spaces. Focusing on environmental issues around the preservation of wilderness, Susan received the prestigious Established Artist Recognition Award in 2015 in acknowledgement of the artistic contribution she has made to the province of Nova Scotia. Susan is a four-time winner of the Lillian Shepherd Award for Excellence in Illustration for her contributions to children’s literature.

Her volunteer work includes Past President of CARFAC National (Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens), board member of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and member of the Creative Nova Scotia Leadership Council, an advisory board on arts policy to the Nova Scotia government. As a founding member of the Sable Island Institute, Susan served as Vice President until October 2018.

Susan visited Sable Island in August 2009 when she and fellow artist the late Richard Rudnicki organized a 10-day field trip for a group of visual artists and writers.