Nicola Smith

Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Research Unit

Changing Oceans Research Unit


Hons. B.Sc. in Zoology (University of Toronto)
M.Sc. in Zoology (University of British Columbia)
Ph.D. in Biological Sciences (Simon Fraser University)

Contact Information

Twitter: @Nicola_S_Smith

Research Interests

Biological Invasions, Climate Change Effects on Marine Systems, Conservation Biology, Coral Reef Ecology, Data-limited Tropical Fisheries

Life in the ocean is on the move and being reorganized at an unprecedented pace. This is due to two reasons. First, humans are moving species around, either purposely or by accident, some of which have become invasive. Climate change is now interacting with these marine invasive species. Second, a warming ocean caused by climate change is also prompting native species to shift their ranges as they track changing water temperatures. Coastal nations are particularly vulnerable to these changes such as Canada. Species are showing up and interacting with species that they never have before. While some of these novel interactions might be positive, others are likely to be large and negative. My research will determine which species will trigger these negative impacts. Furthermore, I will assess the effectiveness of current management plans for these high-impact species with the intention of promoting future research into how these strategies might be modified under climate change scenarios.


I am a Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia and an Associate Editor for NeoBiota, a peer-reviewed, open access, online journal on biological invasions. Previously, I was a Bullitt Environmental Fellow and postdoctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University where I reconstructed the sponge fishery of The Bahamas over the past 180 years and conducted marine invasive species risk analyses for the Caribbean.

I have over 10 years of experience researching various aspects of biological invasions, coral reef ecology, and tropical fisheries. I have published several studies on the Indo-Pacific lionfish invasion of the Caribbean and on unreported fisheries catches, particularly as it pertains to recreational fishing. I have received numerous awards, including the 2018 Bullitt Environmental Prize, a graduate scholarship from the Organization of American States, and a professional development grant from the Society for Conservation Biology, Latin America and Caribbean Section. I headed two Global Environment Facility/United Nations Environment Programme (GEF/UNEP) funded projects on invasive species in the Caribbean.


  • 2021 Guest Lecture, Invasive species ecology and management, 4th year undergraduate course, Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada, March 2021
  • 2021 Guest Lecture, Biotic resistance to invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish on Caribbean coral reefs, 4th year undergraduate course, University of Washington, Seattle, USA, February 2021
  • 2020 Co-supervisor with Isabelle Côté, undergraduate independent research study on the diet of Caribbean groupers, Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada, May – August 2020
  • 2020 Guest Lecture, Invasive species, “Conservation Biology,” 3rd year undergraduate course, Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada, February 2020
  • 2019 Guest Lecture, The ecology of fear and biotic resistance, “Introduction to Ecology,” 2nd year undergraduate course, Simon Fraser University, BC, Canada, October 2019
  • 2018 Teaching Assistant, “General Biology,” 1st year undergraduate course, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
  • 2010 Teaching Assistant, “Principles of Conservation Biology,” 4th year undergraduate course, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 2009 Guest Lecture, The lionfish invasion in the Caribbean, “Principles of Conservation Biology,” 4th year undergraduate course, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 26th March 2009
  • 2009 Teaching Assistant, “Principles of Conservation Biology,” 4th year undergraduate course, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 2009 Teaching Assistant, “Fundamentals of Ecology,” 3rd year undergraduate course, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • 2008 Teaching Assistant, “Laboratory Investigations in Life Sciences,” 1st year undergraduate course, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Selected Publications

Smith NS, Côté IM and Shurin JB. Invasive lionfish are slow colonizers of newly created habitat. Biological Invasions (In review)

Davies SW, Putman HM, Ainsworth TD, Baum JK, Bove CB, Crosby SC, Côté IM, Duplouy A, Fulweiler RW, Griffin AJ, Hanley TC, Hill TM, Humanes A, Mangubhai S, Metaxas A, Parker LM, Rivera HE, Silbiger NJ, Smith NS, Spalding AK, Traylor-Knowles N, Weigel BL, Wright RM and Bates A (2021) Promoting inclusive metrics of success and impact to dismantle a discriminatory reward system in science. PLoS Biology 19(6): e3001282.

Smith NS and Côté IM (2021) Biotic resistance on coral reefs? Direct and indirect effects of nativepredators and competitorson invasive lionfish. Coral Reefs

Freire KMF, Belhabib D, Espedido JC, Hood L, Kleisner KM, Lam VWL, Machado ML, Mendonça JT, Meeuwig JJ, Moro PS, Motta FS, Palomares MLD, Smith N, Teh L, Zeller D, Zylich K and Pauly D (2020) Estimating global catches of marine recreational fisheries. Frontiers in Marine Science 7:12. doi:10.3389/fmars.2020.00012

Francis FT, Howard BR, Berchtold AE, Branch TA, Chaves LCT, Dunic, JC, Favaro B, Jeffrey KM, Malpica-Cruz L, Maslowski N, Schultz JA, Smith NS and Côté IM (2019) Shifting headlines? Trends in sizes of newsworthy fishes. PeerJ 7:e6395 doi:10.7717/peerj.6395

Smith NS and Côté IM (2019) Multiple drivers of contrasting diversity-invasibility relationships at fine spatial grains. Ecology 100(2): e02573

Côté IM and Smith NS (2018) The lionfish invasion: Has the worst-case scenario come to pass? Journal of Fish Biology 92:660-689. doi:10.1111/jfb.13544

Smith NS, Côté IM, Martinez-Estevez L, Hind-Ozan E, Quiros A, Johnson N, Green SJ, Cornick L, Shiffman D, Malpica-Cruz L, Gleason Besch A and Shiel-Rolle N (2017) Diversity and inclusion in conservation: a proposal for a marine diversity network. Frontiers in Marine Science 4:234. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00234

Malpica-Cruz L, Haider W, Smith NS, Fernández-Lozada S and Côté IM (2017) Heterogeneous attitudes towards lionfish in the Mexican Caribbean: implications for invasive species management. Frontiers in Marine Science 4:138. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00138

Smith NS, Green SJ, Akins JL, Miller S and Côté IM (2017) Density-dependent colonization and natural disturbance limit the effectiveness of invasive lionfish culling efforts. Biological Invasions 19:2385-2399. doi: 10.1007/s10530-017-1449-6

  • Media: Anthropocene Magazine, “The trouble with lionfish control” 28 June 2017

Smith NS and Zeller D (2016) Unreported catch and tourist demand on local fisheries of small island states: the case of The Bahamas, 1950-2010. Fishery Bulletin 114:117-131. doi:10.7755FB.114.1.10

  • Media: Sport Fishing Magazine, “Bahamas Considers Granting Commercial Fishing Rights to Chinese” 14 Nov 2016
  • Media: Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency, “One Fish, Two Fish, No Fish: Rebuilding of Fish Stocks Urgently Needed” 21 Jan 2016

Hind EJ, Alexander SM, Green SJ, Kritzer JP, Sweet MJ, Johnson AE, Amargós FP, Smith NS and Peterson AM (2015) Fostering effective international collaboration for marine science in small island states. Frontiers in Marine Science 2:86. doi:10.3389/fmars.2015.00086

Côté IM, Darling ES, Malpica-Cruz L, Smith NS, Green SJ, Curtis-Quick J, Layman C (2014) What doesn’t kill you makes you wary? Effect of repeated culling on the behaviour of an invasive predator. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94248. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094248

Other contributions
Smith NS (2021) How fear of being eaten might help keep invasive lionfish from taking over reefs. The Conversation. 24 August 2021. Available at:

Smith NS, Gray AR, Hollarsmith J, Côté IM (2021) Preventing the costs of invasive alien species (IAS) in Barbados and the OECS countries. GEF, UNEP, CABI Technical report GEFSEC ID 9408. 120 pp.

Smith NS and Zeller D (2016) Bahamas. In: D. Pauly and D. Zeller (eds) Global Atlas of Marine Fisheries: A Critical Appraisal of Catches and Ecosystem Impacts. Island Press, Washington D.C.

Smith NS and Zeller D (2013) Bahamas reconstruction: fisheries trends in a tourism-driven economy (1950-2010). UBC Fisheries Centre Working Paper #2013-08, Vancouver (Canada). 29 p.

Ramdeen R, Harper S, Frotté L, Lingard S, Smith N, Zylich K, Zeller D and Pauly D (2012) Reconstructed total catches by the marine fisheries of small island states in the wider Caribbean (1950-2010) In: Proceedings of the 65th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, pp. 69-75.

Smith NS (2011) Lionfish invasion: an opportunity for collaboration, creativity and growth in marine conservation. Sea Around Us Newsletter, Jan./Feb. (63): 3-4.

Sullivan Sealy K, Anderson L, Stewart D and Smith N (2008) The invasion of Indo-Pacific lionfish in The Bahamas: Challenges for a national response plan. In: Proceedings of the 61st Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, pp. 404-408.

Smith NS and Sullivan Sealey KS (2007) The lionfish invasion in The Bahamas: What do we know and what to do about it? In: Proceedings of the 60th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, pp. 419-423.