MSc Resources, Environment and Sustainability

Selina Agbayani began her career while pursuing a B.Sc. in Forest Sciences from the University of British Columbia (UBC). After graduation, she gained experience in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) through the Landscape Ecology and Water Tracer Labs at UBC. She then continued her professional development with the Advanced Diploma GIS Program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Selina has combined a passion for natural systems and conservation issues with a specialization in landscape-scale ecological data and spatial analysis. This has led her to become involved in various projects with non-profit organizations such as the Community Mapping Network and World Wildlife Fund – Canada. In recent years, she has become interested in marine ecosystems and has joined the Marine Mammal Research Unit (MMRU) in the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) at UBC to study the migration patterns and foraging ecology of Eastern Pacific grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus).

Thesis Topic

Bioenergetic requirements of migrating eastern North Pacific grey whales in the face of climate change

Unusually high mortalities of grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) observed in 1999 and 2000 along the migration route between Mexico and the Arctic have been attributed to starvation resulting from reductions in prey availability likely due to climate change. However, relatively little is known about minimum energetic requirements to sustain the annual grey whale migration, and the associated effect of climate change on the ability of grey whales to meet minimum energy requirements for migration. We addressed this knowledge gap by constructing an age-structured bioenergetics model to predict the energy requirements of each migrating cohort of whales, and estimated a minimum threshold of daily prey consumption during the summer that would be necessary for them to avoid nutritional stress during the annual migration. Inputs included age, sex, and reproductive state, and the model assumed a range of annual energetic requirement thresholds—from 96% of daily requirements (below which pregnant females would not successfully give birth or wean a calf), to 58-60% (below which adults would die). We thus derived daily food requirements (e.g., kg of amphipods, mysid shrimp, etc.) for all age classes of grey whales, and predicted future mortality rates as a function of varying prey densities due to climate change. Our results are useful for managers and policy makers to assess and anticipate the likelihood of climate-induced mortality events occurring.

Supervisor(s) Name(s)
Dr. Andrew Trites
Research Funding and Partners

Ocean Leaders Fellowship, NSERC CreateNSERC-CGS


ubcblue_crestsmInstitute for the Oceans and Fisheries, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability


Agbayani, S, Picco CM and HM Alidina. 2015. Cumulative impact of bottom fisheries on benthic habitats: a quantitative spatial assessment in British Columbia, Canada. Ocean and Coastal Management 116:423-434.

Clarke Murray C, S Agbayani, N Ban. 2015a. Cumulative effects of planned industrial development and climate change on marine ecosystems. Global Ecology and Conservation 4:110-116.

Clarke Murray C, S Agbayani, N Ban, HM Alidina. 2015b. Advancing marine cumulative effects mapping: An update in Canada’s Pacific waters. Marine Policy 58:71-77.

Ewins, PJ, KA McDonald, & S Agbayani. 2014. The WWF Species Action Plan for Arctic Whales, 2014-2020. WWF Global Arctic Programme, Ottawa, Canada.

Okey, TA, HM Alidina, S Agbayani. 2015. Mapping ecological vulnerability to climate change in Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems. Ocean and Coastal Management 106:35-38.

Reeves RR, PJ Ewins, S Agbayani, MP Heide-Jørgensen, KM Kovacs, C Lydersen, R Suydam, W Elliott, G Polet, Y van Dijk, R Blijleven. 2014. Distribution of endemic cetaceans in relation to hydrocarbon development and commercial shipping in a warming Arctic. Marine Policy 44:375-389.

WWF Global Arctic Programme. 2012. Important Marine Areas in the Arctic. [Atlas] Maps created by S Agbayani.