Professor Jake Rice

Professor Jake Rice received his BSc from Cornell University in 1970, majoring in Conservation, a particularly flexible program.  He received his PhD in 1974, from the University of Toronto, in Ornithology, looking at the behaviour and ecology of two interspecific species of vireos in northern Ontario, followed by a post doc in Psychology at UofT, looking into the biological bases for learning. He continued to work on behavioural ecology of birds at his first faculty position in Memorial University of Newfoundland, looking at puffins and guillemots (murres) while teaching courses in biometrics., quantitative ecology and behaviour.  In all of that work he made extensive use of multivariate statistics and rigorous experimental design, exploring how environmental and social context influences behaviour in lawful ways, and the feedbacks between environmental context (habitats) and behaviour, particularly  social behaviour.

Giving a talk on his research at an ornithology conference in 1977, he was invited by a professor in Wildlife Management to come to his field site on the lower Colorado River, studying the bird communities using the various desert riparian habitats.  Initially the collaboration focused on  what would now be considered animal community / habitat pattern analyses.  However, the US Bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation became very interested in the possibilities for using the patterns we were finding  in their land use planning and decision-making.  When the Bureaus funded a faculty position at Arizona State University Jake left Memorial for ASU, where he oversaw development of a model combining the bird community habitat dependencies with information about how different uses of the riparian zone (various forms of recreation, cattle grazing, water supply for irrigation, etc.) altered the riverside vegetation. Within the model stretches of the riparian area could be entered, the bird community estimated, and then different land uses would be explored in terms of how the habitat and dependent bird communities might be changed.  For its time (they were still programming in Fortran on an IBM 360) it was quite progressive work, and an early direct collaboration between science and field managers using the science products in decision-making.

Just as the modelling was bearing fruit, a very conservative President changed the priorities of the Bureaus,  and reassigned our collaborating managers. Jake mentioned these developments in an email to friend in Newfoundland, and a few days later he received a phone call from the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Research Centre there, offering him a position as a Research Scientist.  Jake’s immediate reaction on the phone was “but I don’t know anything about fisheries or marine science.  The reaction was “We have lots of staff who took your quantitative courses at MUN and they learned useful things.  We have lots of data. Come do useful things with it.”  And that discussion changed a career path.

Jake was in the Newfoundland lab from 1982 – 1990, with the latter years as Division Head of Groundfish. He took over just as the stock assessments were indicating the cod stocks were declining, and Jake had his first immersion in carrying unwelcome science results to both the political decision-makers and managers, and to an industry and conservation advocates. Jake spent from1990-1997 at the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, as Division Head for Marine Species, again integrating marine ecology and oceanography with population dynamics of exploited species, and serving as the interface between science and management of marine resources. 

In 1997 he was transferred to Headquarters in Ottawa, to become the first Director of Peer Review  and Science Advice for the Ministry.  In the late 1990s Canada had passed both its first Oceans Act and its Species at Risk Act, and it had been decided that there would be benefits form a single window for all Science advice to Policy and Management.  In that role Jake was engaged in all major science –policy issues the department faced. In the mid 2000’s marine aspects became increasingly prominent in international meetings and negotiations on global issues, and Jake began to accompany Canada’s policy leaders to these meetings.  His increasing engagement in the actual science-policy discussions in these global forums led to being invited as a author for IPCC Assessment V and Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere, the Group of Experts overseeing the First World Ocean Assessment, co-chair of the IPBES Regional Assessment for the Americas and co-Chapter Lead for the IPBES Thematic Assessment of Sustainable Use of Wild Species.  These types of roles Jake has continued after his retired from DFO in 2016, to an Emeritus position with the Ministry, as Vice-Chair of the IUCN Fisheries Expert Group, and in his advisory roles for ATLAS and iAtlantic.  

So slowly over a long career Jake have moved from terrestrial to marine to both, and from research on conceptual issues, to bringing new concepts to applied uses, to focus on the tasks of trying help scientists understand what policy makers and managers really need to do their jobs well.  and to help policy-makers and managers understand what the information they receive form the science community really means for the choices they have to make. 

“What a long, strange trip it has been – but what a rewarding journey!”- Jake Rice