Dr. Jana McPherson

Project Manager, National Wildlife Trade, Project Seahorse
Research staff, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia

Jana hopes to balance the needs of humans and the rest of nature. Her work in conservation (marine and terrestrial) has involved scientific fieldwork, traditional knowledge, species distribution models, remote sensing, sustainable development initiatives, and building large collaborations for mutual learning, data compilation, and analysis. She holds a BSc in Applied Biology from the University of Leeds, a DPhil in Zoology from the University of Oxford, and an MBA from the University of British Columbia. At Project Seahorse, she works with governments in Asia and elsewhere on implementing national management plans to ensure the sustainability of trade in seahorses


Head shot of Dr. Jana McPhersonEmail: j.mcpherson at oceans.ubc.ca

Phone: +1 604-827-5141

Jana first worked on seahorses as an undergraduate student when one summer she joined a fellow student on bottom trawling vessels targeting live shrimp in Florida to collect information on their seahorse bycatch. That same summer, she also attempted the first underwater study of dwarf seahorses (Hippocampus zosterae) in the wild. Upon finishing her undergraduate studies, she assisted the first systematic field survey of Knysna seahorses (Hippocampus capensis) in their estuarine habitats in South Africa, and undertook surveys of seahorse fisheries and trade in Kenya and Tanzania. These experiences impressed on her the challenges associated with mapping and monitoring species distributions, and the importance of local ecological knowledge.

Hoping to alleviate the challenges around mapping and monitoring species distributions, Jana spent her doctoral studies at Oxford examining how best to use correlative species distribution models and environmental data gathered by satellites to improve our understanding of geographic patterns in species and species richness. For these analyses, Jana worked with a large database on the distribution of bird species in sub-Saharan Africa, which she was able to collate thanks to the many ornithologists and birders willing to share their meticulously recorded observations.

For her postdoctoral studies at Dalhousie, Jana developed tools to make the most of sparse historic data on species occurrence to estimate long-term population trends, and built a data sharing collaboration among reef fish scientists in the Pacific to enable analyses of the human and environmental factors that influence the abundance, biomass, size structure, and functional diversity of reef fish communities. In addition, she contributed to the development of satellite-derived environmental data layers for marine ecology research.

Jana subsequently spent 14 years at Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo coordinating field projects in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, and Nigeria that combined conservation with sustainable development. The projects focused on assisting local communities implement and benefit from efforts to protect imperilled wildlife in their surroundings. Jana helped diverse stakeholders identify common goals and approaches, guided data collection and analyses to monitor ecological and socio-economic impacts, and assisted in raising funds from donations and grants. To share lessons learnt and prepare for emerging challenges and opportunities, Jana also initiated and led a global horizon scan collaboration that distilled thousands of suggestions gathered via a multilingual online survey into 15 priorities for policy and management attention.

Jana found her way back to seahorses in May 2024. She is now looking forward to applying her understanding of the ecological, social, and economic dimensions of conservation in helping national governments develop and implement strategies to facilitate sustainable seahorse trade.

[Updated 16 May 2024]