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Dr. Josef D. Ackerman

Dr. Josef D. Ackerman


Office: SSC 2468
Ext: 58268
Lab: SSC 2407/2408
Ext: 56008


I received my MA under the late Akira Okubo at SUNY Stony Brook, where I examined the hydrodynamics of eelgrass canopies (Zostera marina), before moving to Cornell University where I studied the biomechanics of submarine pollination in eelgrass for my PhD under Karl Niklas. This was followed by a postdoc/research associate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Toronto (and partly at the Royal Ontario Museum) where I examined the biomechanics of zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha and D. bugensis) adhesive, suspension feeding and benthic-pelagic coupling.

As a founding faculty member and Canada Research Chair in Physical Ecology and Aquatic Science at UNBC, I examine suspension feeding in blue mussels (Mytilus trossulus and M. californianus), hydraulic habitats of stream organisms, pheromone dispersion, kelp holdfast mechanics, and particle capture in plant-like collectors. Much of my current research at Guelph involves the physical ecology of unionid bivalves, their early life history and conservation, and understanding the mechanics of nutrient uptake in aquatic plants.

I am the Editor in Chief of Limnology & Oceanography: Fluids and Environments, Associate Editor of Aquatic Sciences, and a former Associate Editor of Limnology and Oceanography. I am a member of a number of scientific societies including: AGU, ASLO, AIBS, BES, BSA, CERF, IAGLR, NABS, SCL, SMB, and TOS.


B.Sc. - University of Toronto - 1982
M.Sc. - SUNY at Stony Brook - 1985
Ph.D. - Cornell University - 1989


Physical Ecology and Aquatic Sciences

(Marine and Freshwater Biology)

1. Nutrient and trophic dynamics in benthic producers and consumers: Hydrodynamics and mass transport.
- Nutrient uptake by aquatic plants
- Suspension feeding by freshwater and marine mussels

2. The physical ecology of reproduction, dispersal, and early life history.
- Dispersion of mussel gametes, larvae and juveniles in lakes and rivers
- Determination of hydraulic habitats of juvenile mussels

3. Conservation and Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems
- Identification of host fish and rearing juveniles of endangered unionid mussel.
- Determination of the role of benthic processes in hypoxia of lakes.

Some of long-term interests include the convergent evolution of morphological structures and processes, the manner by which organisms have adapted to their physical environment, and fluid dynamic aspects of mass transfer through ecosystems. I have been fortunate to ask many of these questions within an applied context related to industrial ecology, fisheries, forestry, and conservation. I continue to be interested in exploring the ecology of marine and freshwater plants (and algae) and benthic invertebrates.

Most of my research is undertaken in the Physical Ecology Laboratory, Hagen Aqualab and in the field in locations that include southwestern Ontario rivers, Lake Erie, Vancouver Island (Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre), and the Rocky Mountains.

Selected Publications

Please see my personal website.


I try to use realistic and practical approaches to understanding the role and function of organisms in aquatic environments. These approaches include biomechanical, ecological, physiological and numerical modeling exercises, which are portable to other areas and endeavours. I tend to stress numeracy and written communication skills, in addition to critical thinking, the examination of hypotheses, and use of the scientific literature.

IBIO*6000 - Spatial and Temporal Analysis in Ecology
BIOL*3450 - Introduction to Aquatic Environments,
BIOL*4350 - Biology of Polluted Waters

Grad Students

Chris Farrow (MSc candidate)
Katherine Tran (MSc candidate)
Kyle Sewak (MSc candidate)
Lisa Harris (MSc candidate)
Shaylah Tuttle-Raycraft (PhD candidate)

Lab Members

Damien Bufford (PhD) Postdoctoral Scientist (Queen's University)


Personal Website

Physical Ecology Laboratory website