Shoshanah Jacobs

Shoshanah Jacobs
Assistant Professor
Phone number: 
519-824-4120 x58096
SSC 2447


The path that has brought me to the University of Guelph was full of interesting stops along the way. It all started at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John. I completed a BSc in Biology with a specialisation in marine biology and studied harbour seal population dynamics and interactions with industry for my honours and Master's theses. Then I decided to work on a more data-collection reliable species and headed up to Canada's vast Arctic for my PhD research to work on seabirds. Working in such isolated and challenging situations sparked an interest in expedition logistics and after I graduated from an Ontario university with a PhD in Arctic seabird ecophysiology I stepped into a career as a polar expedition leader, spending a lot of time at both ends of the world. I continue to lead special expeditions on occasion for scientific or media-related purposes. Working in Antarctica inspired me to share my experiences with others and led me to discover my passion for teaching. I worked as a freelance lecturer, teaching about climate change, natural history, and even human history! On my travels and guided by my research, I began to explore the theories of knowledge transfer from biology to other disciplines and the pedagogical methods associated with effective transfer. Now in the Department of Integrative Biology, I'm developing a research path centered on the foraging eco-physiology of Arctic seabirds. Additionally, I've engaged in the scholarship of teaching by conducting research on teaching and learning and knowledge translation and transfer.


  • B.Sc. (honours) - University of New Brunswick, Saint John 1999
  • M.Sc. - University of New Brunswick, Saint John 2001
  • Dipl. Univ. Teaching - University of New Brunswick, Fredericton 2001
  • Ph.D - University of Ottawa 2008


Seabirds are important indicators of ecosystem health. Long-lived birds, in particular, are ideal models to investigate the consequences of large-scale changes to climate. Since the beginning of my PhD in 2001, I have focused my research on the Arctic - primarily in Greenland and Alaska. Broadly speaking, I work on the eco-physiology of breeding seabirds that feed at different trophic levels. I tie all my work to understanding the effects that environmental has and might have. This research has shown that fatty acids can be used as indicators of energy expenditure and of diet. This is a valuable tool for modelling the population level impacts of environmental change. My work has shown that energy for the purposes of reproduction can be derived from different habitats depending upon reproductive stage and this has significant implications for the identification and conservation of sensitive ecosystems. I have also demonstrated that simulated increases in energy expenditure of parents have direct consequences on offspring in long lived seabirds. I am currently expanding my approach to incorporate more direct measures of foraging strategies to account for a broader range of individual natural history characteristics. 

Biomimetics is an interesting case of knowledge transfer, and very different from an academic setting. Here the 'students' are educated and experienced in a completely different discipline. I am researching the process by which designers develop biomimetic innovations, the entry points of the approach, the biological models that they use and their understanding of them, with the goal of helping to improve access to those unfamiliar with biology. I am working on the largest collection of case studies ever made of biomimetic innovation. With over 350 technologies analysed, the data will allow us to better understand how biological models inspire innovation and will provide us with directions for further advancement.

I am working with colleagues from other departments and institutions on predictors of success at both ends of and during the earning of a university degree. What maximises success from secondary to post-secondary institutions? How can we effectively map that transition? What are the relevant skills necessary for success after graduation? How are universities addressing this? Should they be? At a smaller scale I am working on studies related to effective pedagogical techniques in the classroom. Working with colleagues from other universities, we are actively testing the effectiveness of different approaches and exercises for knowledge transfer and retention at the university level.


Select Publications

1. Braune, B., Jacobs, S. R., & Gaston, A. (2017). "Variation in organochlorine and mercury levels in first and replacement eggs of a single-egg clutch breeder, the thick-billed murre, at a breeding colony in the Canadian Arctic," The Science of the Total Environment, 610, 462-468.

2. Manley*, B., Elliot, S., & Jacobs, S. (2017).  Expedition Cruising in the Canadian Arctic: Visitor Motives and the Influence of Education Programming on Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviours.   Resources, 6 (3), 1-20.

3. Wanieck*, K., Fayemi, P., Zollfrank, C., & Jacobs, S. R. (2017).  Tools to support and facilitate biomimetics.   Bioinspired, biomimetic, and nanobiomaterials, 6 (2), 53-66.

4. Cash-Barlow*, C., Letargo*, J., Graether, S., & Jacobs, S. (2017).  An analysis of the perceptions and resources of large university classes.   CBE Life Sciences Education, 16 (33), 1-12.

5. Cunningham*, J., Le Vaillant, M., Gaston, A., Roper-Coudert, Y., Kato, A., Jacobs, S., Elliott, K. (2017).  Reduced activity during middle-age for thick-billed murres (Uria lomvia): evidence for age-related trends in fine-scale foraging behaviour.   Animal Behaviour, 126, 271-280.

6. Gillis, D., Nelson*, J., Driscoll*, B., Hodgins, K., Fraser, E., Jacobs, S. (2017).  Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Research and Education in Canada: A Review and Suggested Framework.   Collected Essays in Learning and Teaching, 10, 203-222.

7. Hoeller, N., Farnsworth, M., Jacobs, S., Chirazi, J., Salustri, F., et al. (2016).  A Systems View of Bioinspiration: Bridging the Gaps.   INSIGHT, 19 (1), 36-40.

8. Hobbins*, J., Eisenbach, M., Jacobs, S., & Ritchie, K. (2016).  Residence learning communities at Canadian comprehensive institutions.   Teaching and Learning Innovations Journal, 18.

9. Jacobs, S., Bender, S., & McAdam, A. (2015).  The Dandelion Outreach Program: Learning through inquiry-based community engagement.   Evolution: Education and Outreach, 8, 4, doi: 10.1186/s12052-015-0033-8.

10. Landry*, A., Jacobs, S. R., & Newton, G. (2015).  Use of Peer Assessment in a Graduate Level Writing Assignment.   International Journal of Higher Education, 4 (1), 38-51.

11. Jacobs, S. (2015).  Reversing the process of learning.   Teaching and Learning Innovations Journal, 17.

12. Jacobs, S. (2014).  Biomimetics: a simple foundation will lead to new insight about process.   International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, 9 (2), 83-94.

13. Jacobs, S., Nichols*, E., & Helms, M. (2014).  Where are we now and where are we going? The BioM Innovation Database.   Journal of Mechanical Design, 136., doi: 10.1115/1.4028171.

14. Jacobs, S., Elliott, K. H., & Gaston, T. (2013).  Parents are a drag: long lived birds share costs with their offspring.   PLoS ONE, 8:e54594.

15. Jacobs, S., Elliott, K. H., Gaston, A. J., Guigueno, M. F., Redman, P., J. R. Speakman, and J.M. Weber (2012).  Determining seabird body condition using non-lethal measures.   Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 85, 85-95, doi: 85:85-95.

16. Jacobs, S., Edwards, D., Ringrose, J., Elliott, K. H., Weber, J. M., Gaston, A.J. (2011).  Changes in body composition during breeding: Reproductive strategies of three seabird species under poor environmental condition.   Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 158, 77-82, doi: B 158:77-82.

17. Jacobs, S., Elliott, K. H., Gaston, A. J., & Weber, J. M. (2009).  Fatty acid signatures of female Brunnich's guillemots suggests reliance on local prey for replacement egg production.   Journal of Avian Biology, 40, 327-336.

18. Elliott, K. H., Jacobs, S., Ringrose, J., Gaston, A. J., & Davoren, G. K. (2008).  Is mass loss in Brunnich's guillemots Uria Iomvia an adaptation for improved flight performance or improved diver performance?   Journal of Avian Biology, 39, 619-628, doi: 39:619-628.

19. Terhune, J. M., Hoover, C. L., & Jacobs, S. R. (2002).  Potential detection ranges of underwater acoustic harassment devices in the Bay of Fundy.   Journal of the World Aquaculture Society, 33 (2), 176-183.

20. Jacobs, S. & Terhune, J. M. (2002).  The effectiveness of acoustic harassment devices: seal reaction studies and noise exposure model in the Bay of Fundy, Canada.   Aquatic Mammals, 28 (2), 147-158.

21. Jacobs, S. & Terhune, J. M. (2000).  Harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) numbers along the New Brunswick coast of the Bay of Fundy in autumn in relation to aquaculture.   Northeastern Naturalist, 7, 289-296. 


  • ICON (IdeaCongress): available to all students across campus. Transdisciplinary course in Knowledge Translation and Transfer, community-engaged learning in social innovation and entreprenurship.  
  • Humans in the Natural World (BIOL*1500)
  • Discovering Biodiversity (BIOL*1070)
  • Invertebrate Morphology and Evolution (ZOO*2700)
  • Lab Studies in Ornithology (ZOO*4920) 

Graduate Students

  • Brittany Manley - MSc candidate (2013-2015)
  • Justine Hobbins - MSc candidate (2014-2016)
  • Josh Cunningham - MSc candidate (2015-2017)