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Headshot of director of marine research at Shedd Aquarium, Steve Kessel.

Steven Kessel, Ph.D.

Director of Marine Research

Steve Kessel oversees marine research projects protecting economically important species in The Bahamas in addition to conducting his own original research on Caribbean shark species.

Education

Ph.D., Marine Biology and Ecology, Cardiff University
B.Sc., Marine Geography, Cardiff University

“My favorite residents are the pineapple fish. They have evolved to truly look like pineapples and I have no idea how that happened or what benefit they gain from it. They are a fascinating mystery to me.”

Steven Kessel has worked extensively with a wide variety of marine species and has a well-established reputation as a conservation scientist. He joined Shedd Aquarium’s Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research in 2017 to oversee a suite of marine conservation research projects aimed at protecting important species in the Bahamas, including the endangered Nassau grouper and threatened queen conch.

Kessel also leads his own original research project to better understand Caribbean shark species in an effort to protect them. He has led and assisted with studies of lemon sharks, Red Sea sharks and manta rays and helped develop conservation management programs for several species.

Kessel has a Ph.D. in marine ecology and biology from Cardiff University, UK. Following the completion of his degree in 2009, he spent two years at Cardiff as a postdoctoral fellow, acting as the principal investigator for the Jupiter Large Coastal Shark Species Study, which investigated the biology and ecology of large coastal shark species residing off the eastern seaboard of the United States. Since then, Kessel has worked for the University of Windsor Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research as the principal investigator of the Lancaster Sound Arctic component of the Ocean Tracking Network. Taking a freshwater tack, at his last position, Kessel studied the movements and migrations of lake sturgeon in the Great Lakes with Michigan State University.

See Publications


Size class segregation of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in a shallow High Arctic embayment

Kessel, S.T., Crawford, R.E., Hussey, N.E., Ivanova, S.V., Holden, J.P. & Fisk, A.T. (2021) Size class segregation of Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in a shallow High Arctic embayment. Arctic Science, 7, 208–216 https://doi.org/10.1139/as-2019-0005

Broad feeding niches of capelin and sand lance may overlap those of polar cod and other native fish in the eastern Canadian Arctic

Pedro, S., Fisk, A. T., Ferguson, S. H., Hussey, N. E., Kessel, S. T., & McKinney, M. A. (2020). Broad feeding niches of capelin and sand lance may overlap those of polar cod and other native fish in the eastern Canadian Arctic. Polar Biology. 43: 1707–1724. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02738-8

Global status and conservation potential of reef sharks

MacNeil, M. A., Chapman, D. D., Heupel, M…Kessel S. T.et al (2020) Global status and conservation potential of reef sharks. Nature, 583, 801–806 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2519-y

Anthropogenic pressures on reef-associated sharks in jurisdictions with and without directed shark fishing

Clementi, G.M., Babcock, E.A., Valentin-Albanese, J., Bond, M.E., Flowers, K.I., Heithaus, M.R., Whitman, E.R., Van Zinnicq Bergmann, M.P.M., Guttridge, T.L., O’Shea, O.R., Shipley, O.N., Brooks, E.J., Kessel, S.T. & Chapman, D.D. (2021) Anthropogenic pressures on reef-associated sharks in jurisdictions with and without directed shark fishing. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 661, 175–186 https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13607

Spatial connectivity and drivers of shark habitat use within a large marine protected area in the Caribbean, The Bahamas Shark Sanctuary

Gallagher, A. J., Shipley, O. N., van Zinnicq Bergmann, M. P. M., Brownscombe, J. W., Dahlgren, C. P., Frisk, M. G., Griffin, L. P., Hammerschlag, N., Kattan, S., Papastamatiou, Y. P., Shea, B. D., Kessel, S. T. & Duarte, C. M. (2021) Spatial connectivity and drivers of shark habitat use within a large marine protected area in the Caribbean, The Bahamas Shark Sanctuary. Frontiers in Marine Science, 7, 608848 https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2020.608848

Circumpolar genetic population structure of polar cod, Boreogadus saida

Nelson, R. J., Bouchard, C., Fortier, L., Majewski, A. R., Reist, J. D., Præbel, K., Madsen, M. L., Rose, G.A., Kessel, S.T., & Divoky, G.J. (2020). Circumpolar genetic population structure of polar cod, Boreogadus saida. Polar Biology, 43, 951–961. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-020-02660-z

A novel framework to protect animal data in a world of ecosurveillance

Lennox R. J., Harcourt R., Bennett J. R., Davies A., Ford A. T., Frey R. M., Hayward M. W., Hussey N. E., Iverson S. J., Kays R., Kessel S. T., McMahon C., Muelbert M., Murray T. S., Nguyen V. M., Pye J. D., Roche D. G., Whoriskey F. G., Young N., & Cooke S. J. (2020). A novel framework to protect animal data in a world of ecosurveillance. Bioscience, 70, 468–476. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa035

Population genomic response to geographic gradients by widespread and endemic fishes of the Arabian Peninsula

DiBattista J. D., Saenz‐Agudelo P., Piatek M. J., Cagua E. F., Bowen B. W., Choat J. H., Rocha L. A., Gaither M. R., Hobbs J. P. A., Sinclair-Taylor T. H., McIlwain J. H., Priest M. A., Braun C. D., Hussey N. E., Kessel S. T., & Berumen M. L. (2020). Population genomic response to geographic gradients by widespread and endemic fishes of the Arabian Peninsula. Ecology and Evolution, 10, 4314–4330. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6199

Biotelemetry informing management: case studies exploring successful integration of biotelemetry data into fisheries and habitat management

Brooks, J. L., Chapman, J. M., Barkley, A. N.,Kessel, S. T., Hussey, N. E., Hinch, S. G., ... & Gruber, S. H. (2019). Biotelemetry informing management: case studies exploring successful integration of biotelemetry data into fisheries and habitat management. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 76(7), 1238–252. https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2017-0530

Conducting and interpreting fish telemetry studies: considerations for researchers and resource managers

Brownscombe, J. W., Lédée, E. J., Raby, G. D., Struthers, D. P., Gutowsky, L. F., Nguyen, V. M., Murchie, K. J., Kessel, S. T., ... & Vandergoot, C. S. (2019). Conducting and interpreting fish telemetry studies: considerations for researchers and resource managers. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 29(2), 369–400. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-019-09560-4

No apparent negative tagging effects after 13 years at liberty for lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris implanted with acoustic transmitter

Smukall, M. J., Kessel, S. T., Franks, B. R., Feldheim, K. A., Guttridge, T. L., & Gruber, S. H. (2019). No apparent negative tagging effects after 13 years at liberty for lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris implanted with acoustic transmitter. Journal of Fish Biology, 94(1), 173–177. https://doi.org/10.1111/jfb.13856

Abundance and species diversity hotspots of tracked marine predators across the North American Arctic

Yurkowski, D. J., Auger‐Méthé, M., Mallory, M. L., Wong, S. N., Gilchrist, G., Derocher, A. E., ...Kessel S. T.,… & Togunov, R. R. (2019). Abundance and species diversity hotspots of tracked marine predators across the North American Arctic. Diversity and Distributions, 25(3), 328-345. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12860

Limited effects of changing prey fish communities on food quality for aquatic predators in the eastern Canadian Arctic in terms of essential fatty acids, methylmercury and selenium

Pedro, S., Fisk, A. T., Ferguson, S. H., Hussey, N. E., Kessel, S. T., & McKinney, M. A. (2019). Limited effects of changing prey fish communities on food quality for aquatic predators in the eastern Canadian Arctic in terms of essential fatty acids, methylmercury and selenium. Chemosphere, 214, 855–865.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2018.09.167

Conservation of reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) in a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Large-scale island development or sustainable tourism?

Kessel, S. T., Elamin, N. A., Yurkowski, D. J., Chekchak, T., Walter, R. P., Klaus, R., ... & Hussey, N. E. (2017). Conservation of reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) in a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Large-scale island development or sustainable tourism?. PloS one, 12(10). https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0185419

Transcoelomic expulsion of an ingested foreign object by a carcharhinid shark

Kessel, S. T., Fraser, J., Van Bonn, W. G., Brooks, J. L., Guttridge, T. L., Hussey, N. E., & Gruber, S. H. (2017). Transcoelomic expulsion of an ingested foreign object by a carcharhinid shark. Marine and Freshwater Research, 68(11), 2173-2177. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF17022