Philippe Tortell

Wall Scholar


Former Director; Professor and Department Head


Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences





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Philippe Tortell

Philippe Tortell is a biological/chemical oceanographer with broad interests in ocean-climate interactions. He received his BSc in Biology at McGill University (1994), and an MA (1997) and PhD (2001) in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. 

Dr. Tortell is a sea-going oceanographer with broad interests in marine biogeochemical cycles and ocean-climate interactions. His recent work has focused on understanding the potential climate effects on Arctic and Antarctic marine systems. His research employs a variety of laboratory and field-based measurements to examine the interactions between marine micro-organisms and ‘climate-active’ trace gases including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and dimethylsulfide.

Dr. Tortell served as Director of the Peter Wall Institute from May 2016 to November 2018. He has a long-standing relationship with the Institute, having been an Early Career Scholar in 2004 and a Wall Scholar from 2014-16. During his residence at the Institute, he fostered wide-ranging and inter-disciplinary discussions on Arctic-related issues, with a primary focus on climate change research, and explored innovative and novel approaches to represent microbial and environmental data.

Primary Recipient Awards

Philippe Tortell – Arts-Based Initiatives – 2015
Philippe Tortell – Wall Scholars – 2015

During his year in residence at the Institute, Dr. Tortell would like to continue fostering wide ranging and inter-disciplinary discussions on Arctic-related issues, with a primary focus on climate change research. Working in collaboration with a number of researchers (faculty members and graduate students) at UBC, and with colleagues at the Vancouver Aquarium, he plans to organize a workshop exploring scientific and traditional northern perspectives of Arctic climate change.  He will also be heavily involved in the analysis of oceanographic samples collected on two major Arctic expeditions this summer (2015).

Philippe Tortell – Wall Scholars – 2014

During his year in residence at the Institute, Dr. Tortell will be planning for a major Arctic expedition. He will host discussions of climate change impacts in the Arctic, drawing on diverse experience on campus in Arctic research, from both the natural and social sciences. Dr. Tortell will also be hosting Dr. David Archer (University of Chicago), one of the world’s pre-eminent experts on the Arctic Ocean methane cycle, and strong advocate for public climate change education. Interactions between Dr. Archer and Dr. Candis Callison (UBC Journalism) are being planned.

Philippe Tortell – Exploratory Workshops – 2011

This workshop was held May 2-4, 2012.

The effects of global warming are most obvious in the Arctic, both on land and at sea. On land, ice sheets, glaciers and permafrost are melting, the flow of rivers is increasing and their chemical composition is changing. In the Arctic Ocean, sea ice is receding and the hydrography, circulation, chemistry and ecosystems are changing rapidly. Locally, these changes affect the livelihood of northern communities. Globally, they affect climate as a result of altered greenhouse gas emissions, ocean circulation and heat transport. As these perturbations accelerate, there is an increasing sense of urgency to document their extent and to understand their consequences.

The three-day exploratory workshop assembles a group of Canadian and international Arctic experts with various backgrounds to foster inter-disciplinary collaborations and to initiate a large-scale research program investigating the biological, chemical and physical responses of the Arctic Ocean to climate changes. The workshop consists of public lectures on the rapidly evolving changes occurring in the Arctic (terrestrial ecosystems and landscape dynamics; permafrost; hydrology; sea ice; ocean circulation, productivity and chemistry), discussions of the impacts of these changes on First Nations communities, and a series of closed door plenary sessions and thematic working groups devoted to developing an international, multidisciplinary research program and delineating funding strategies.

Philippe Tortell – Early Career Scholars – 2004

Co-Principal Investigator Awards

Chris Chafe – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2019
Malabika Pramanik – Theme Development Workshop – 2019
Edouard Bard – Distinguished Visiting Professor – 2017

Radiocarbon as a geochronometer and as a tracer in paleoclimatology, geophysics and astrophysics

Kevin Arrigo – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2016
David Archer – International Visiting Research Scholars – 2014