Dr Trites is a Professor and Director of the Marine Mammal Research Unit in the Fisheries Centre. He is also the Research Director for the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium, which is based at the Fisheries Centre.
His main area of research is the interaction between marine mammals and commercial fisheries. This includes the population biology and bioenergetics and seals, sea lions and whales, and involves a combination of field, captive and computer studies (data analysis and simulation modeling).
The nature of his research makes it hard for him to predict where it will lead: 'I don't know what questions will raise their heads tomorrow, that's partly what makes this so interesting'. The nutrition of animals and how much fish they take leads, inevitably, to conflict between the animals and fisheries: 'We are applying our results in an attempt to find ways of resolving that conflict'.
Captive studies related to nutrition and energetics of Steller sea lions and northern fur seals are being carried out at the Vancouver Aquarium. Graduate students are also involved in studying behavioral and foraging ecology of pinnipeds in the wild, and in constructing ecosystem and bio-energetic models in the lab.