Associate Habitat restoration, Aquacultural engineering, Bio-sensor design including bio-implants, Hydrodynamics and mass transfer in aquatic systems
Associate Professor Emerita
University of Florida, 1988, Ph.D. Agricultural Engineering
Pennsylvania State University, 1977, M.S. Agricultural Engineering
University of Minnesota, Duluth, 1975, B.A. Biology
Research Interests

Dr. Petrell multi-disciplinary research program involves modeling and experimentation with the over all goal of improving productivity in aquatic systems. The research is extremely important as more and more aquatic species are at risk of extinction. Her new technologies and management systems that were created from a fundamental understanding of physics, biology, chemical and math have been used to develop sustainable aquaculture and fisheries, protect wild aquatic species, and provide new insights into the functional workings of biological and physical systems.

For example, her diverse teams of young researchers have developed and tested various ways to use underwater images to measure fish, fish feeding rate and waste loadings from salmon farms. Throughout the world, as a result of this research, under water cameras are being used on fish farms to monitor fish feeding and food wastage.

Water quality is a major concern in both fisheries and aquaculture. In this laboratory, in conjunction with municipal and provincial government agencies, new technologies are being developed to improve water quality. Currently the ability of low-cost natural and sustainable materials for removing heavy metals from roadway runoff is being modeled and tested. In another project, experiments are being conducted in specially constructed channels to quantify the effect of nutrient addition and timing on overall fish stream productivity. Future work will be aimed at modifying the techniques developed here for other waste and natural systems.

To help determine how organisms behave in their natural state, new sensors must be developed that are small, long lasting, robust and safe. Currently a new tiny radio frequency tag is being developed in conjunction with the NW Pacific Science Foundation, the UBC Fisheries Center, and the electrical engineering departments here and at Simon Fraser University for placement just under the skin of a young sea lion. It will be able to help determine why marine animals have declined in numbers. Design issues relating to bio-electromagnetism, tissue integration and biomechanics are being researched in this laboratory. Results will help the target animal as well as provide insight into how the body responds to foreign objects.

Select Publications
  • Farnworth, M., Petrell R.J. ‘Modeling, Experimentation And Analysis Of Pond Seepage Flow For Application In Fisheries And Aquaculture’. JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN WATER RESOURCES ASSOCIATION. 41. (2005). pp. 581 – 590.
  • Olawale, K, Petrell, R.J., Michelson, D., Trites, A. ‘The Dielectric properties of the cranial skin of five young captive sea stellar sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and a similar number of young domestic pigs (Sus scrofa) and sheep (Ovis aries) between 0.1 and 10 GHz’. PHYSIOLOGICAL MEASUREMENT. 26. (2005). pp. 627 – 637.
  • Buryniuk, M, RJ Petrell, SA Baldwin and KV Lo. ‘Accumulation and natural disintegration of solid wastes caught on a screen suspended below a fish farm cage’. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. (2005). Accepted
  • Parsonage, KD, Petrell, RJ. “Accuracy of a machine-vision pellet detection system”. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. 29.3-4. (2003). pp. 109 – 123.
  • Brunetti, A. and R.J. Petrell. ‘SEEDing Sustainability: Team Project Based Learning Enhances Awareness of Sustainability At the University of British Columbia. ‘International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. 4.3. (2003). pp. 210 – 217.
  • Petrell, RJ, Ang, K.P. “Effects of pellet contrast and light intensity on salmonid feeding behaviours”. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. 25.3. (2001). pp. 175 – 186.


  • Felder, MAJ, RJ Petrell and SJB Duff. ‘A solid waste audit and directions for waste reduction at the University of British Columbia, Canada’. WASTE MANAGEMENT and RESEARCH. 19.4. (2001). pp. 354 – 365.
  • Petrell, RJ and RE Jones. ‘Power requirement of swimming in chinook salmon and Atlantic salmon and implications for food conversion and growth performance’. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. 22.3. (2000). pp. 225 – 239.
  • Jones, RE, RJ Petrell and D Pauly. “Using modified length-weight relationships to assess the condition of fish”. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. 20.4. (1999). pp. 261 – 276.
  • Boucher, E and RJ Petrell. “Swimming speed and morphological features of mixed populations of early maturing and non-maturing fish”. AQUACULTURAL ENGINEERING. 20.1. (1999). pp. 21 – 35.
  • Nov, 2005 – Investigation of heavy metal removal mechanisms in three different types of absorbent beds for the treatment of roadway stormwater runoff; Presented To: American Water Resources Association; Annual meeting; Seattle, Washington, United States; Copresenters: D. Chiu
  • Sep, 2005 – Timings of in-stream fertilization for enhanced productivity; Presented To: American Fisheries Society; American Fisheries Society 135th Annual Meeting; Anchorage, Alaska, United States; Copresenters: S. Lawrie, K. Ashley
  • Jun, 2005 – Energy efficient protocols for subcutaneous RF identification tags in marine mammals at remote sites; 2nd International Bio-logging Science Symposium; St. Andrews, Scotland; Copresenters: R. Virtue, S. Mirabassi, W Dunford, R Vaughan, A Trites
  • Oct, 2002 – A Practical example of a Bayesian Belief network as a method of modeling and predicting benthic impact associated with marine aquaculture; Presented To: The European Aquaculture Society; Annual Meeting; Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy; Copresenters: N. Mehlenbacher


  • Ang, K., R. Petrell and B March. #20030059494. Fish Feed and Method Using Same. Issued. Mar 27, 2003.
CHBE 344 Unit Operations I
CHBE 464 Chemical and Biological Engineering Laboratory
CHBE 540 Advanced Design of Bioaquatic Systems
Graduate course: industrial ecology
Aquacultural engineering society
American fisheries society
American water resources association