The Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation (PSEC) laboratory is housed in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at UBC’s Faculty of Forestry. Members of the lab are committed to the study of salmonid ecology, behaviour and physiology, and to providing management systems with information needed for the conservation and sustainable use of fish resources. Pacific salmon are an ecologically, economically, and culturally important group of fish and research is focused on advancing understanding of the key challenges facing them across all life stages throughout freshwater and marine environments. PSEC lab members collaborate with fisheries scientists from other labs, marine research networks, ENGOs, government agencies, First Nations, and stakeholders to conduct influential and relevant research for fisheries management and conservation.
Dr Scott Hinch is the group’s principal investigator. His research program focuses on the study of salmon migration survival, behaviour, energetics, physiology, habitat use, environmental cues, effects of fisheries and capture-release, passage in regulated rivers, and disease and pathogens. Scott is also director of the Faculty’s undergraduate program in Natural Resources Conservation and contributes to 3 courses in aquatic ecosystems and fish conservation and management including a field school that many students cite as the most meaningful experience in their undergraduate education. Beyond UBC, Scott is affiliated with the American Fisheries Society where he was recently named ‘Fellow of the Society’ for his outstanding contributions in leadership, research, resource management and conservation, and public outreach.
Who works in the lab?
The lab is comprised of an accomplished group of postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students. Andrew Lotto is the lab’s Senior Research Technician and provides invaluable logistic support in the lab and field. Matt Casselman is the Project Coordinator for the lab’s fish passage monitoring program in Lillooet, BC. Taylor Nettles is the lab’s Research Technician involved in collaborative field and laboratory studies with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) West Vancouver Laboratory.
Several research associates are also involved with the lab: Dr Mike Donaldson is reviewing the effectiveness of reflexes and behaviours that can be measured to help predict fish survival. Dr Erika Eliason, a research associate with the Ocean Tracking Network, is interested in how sockeye salmon respond to environmental stressors. Dr Eduardo Martins is a Liber Ero Fellow interested in how multiple effects experienced by sockeye salmon influence the dynamics of Fraser River populations. Dr Doug Braun is an honorary postdoctoral fellow examining adult salmon passage through fish ladders and in other regulated rivers.
What does the work entail?
The PSEC lab group works together with managers and stakeholders to create research with real management implications that can be used in a meaningful way. Research involves impressive laboratory experiments such as salmon migration simulation and behavioural choice studies, fishery simulation studies, and field studies involving both experimental fishing and real fisheries. Sophisticated techniques such as telemetry and tracking of both adult and juvenile salmon are often involved in field studies in combination with genomics, blood assays, and histopathology. Research also involves social science surveys with fisheries users, First Nations, stakeholders, and managers.
Experiments are carried out in the PSEC fisheries lab at UBC, as well as the Cultus Lake Salmon Research Laboratory in Chilliwack, BC – a partnership with DFO. Genomic research and physiological assays are conducted in collaboration with DFO at their Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, BC and West Vancouver Laboratory. Fieldwork occurs across BC including multiple sites in the Fraser River, North Vancouver (Seymour Hatchery), Chilliwack (Chilliwack River), throughout the interior (Adams River, Gates Creek, and Seton River) and west-central (Chilko Lake) BC, Vancouver Island (Nitinat Hatchery and Quinsam Hatchery), and with commercial fisheries along the entire coast of the province. Fieldwork is also currently underway in the Xingu River in the Brazilian Amazon.
Research in the lab is shared through a number of conferences, most notably at an annual workshop with collaborators held at UBC. The lab also produces an impressive number of peer-reviewed publications, with 14 papers published in 2015. The purpose of research produced by the lab extends beyond peer-reviewed journals and contributes to important fisheries management guidelines such as the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
What is currently going on in the PSEC lab?
Current projects happening in the lab:
Dr Aimee Lee Houde (PDF) is examining how to improve survival of released hatchery juvenile Pacific salmon by developing genetic tools that measure seawater preparedness and other metrics of fish condition.
Art Bass (PhD student) and Amy Teffer (PhD student) are comparing mechanisms of disease and immune function across multiple salmon stocks by examining pathogen productivity and host responses within individuals over time.
Dr Lisiane Hahn (PDF) is examining how electromyogram telemetry transmitters can be used to describe swimming behaviour and movements of redtail catfish and spotted sorubim in the Amazon basin.
Nathan Furey (PhD student), Steve Healy (MSc Student) and Christine Stevenson (MSc student) are combining acoustic telemetry and genomic techniques to investigate how factors such as predation, pathogens, and landscape influence salmon smolt migration success from natal waters to the ocean.
Nolan Bett (PhD student) is focusing on the responses of Pacific salmon to olfactory cues and responses in olfactory gene expression during the spawning migration.
Katrina Cook (PhD student) is examining how differing marine capture scenarios influence recovery, pathogen development, and survival of Pacific salmon and how to effectively mobilize research to user groups.
Dr Matt Drenner (PDF) and Collin Middleton (MSc student) are examining how hydropower operations and environmental conditions influence Pacific salmon movements and survival in a regulated river system.
Vanessa Minke-Martin (MSc Student) is examining how physiological condition and migration water temperature affects the reproductive success of adult sockeye salmon.
Who funds the work in the PSEC lab?
Research in the lab is funded through a variety of granting agencies including Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) programs (Discovery, Strategic, Network), Mitacs, Canada’s Ocean Tracking Network, and Canada Foundation for Innovation. Management agencies, user groups, ENGOs and First Nations also provide support including DFO, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Pacific Salmon Commission, BC Hydro, and St’át’imc Eco-Resources. Most students have major scholarship or fellowship support through NSERC or UBC, and the American Fisheries Society.
How can you contact the PSEC lab?
The Pacific Salmon Ecology and Conservation lab is a collaborative group of motivated individuals dedicated to providing research that will impact the conservation and management of fish and aquatic ecosystems. Learn more about the PSEC lab through their website or contact Dr Scott Hinch.