Scott Hinch

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Mar 2019)
Molecular, physiological and behavioural responses to capture in Pacific salmon commercial fisheries : implications for post-release survival of non-target salmon species (2019)

With total landings from global commercial fisheries in decline despite increases in fishing effort, there is increasing interest in enhancing fishery sustainability. Estimates suggest that bycatch, the non-target organisms incidentally captured in fisheries, comprises 40 percent of global catches, most of which dies. One means to increase the sustainability of fisheries is to limit bycatch mortality. The research herein uses Pacific salmon purse seine fisheries as a model system to test a series of hypotheses. Merging various techniques in experimental research aboard commercial vessels, I test how both the conditions of capture and intrinsic fish characteristics (e.g., population, sex, maturity) influence post-release survival probability and the magnitude of physiological disruption. The relative importance of intrinsic fish characteristics and capture experience was context dependent, but results suggest that capture situations resulting in dermal injuries are particularly detrimental. In a telemetry study, severity of scale loss predicted mortality and in containment studies, dermal injuries were associated with lasting impairment of blood ion homeostasis and immune function, as indicated by gene expression in the gill. Intrinsic characteristics also played a role: females and less mature fish were more likely to sustain dermal injuries. Capture methods resulting in extended durations of air exposure and to a lesser extent, confinement during capture, also caused substantial cellular disruption. Air exposure led to widespread down-regulation of stress and gill immune genes for up to 5 days, which I contend is an energy-saving strategy. Through evaluating physiological parameters both during and after exposure to capture stressors, I also identified thresholds in capacities to cope with capture stress, information that is valuable for informing best handling practices that could improve fish survival. Finally, through interviews with fishers, I revealed that increased transparency between management and fishers may improve compliance with suggested best handling practices. Collectively the present work improves fundamental knowledge of the effects of acute stress on the physiology of fish and can be directly applied to improving the welfare of discarded fishes, particularly in purse seine fisheries targeting Pacific salmon.

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Fisheries gear and biological context drive fishing-related incidental mortality in Pacific salmon spawning migrations (2018)

Most fisheries inadvertently capture non-target fish species or populations. In addition, fish may interact with and escape fishing gears without being observed. Regardless of whether fish are released or escape, negative impacts from interacting with fishing gears (including stress and injury) may lead to fishing-related incidental mortality (FRIM). However, FRIM is typically difficult to observe and therefore is not easily or well quantified. Further, FRIM is contingent on many biological and environmental factors, which have received little consideration in fisheries management. Specifically, infectious disease is expected to mediate FRIM, but has been studied little in this context. Because of their life histories, Pacific salmon are both particularly vulnerable to FRIM and ideal model animals for its study.This dissertation sought to further the knowledge regarding FRIM in Pacific salmon during their freshwater spawning migrations by conducting in situ studies of capture methods and pertinent biological factors. Salmon received radio-frequency tags following exposure to fisheries gear so that migration survival could be determined. Quantitative PCR was performed on non-lethal biopsies to determine the presence and load of infectious agents, as well as immune system function. Sockeye salmon escaping or released from gillnets experienced elevated FRIM, slowed migration, and reduced spawning success. Although the impact of gears was consistent between years, the incidence of FRIM was reduced for mature fish. The high impact of severe injuries was indicated by low migration survival and the elevated expression of acute phase response genes.Mature Chinook salmon with infections of a blood-borne protozoan parasite experienced elevated mortality, regardless of a simulated fisheries gear exposure.My dissertation indicates that salmon interacting with gillnets in freshwater experience significant FRIM, but biological factors can override these impacts. Future research should seek to estimate the rate of gillnet escapes, identify gears that minimize physical damage, localize the time in migrations when maturity confers resilience, and use repeated sampling to better define the role of infectious agents in FRIM. Fisheries managers could reduce FRIM by prioritizing lower impact gears, promoting fisheries in locations where salmon are more mature and pathogens are sparse, and conducting regular monitoring of infectious agents.

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Migration ecology of juvenile Pacific salmon smolts : the role of fish condition and behaviour across landscapes (2016)

Migrations are utilized across taxa to exploit spatiotemporal variability across landscapes. The benefits of migrations are balanced with costs, and understanding the factors that limit migratory success is needed for proper management and conservation. Sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) are of economic, cultural, and ecological importance and undergo downstream migrations from natal freshwater systems through rivers to the ocean as juvenile smolts. In this thesis, I describe a series of studies investigating the migration behaviour and survival of sockeye smolts emigrating from Chilko Lake, British Columbia, a large population that experiences poor survival in the Chilko River. First, field sampling and bioenergetics models were used to find that short-term feeding on smolts by bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the Chilko River was extreme, not limited by cold temperatures, and resulted in greater exploitation of smolts than expected using traditional bioenergetic assumptions. Examining bull trout stomach contents revealed that consumed smolts had higher rates of infection by hematopoietic necrosis virus and Flavobacterium psychrophilum and were smaller than non-predated smolts. Through acoustic telemetry, I found that smolts traversing the upper Chilko River with higher densities of conspecifics experienced improved survival relative to smolts travelling at times when few smolts were migrating. Thus swamping predators can maximize survival. It is more difficult to conduct field studies in the coastal marine environment such as the Strait of Georgia, and even knowledge on migration routes and behaviour is limited. Aggregating telemetry data collected over ~10 years of research on sockeye and steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) populations determined that contingents of both species exhibited westward lateral movements within the strait, consistent with predicted currents. Steelhead using the eastern migratory route experienced improved survival through the Strait to a location ~250 km further along the migratory corridor - a rare example of migration route impacting fitness. Individually, chapters advanced the fields of migration and feeding ecology and tested long-held ecological hypotheses. Important links were identified between smolt migration behaviour and/or survival and components of the movement ecology framework. This thesis has expanded our understanding of the factors influencing the migration of one of the largest sockeye populations in Canada.

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Responses of Pacific salmon to pheromones, natal water, and disturbance cues during the spawning migration (2016)

Olfactory cues can provide many forms of information about an animal’s environment. For some migratory species, these cues guide migrants towards foraging or reproductive grounds. Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) use olfactory cues to locate their natal sites during the spawning migration. The objective of this thesis was to further our understanding of the olfactory-mediated movements of Pacific salmon as they return to their home streams to spawn. Through a synthesis of past studies on olfactory navigation in anadromous fish, I identified critical knowledge gaps and future directions for research. Drawing from two long-standing hypotheses that seek to explain how salmonids navigate to their natal sites, I developed a new hypothesis that suggests salmonids use imprinted odours of their natal water as primary directional cues, pheromones as secondary cues, and non-olfactory environmental information as tertiary cues. One of the major implications of this hypothesis is that salmonids that have strayed from their natal migratory route might use pheromones to locate suitable spawning habitat. Using samples I collected from wild adult sockeye salmon (O. nerka), I found increased expression of potential pheromone receptors in strays. I also found that sockeye salmon are behaviourally attracted to the odour of conspecifics when imprinted natal cues are absent, as would be the case for a stray salmon, but not when the imprinted cues are present. Conspecific odours are not always attractive during the migration however, as I found sockeye salmon avoided the odour of conspecifics that were subjected to a handling event, suggesting these fish release chemical disturbance cues when stressed. Pink salmon (O. gorbuscha) did not avoid the odours of disturbed conspecifics, which might relate to species-level differences in life history. Finally, I analyzed the influence of altered flow composition resulting from hydroelectric developments on olfactory navigation in sockeye and pink salmon. Alterations can disorient salmon as they swim upstream, and the results provide guidelines for managers to minimize such disorientation in this river system. The findings of my thesis contribute to our understanding of the olfactory process in salmonids, and point to future research directions in the field of salmonid homing.

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Egg glucocorticoids and maternal stressor exposure as modulators of offspring quality in Pacific salmon (2015)

Maternal experiences can have profound effects on offspring phenotype. In oviparous animals, prolonged maternal exposure to stressors can elevate circulating cortisol and is thought to also elevate egg cortisol. Experimental increases in egg cortisol are known to affect offspring performance. In fishes, past research has focused on how chronic maternal exposure to stressors affects egg size and embryonic survival, but changes to egg hormones and progeny phenotype beyond early development are not well understood. The aim of this thesis was to test the hypothesis that maternal exposure to a stressor alters behavioural and physiological attributes of offspring, and that those alterations are mediated by increases in egg cortisol. The research focused on Pacific salmon; animals that, as adults, encounter diverse stressors during their once-in-a-lifetime migration to spawning areas. I found that experimentally elevating egg cortisol, mimicking the presumed outcome of maternal stress, modified offspring morphology, swimming performance, and behavioural responses to conspecific intruders and simulated predator attacks. However, when I chronically exposed females to a daily chase stressor during sexual maturation, egg cortisol at spawning was not affected. Despite the absence of differences in egg hormone content, maternal stressor exposure did have latent effects on offspring swimming performance and physiological stress responses. Collectively, the evidence presented in this thesis suggests that, in Pacific salmon, experimentally manipulating egg cortisol elicits changes in offspring, but maturing females may have the capacity to buffer eggs from increases in cortisol. Gametic properties other than the concentration of cortisol are likely affected by maternal stress and responsible for the observed changes to offspring performance. The multidirectional effects of maternal stress and egg cortisol treatment on offspring traits I report in this thesis support an emerging notion that the intergenerational effects of stress are highly-context dependent, as are interpretations of the adaptive versus maladaptive nature of changes to offspring. I conclude that the complexities of maternal stress and egg hormone deposition are not always captured when examining a single offspring trait at one life stage, without consideration of all components of the intergenerational process.

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Environmental and physiological influences on the behaviour and survival of adult sockeye salmon during their coastal migration (2015)

The reproductive migration of anadromous salmon through coastal waters is among the most challenging phases of their life cycle, yet our understanding of the mechanisms underlying this migration is limited. Thus, the objective of this thesis was to develop a better understanding of how environmental conditions and fish physiologic state influence behaviour and survival of homing anadromous salmon in coastal waters. Using a literature synthesis, I identified consistent behaviours across anadromous salmon species and life stages in marine waters including diel patterns and consistent swimming speeds. I further identified critical knowledge gaps, including a need for synchronized study of both environmental and physiological conditions. In field studies, I combined thermal data loggers, biotelemetry and physiological sampling and found that homing sockeye salmon exhibited diel and variable thermal experiences (8.4 °C to 20.5 °C) in coastal waters, potentially related to gaining cues for navigation. Sockeye salmon tended to follow coastlines and migration rate was related to wind patterns, salinity and fish physiological state. I propose that wind-induced currents exposed sockeye salmon entering the estuary to stronger olfactory cues associated with freshwater, which resulted in faster migration rates due to increased navigation ability or advanced reproductive maturity through a neuroendocrine response. Once migration neared freshwater, sockeye salmon used wind-induced currents to aid in movements, which may be associated with energy conservation. I further identified a genomic signature related to marine survival, which was associated with stress, immune response, metabolic processes, protein biosynthesis and osmoregulation. This genomic signature was similar to that identified in a previous study examining freshwater survival, but with an opposite relationship with survival, which I attribute to the attenuation of disease resistance of fish upon exposure to elevated river temperatures. Through the use of multiple research approaches, this thesis advances the biological understanding of the marine homing migration of sockeye salmon by empirically establishing novel relationships between environmental conditions, physiological state and sockeye salmon behaviour and survival in marine waters. In addition, this thesis is broadly applicable to other anadromous salmon, as well as to studies invoking a similar approach of physiological biotelemetry for studying animal movements.

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The effects of elevated water temperature on adult Pacific salmon gene expression, blood physiology and mortality (2012)

Many populations of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) now encounter warmer rivers during their once-in-a-lifetime spawning migrations, which can result in premature mortality and may have contributed to some of the population declines observed in recent decades. One objective of this thesis was to determine the effects of high water temperatures on wild caught adult sockeye (O. nerka) and pink (O. gorbuscha) salmon at the level of the individual, tissue and cell through a series of temperature exposure studies. Fish held at 19°C consistently had higher mortality compared with fish held at a cooler temperature (13°C or 14°C) for both species with sockeye salmon demonstrating sex-specific mortality patterns. Sockeye salmon had higher plasma chloride levels when held at 19°C and both sockeye and pink salmon had reduced levels of plasma sex steroids at 19°C compared with fish at 13°C, which suggests an osmoregulatory disturbance and a potential reproductive consequence, respectively. Sockeye and pink salmon held at 19°C showed evidence of a common cellular stress response in their gill transcriptome characterized by the upregulation of genes associated with heat shock, immune and oxidative stress responses, variable regulation of genes involved in protein biosynthesis and the downregulation of genes involved in ion transport. The second objective of this thesis was to characterize some of the physiological effects of senescence and mortality on Pacific salmon. I found dramatic declines in plasma osmolality, chloride and sodium levels that occur days in advance of a fish's death and determined that plasma chloride levels are strong predictors of longevity in maturing sockeye salmon. I also examined the effects of mortality on the transcriptome of sockeye salmon for the first time. Dying fish were characterized by an upregulation of several transcription factors associated with apoptosis and the downregulation of genes involved in immune function and antioxidant activity, consistent with immunosuppression. Many of these results, especially the gene expression results, are novel for Pacific salmon. This thesis greatly improves our knowledge of the physiological effects of high river water temperatures and senescence on adult Pacific salmon. Management implications of these results and future research directions are discussed.

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Understanding the consequences of fisheries-related stressors on adult migrating Pacific salmon (2012)

Adult Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) are targeted by the recreational, commercial, and First Nations fisheries during their spawning migrations through the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada. Salmon can escape from each fishery or be released either voluntarily or due to mandate. Despite a high proportion of Pacific salmon released from each fishery, the primary (e.g., catecholamine, corticosteroid), secondary (e.g., metabolic, osmoregulatory, cellular), and tertiary (e.g., behavioural, survival outcomes) responses to fisheries-related stressors remain poorly understood. The overarching hypothesis of this thesis was that fisheries-related stressors displace fish from homeostasis, resulting in primary and secondary stress responses leading to tertiary outcomes, which in turn can be countered by facilitated recovery techniques.A range of fisheries-related stressors resulted in physiological disturbances reflected by primary, secondary, and tertiary stress responses. Telemetry studies revealed delayed mortality for sockeye salmon released following angling and beach seine capture. Survival was lower for sockeye salmon released from invasive gill and tangle net capture treatments relative to beach seine treatments, and this result was population-specific.Laboratory studies investigated the time required for primary and secondary stress indices to recover following fisheries-related stressors. Biologgers showed that heart rate recovery depended on the intensity and duration of the stressor, requiring several hours. A series of indicators of primary and secondary stress, including the expression of genes related to cellular stress and cell maintenance indicated that the stress response and recovery was sex- and species-specific.A three-pronged approach was used to investigate methods for accelerating recovery and promoting survival following capture stress by combining a laboratory-based physiology study, a field-based telemetry study, and a human dimensions survey. While facilitated recovery showed encouraging results and had general support from anglers, improved techniques are required before this approach could be implemented in freshwater release fisheries.Together, these results support my hypothesis and provide evidence for the context-specific nature of the response and recovery to fisheries-related stressors. This thesis highlights that even a brief fisheries-related stressor can have profound consequences on Pacific salmon, as reflected by the tertiary stress response, including mortality.

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Factors affecting egg retention and reproductive longevity in spawning female sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) (2010)

An individual’s physiological and behavioural response to its environment can have fitness implications. To address hypotheses about the roles of physiology and behaviour on spawning success in sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), I conducted experiments in an artificial spawning channel during three spawning seasons. Experiments involved biopsy sampling and behavioural observations; physiology and behaviour were then related to reproductive longevity and egg retention of spawning females. Females living longer on the spawning grounds retained a lower proportion of eggs, indicating that females were running out of time to complete spawning. However, several long-lived females (> 7 d) failed to complete spawning before death, indicating that time limitation may not have been a factor for these females. Physiological changes associated with rapid senescence were characterized for both sexes. Salmon exhibited three major physiological trends during senescence that were independent of sex or reproductive maturity – a large increase in plasma indicators of stress and exercise (i.e., lactate and cortisol), a decrease in major plasma ions (i.e., Cl- and Na+) and osmolality, and a decrease in gross somatic energy reserves. Females exhibited a greater magnitude of change than males for gross somatic energy, plasma ions, and reproductive hormones. Females that arrived at spawning grounds with high plasma lactate and low plasma Cl- concentrations not only died sooner after arrival, but also retained more eggs at death. Premature mortality was also linked with three other indices of stress and osmoregulatory dysfunction (i.e., elevated plasma glucose concentrations, reduced plasma osmolality, and Na+ concentrations), suggesting that these fish were stressed and / or senescing prematurely. Levels of reproductive hormones (i.e., testosterone, 17β-estradiol, 17,20β-progesterone) decline as females become reproductively mature and approach senescence. Females lived longer if they arrived with higher reproductive hormone levels, indicating that females that were more reproductively advanced were more likely to die prematurely. My data did not support an energy limitation hypothesis as short-lived females died with greater energy reserves than longer-lived females, indicating something other than energy exhaustion was responsible for mortality.

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Factors affecting the timing and success of sockeye salmon spawning migrations (2008)

Migration timing is a conserved life-history trait. To address the hypothesis that reproductive hormones are principal determinants of migration timing, I physiologically biopsied over 1000sockeye salmon and monitored their subsequent behaviour with acoustic and radio telemetry as they migrated from the Pacific Ocean toward and into the Fraser River, and then onward to distant spawning areas. Links between physiology, behaviour, and survival were examined.Circulating testosterone was found to be positively correlated with the rates of river entry in Late-run females but not in males, despite having concentrations that were equal if not higher than those of females. The notion of protandrous migration, in which males synchronize their activities to the reproductive and migratory schedules of females, was postulated as the basis forthis difference. Once in river however, successful males and females were those that (1) took longest to enter the river, and (2) had high somatic energy, low testosterone, and low gill Na+,K+-ATPase activities.An experimental test of the effect of reproductive hormones on the regulation of migration timing proved inconclusive. Relative to controls, GnRH and (or) testosterone treatment did not influence rates of ocean travel by males. Unfortunately, no females were examined.Nevertheless, significant, positive correlations between initial testosterone and travel times were found irrespective of hormonal treatment, which was unexpected but consistent with the previous studies.In an experimental simulation of an ‘early’ migration, normally timed Late-run sockeye exposed to typical 10 ºC river temperatures and then released to complete migration were 68% successful. In contrast, salmon held at 18 °C and released were half as successful. The expression of a kidney parasite was near maximal in the 18 °C fish and undetectable in the 10 °C fish. Only gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity differed between groups, with a drop in the 18 °C fish. Though no clear stress, reproductive, or energetic differences were observed between groups, the ultimate effectof high temperature treatment was high disease expression, slowed migration speeds, and high migration mortality. Changes in reproductive schedules, due to changes in latitudinal ocean distributions, are discussed as potential causes of early migration by Late-run sockeye.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010-2017)
Physiological, behavioural and survival effects of assisting the post-capture ventilation of adult sockeye salmon exposed to capture and release in fresh water (2013)

Fish that are released from fisheries capture exhibit physiological and behavioural changes that can result in mortality. The ability to release fish that do not experience subsequent fitness consequences is fundamental to fisheries conservation and management tools that mandate live release. Thus, researchers have evaluated methods that fishers can use to reduce the potential for negative capture-related effects. Indeed, modifying capture and landing practices can limit the severity of the physiological and behavioural impairments. Moreover, release techniques that enhance the metabolic recovery process essential for mitigating capture-related physiological changes may help to enhance survival. Because this essential recovery process requires oxygen consumption that exceeds basal metabolic needs, I evaluated a ventilation assistance technique that forced a high flow of water over the fish’s gills in an attempt to provide additional oxygen. This assisted ventilation technique mimics manual recovery attempts that are recommended by fisheries managers and often employed by recreational anglers. The physiological, behavioural and survival responses of adult migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) to capture and release, with and without ventilation assistance, were assessed in laboratory and field experiments. A simulation of capture and release consisting of 3 minutes of strenuous exercise and 1 minute of air exposure resulted in significant physiological impairment in the laboratory experiment. In a field experiment, this simulation resulted in an approximate 30% overall reduction in post-release survival to reach natal spawning grounds. Female fish exposed to simulated capture and release exhibited poorer survival relative to control females and males of all treatments in both of these experiments. The 1-minute assisted ventilation technique did not enhance survival. In fact, further reductions in survival were observed in the laboratory experiment for females subjected to ventilation assistance before release from capture. Capture and release can result in delayed mortality and it appears that a recovery technique recommended by fisheries managers to recreational fishers does not help to reduce capture-related mortality. Mitigating negative capture-and-release effects by disseminating capture and landing best practices, while incorporating scientifically-defensible post-capture mortality rates into management plans, may be the best approach to meeting conservation and management objectives.

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Acoustic tagging effects on juvenile sockeye salmon swimming performance, growth, post-surgical wound healing, survival, and metabolic rate in freshwater and saltwater (2012)

Juvenile Pacific salmon make large-scale migrations from natal freshwater rearing grounds to the Northern Pacific Ocean. To properly manage these species an understanding of their migration patterns and survival is necessary. Acoustic telemetry is an ideal tool used to study the migratory survival and behavior of juvenile salmonids. However, the assumption that tagged individuals behave similarly to non-tagged conspecifics in the freshwater and saltwater phases of their outmigration need to be validated as part of large-scale telemetry studies. Consequently, a laboratory-based experiment was carried out to evaluate intracoelomic tagging effects on juvenile sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) swimming performance, growth, post-surgical wound healing and survival in both freshwater and saltwater. A sub-set of fish were tagged with three differently sized tags and the response of the fish to tagging was compared to both a sham surgery and non-tagged treatment group. Fish with tag burdens greater than 6 – 8% body weight (BW; tag weighed in water) resulted in some freshwater mortality and decreased freshwater prolonged swimming performance. Fish implanted with larger tags had decreased survival in saltwater and poorer post-surgical wound healing than fish implanted with smaller tags. To minimize the negative effects of intracoelomic tagging, this research suggests that tag burdens should not exceed 6 – 8% BW in juvenile, hatchery-reared sockeye salmon.Oxygen consumption rates were measured during the transition from freshwater to saltwater to investigate the hypothesis that intracoelomic tagging affects metabolic rate in juvenile salmonids during this period. Respirometer experiments during periods of rest and recovery post-swimming were used to assess metabolic rate in freshwater and saltwater for both tagged and non-tagged treatment groups. There was no effect of intracoelomic tagging on recovery metabolic rate post-swimming. However, tagging and salinity had an affect on resting metabolic rate; when fish transitioned from freshwater to 9 ppt saltwater, resting metabolic rate significantly increased. Resting metabolic rate at 9 ppt was elevated in comparison to the lowest resting metabolic rate recorded in saltwater at 28 ppt. However, both non-tagged and tagged fish were able to recover metabolically after transitioning to saltwater, indicated by similar metabolic rate values in saltwater as in freshwater.

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Influences of temperature on the mortality and physiological impairment of sockeye salmon after simulated capture and release (2012)

Pacific salmon experience intense fishing pressure as they commence their freshwater spawning migration, frequently encountering commercial net fisheries and recreational hook and line gear. Untold numbers of fish escape by their own volition or are released by fishers at a range of water temperatures, including those above metabolic and physiological optimums. This thesis focuses on the mortality and sublethal consequences of escape or release from fishing gears by migrating adult Pacific salmon, with a specific focus on how temperature mediates those effects. The role of temperature in the capture and release of fish was investigated in a comprehensive literature review. This revealed that 70% of studies examining mortality or sublethal effects at various temperatures found both to be magnified at warmer temperatures. Collectively, the results suggest that capture-release mortality increases at temperatures within, rather than above, species-specific thermal preferenda. Notably, there were no studies examining temperature effects on capture-release for adult migrating Pacific salmon. In two experiments, migrating adult sockeye salmon were intercepted during the early part of their freshwater migration held in a laboratory at three temperatures corresponding with the range of temperatures spanning the historic, current and predicted future migration conditions experienced by their run-timing group (13°C, 19°C, 21°C for summer-run fish in 2009, and 13°C, 16°C, 19°C for late-run fish in 2008). Fish were exposed to a simulated capture treatment including three minutes of burst exercise ± 60 seconds of air exposure. In both experiments, simulated capture treatments resulted in elevations of plasma lactate concentrations, most markedly after air exposure. The highest mortality was seen in the late-run females at 19°C. Late-run fish who died within 24 hours of capture treatment were characterized by higher hematocrit, plasma lactate and cortisol, and lower glucose, sodium and chloride concentrations than survivors. Air exposure and warm temperatures were associated with longer equilibrium loss and slower ventilation rates post-treatment, which significantly predicted 24-hour survival in late-run fish. Collectively, these results indicate that released or escaped sockeye salmon may be at higher mortality risk when river temperatures are exceedingly high, and that reducing or eliminating air exposure may result in greater survival.

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Variation in embryonic thermal tolerance among populations of sockeye salmon : offspring survival, growth, and hatch timing in response to elevated incubation temperature (2012)

Populations of Pacific salmon are genetically and morphologically distinct across large watersheds, and these differences may reflect long-term adaptation to environmental factors such as temperature. While climate warming is predicted to affect sockeye salmon, it is likely that such impacts will happen differentially across life stages and populations. Given that selective pressures during early development plays an important role in lifetime fitness, and that elevated water temperatures can critically affect embryo success, this thesis focuses on inter-population differences in offspring response to supra-optimal temperatures during incubation. Variation in embryonic thermal tolerance was explored among populations of sockeye salmon using a common garden approach. The gametes of 15-20 families per population (N = 9) were incubated at water temperatures of 10°, 14°, and 16°C. Survival from fertilization to hatch varied significantly by temperature and population, and crossing reaction norms showed an interaction of genotype (population) and environment (incubation temperature). Thermal tolerance within the study was related to historical temperatures during early development in nature. From this correlation it seems that population thermal adaptation may exist, and be driven by elevated spawning ground temperatures.The same fertilization experiment was used to evaluate differences in egg size among populations, and to test the effect of temperature, population, and egg size on offspring size and hatching characteristics. Egg size varied among groups and was not related to hatch timing variation, but was tightly correlated to alevin size. Alevin length but not mass was significantly related to incubation temperature, perhaps due to a theoretical tradeoff between development rate and metabolic rate at high temperatures. Most embryos seemed to compensate for increased growth rates at high temperatures by requiring more thermal units to hatch than at lower temperatures. Overall, I found that populations of sockeye salmon responded differently to thermal stress during embryo development, and populations responded best to temperatures that reflected their historical natal thermal regime. In the context of climate change, these results show that inter-population thermal tolerance may influence future selection among populations, and additionally, that this intraspecific thermal adaptation will be important in ensuring population, and therefore species, persistence. 

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Influences of parental identity and elevated incubation temperature on the survival, development and early life history traits in sockeye salmon (2011)

Pacific salmon experience intense selection pressures during their early development, and offspring survivorship and fitness traits are influenced by both parental and environmental influences. Given that elevated water temperature can critically impact early development, this thesis focuses on how individual spawners within a population influence the variation in offspring responses to thermal stress. The importance of parentage in assessing temperature effects on fish early life history was first examined in a comprehensive literature review. Only 20% of search-identified studies relating to incubation temperature assessed parental influences, but over 90% of those studies reported significant parentally mediated thermal responses. Research gaps in this area included a paucity of studies on offspring physiological traits (11% of studies), performance traits (2%), and on offspring responses beyond endogenous feeding stages (21%), providing impetus for future experiments. A review of the research on intergenerational temperature effects from adult thermal holding studies was also examined. Sockeye salmon were used in a cross-fertilization experiment to test the hypothesis that significant variation in offspring responses to embryonic temperature stress could be explained by parental identity. Using gametes from Weaver Creek spawners, 10 offspring families were replicated and incubated at 12, 14, and 16ºC from fertilization to hatch. Offspring families had substantially different survival responses across the thermal gradient (crossing reaction norms), and post-treatment mortality and offspring size reflected persistent temperature and parental influences. Within temperature treatments, substantial variation in embryonic survival, alevin mass, time-to-hatch, and hatch duration was attributable to family identity, and most traits exhibited significant temperature-family interactions. The same families were reared for three weeks after emergence then subjected to a second experiment assessing swim performance. Swim performance was reduced in fish exposed to the elevated incubation treatments and offspring parentage was found to have a significant effect on fry burst swim time; findings previously undocumented in salmon. Significant temperature-by-family interactions provide further evidence that parental and temperature influences cannot be examined in isolation. In the context of climate change, these findings collectively highlight the importance of family-level variation in influencing future selection within salmonid populations exposed to elevated thermal regimes.

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Recent Tri-Agency Grants

The following is a selection of grants for which the faculty member was principal investigator or co-investigator. Currently, the list only covers Canadian Tri-Agency grants from years 2013/14-2016/17 and excludes grants from any other agencies.

  • Effects of injury, pathogens and climate warming on migration and spawning success of Pacific salmon that have escaped from fishing gear - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (2016/2017)
  • Behavioural physiology and fitness of anadromous migrating fish - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Discovery Grants Program - Individual (2016/2017)
  • Assessing the impacts of fisheries, hydroelectric infrastructure, and temperature on Gates Creek sockeye salmon migration - Industrial Research and Development Internship (IRDI) Program - Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) - (2016/2017)
  • Physiological and environmental factors affecting the migratory behavior and survival of sockeye and steelhead salmon smolts - Industrial Research and Development Internship (IRDI) Program - Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) - (2015/2016)
  • Developing methods to evaluate vitality of Pacific salmon bycatch from marine commercial fisheries to improve post-release survival - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Engage Grants Program (2015/2016)
  • Climate warming, pathogen expression, and capture locale: Recent and emerging challenges for managing pacific salmon fisheries - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Strategic Projects (2013/2014)
  • Behavioural physiology and fitness of anadromous migrating fish - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Discovery Grants Program - Individual (2013/2014)
  • Understanding species movements, interactions, and environmental variability across Canada's three oceans - Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) - Strategic Network Grant (2013/2014)

Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.
 

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