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Netting funds

Non-profit organization awards support to salmon researchers


By Moira Baird and Jeff Green

A trio of researchers engaged with fieldwork throughout Atlantic Canada have received 2018 grants of $63,300 for their ongoing projects from the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation.

From left are Dr. Rob Shea, Dr. Marie Clément, Dr. Craig Purchase, Joan Marie Aylward, Stephen Chase and Robert Bishop.
Photo: Angie Bishop

Dr. Marie Clément, research scientist with the Marine Institute’s Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research who is based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, is receiving $15,000 for a project titled Salmon in a Changing Environment: Developing Community-driven Water Temperature Monitoring and Salmon Observatory Networks in the Northern Range of Atlantic Salmon.

Dr. Craig Purchase, associate professor, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, cross-appointed to the Department of Ocean Sciences, Faculty of Science and the School of Fisheries, Marine Institute, is receiving a $25,000 grant for his study titled Salmon Gametes as a Source for Research, Restocking and Public Engagement.

And, Dr. Michael van Zyll de Jong, adjunct professor with Grenfell Campus now based in New Brunswick, is receiving $23,300 for a project titled Assessing the Impact of Instream Barriers and Climate Change on Wild Atlantic Salmon Population Persistence and Production in Forested Boreal Watersheds.

To date, the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation has invested $223,300 in these three research projects.

‘Weakened state’

Stephen Chase, the foundation’s executive director, was at the Marine Institute on Tuesday, Aug. 28. He met with members of the Memorial community, including Dr. Rob Shea, associate vice-president academic, student affairs and research, MI; Dr. Purchase; and Dr. Clément.

“The strong research capacity of Memorial University stands ready to help by researching key applied research questions.” — Stephen Chase

Also in attendance were Robert Bishop, a member of the Board of Regents and the foundation’s board of directors, and Joan Marie Alyward, a Memorial alumna who also sits on the foundation’s board.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is home to many spectacular large and small rivers well known for their vibrant salmon and trout populations,” Mr. Chase told the Gazette.

“Today these salmon and trout populations are in a somewhat weakened state due mainly to the adverse impacts of loss of habitat, lost access to spawning habitat, siltation of spawning beds, loss of bank cover and elevated water temperatures, but also from unknown impacts associated with global warming. Fortunately, the strong research capacity of Memorial University stands ready to help by researching key applied research questions.”

Direct support

Dr. Purchase says the foundation’s grants have been “critical” to his recent research program.

Dr. Craig Purchase
Dr. Craig Purchase
Photo: Angie Bishop

“I’m using Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation money as direct support for some projects: with four direct manuscripts planned and the money has supported or partially supported several high-qualified personnel,” he said.

“I have also been piggybacking most of my Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada-funded projects on top of the opportunities that the foundation’s money has created.”

Dr. Clément says the foundation’s grant provided the opportunity to develop a network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples in Labrador to monitor water temperatures in rivers and its effect on salmon growth.

“I think this project is a perfect example of how these funds are so important in developing partnerships and involving all the different groups who have an interest in wild Atlantic salmon populations and conservation,” she said.

“With the predicted impacts of climate change and the development of water temperature thresholds for managing the salmon fisheries, it’s getting more important to measure water temperature. A community network is essential in gathering this information.”

Dr. Marie Clément
Dr. Marie Clément
Photo: Angie Bishop

Dr. van Zyll de Jong says his grant aids in the assessment of instream barriers and climate change on wild Atlantic salmon populations.

“Instream barriers, such as culverts, can act as barriers to fish movement and disrupt ecological connectivity, reduce the availability of habitat, decrease genetic mixing and alter fish community composition,” he explained. “In addition to physical barriers, the effect of climate-influenced factors, such as water temperature and streamflow, further compound the problem.

“Our objective is to design a geospatial-based tool,” he continued, “combined with an appropriate decision-making framework that can help stakeholders make better structured decisions.”

He says the University of Hull and the University of New Brunswick are also participating in the project.

The foundation was created in 2007. It is a non-profit charitable organization with the mission of promoting enhanced community partnerships in the conservation of wild Atlantic salmon and its habitat in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

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