Current Research in the Juanes Fisheries Ecology and Conservation lab
The goal of the research in the Fisheries Ecology and Conservation Lab is to conduct fundamental and innovative work in fisheries ecology that tests ecological theory and makes new insights, but which also fills gaps and needs of management agencies. The focus is on quantifying how individuals, populations and communities respond to environmental and anthropogenic change. There are 3 major research themes in the Fisheries Ecology and Conservation Lab. Here I describe these briefly along with a summary of ongoing projects.
1) Coastal fish ecology. Coastal ecosystems are changing rapidly due to climate change, multiple uses, and degradation. Yet compared to offshore systems much less is known about how fishes are responding to such changes, especially early marine phase salmonids, a particularly vulnerable stage of life for Pacific salmon. Juvenile stages of most anadromous Pacific salmon use estuarine and near coastal waters extensively after outmigration from natal habitats, as do other juvenile stages of commercially important demersal fishes, such as lingcod and inshore rockfishes. Our research seeks to explore how long-term changes in coastal environments influence recruitment of juvenile fishes including salmon.
2) Soundscape ecology of coastal ecosystems. This theme focuses on soniferous fishes in both coastal and deep-sea environments. With my colleague Rodney Rountree, we use passive acoustics (ie listening to fish) as a tool to examine distribution and habitat use of soniferous fishes, particularly spawning habitat. The goal of this theme is to develop the soundscape ecology of the coastal and deepsea seascape of British Columbia. In addition to the ecological benefits accrued from such an approach, the use of passive acoustics has many fisheries implications and represents an innovative approach to ecosystem-based management. First, it provides a non-optical and non-lethal method of observing activity and distribution of soniferous organisms. Because most fish sounds are related to courtship and reproduction, passive acoustics can also help in identifying spawning fish habitat which can otherwise be difficult to quantify. In addition, passive acoustics can be used to simultaneously study the impacts of anthropogenic sources of noise pollution on marine communities. Our early work in this theme has focused on using data from the NEPTUNE Canada underwater observatory. This is the first time that anyone has investigated the use of passive acoustics to study sound production in deep-sea fishes. We have concluded that fixed observatories may not be the best way to investigate fish sound production but remain useful for quantifying vessel noise, other anthropogenic noise, as well as seasonal patterns in marine mammal migration, all of which we were able to document in our analysis of the NEPTUNE data (see Wall et al. 2014). Future work will include using mobile recorders and lab experiments to study coastal fish species in addition to more detailed work in the deep sea.
3) Effects of anthropogenic activities, especially aquaculture, on wild fish and shellfish populations. As global fish catch has leveled off, aquaculture production has continued to increase. This is particularly true in BC where aquaculture activities are an important component of the natural resources economy. However, aquaculture facilities are also likely to have broad impacts on the ecosystems where they exist. Our work takes an ecosystem-based perspective on how current and historical aquaculture activities are impacting wild fish and shellfish populations on Vancouver Island.
4) Southern BC Adult salmon program. www.facebook.com/Southern-BC-Adult-Salmon-Diet-Program-493763831003993/
I am also collaborating with Dr. Sarah Dudas at VIU in Nanaimo to develop an ecosystem-based perspective on how aquaculture activities are impacting wild fish and shellfish populations on Vancouver Island.
I’m involved in a variety other projects which include: restoration of the Elwha River (with PhD student Anne Shaffer), effects of mangrove ecosystems on artisanal fisheries in coastal Colombia (with PhD student Mauricio Carrasquilla who will also work on rockfish habitat selection in BC waters), humpback whale feeding ecology (with PhD student Rhonda Reidy), bluefish early life history (with David Stormer), cod life history and fisheries (with Lou Botsford at UC Davis), tuna feeding ecology (with Jeff Buckel at NCSU), and haddock reproductive biology (with Katie Burchard and Rodney Rountree).