2022 Academic Partners

Canadian Coast Guard

Principal Investigators, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students at Canadian universities have partnered with Canadian government scientists on several projects as part of the 2022 IYS Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition. They will explore oceanography, eDNA, salmon diets, acoustics, salmon migration routes and much more. You can read more about the projects and the people involved below. These projects were made possible by funding provided by the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund.

Chemical Oceanography

Eiko Jones Photography

Principal Investigator: Jay Cullen (University of Victoria) 

Collaborators: Andrew Ross (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Angelica Pena (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: Richard L. Nixon 

Project Dates: April 15, 2021 – April 15, 2023

Project TitleLinking salmon survival to climate change and its impact on primary production via nutrient and metal ligand distributions in the North Pacific 

Project Summary:

Phytoplankton form the basis of the marine food web and influence the amount of prey available to salmon in the North Pacific Ocean. They require small amounts of iron, copper and other metals to sustain photosynthesis and other biological processes. The subarctic Northeast Pacific is an area of the ocean where the amounts of iron in seawater can be low enough to limit phytoplankton growth. In addition, stratification caused by warming sea surface temperatures (e.g. during the 2014 marine heat wave) can cut off the supply of essential trace metals to phytoplankton, affecting plankton growth and ecology. Recent studies also suggest that phytoplankton produce metal-binding compounds, called ligands, to regulate uptake of these metals. The project will build on this research by documenting the spatial distribution of metal-binding ligands and possibly trace metals across the Northeastern Pacific, including areas important to the survival of migrating salmon, using samples collected on the IYS 2022 Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas ExpeditionThese results will be combined with chemical, physical and biological data gathered by other IYS investigators to obtain a better understanding of how processes like stratification, acidification, ocean fertilization and climate change impact the salmon food web through their effects on the binding of trace metals and the availability of nutrients to phytoplankton. 

Biological Oceanography

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Principal Investigator: Evgeny Pakhomov  

Collaborators: Brian Hunt (University of British Columbia), Moira Galbraith (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), David Kimmel (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), Brett Johnson (Hakai Institute, to be confirmed), Tim Van Der Stap (Hakai Institute), Maycira Costa (University of Victoria) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: TBD 

Project Dates: TBD

Project Title Investigating Key Aspects of Zooplankton Ecology in the North Pacific 


Project Summary:

All Pacific salmon are dependent on zooplankton resources for growth, health and survival, consuming them both directly and indirectly via micronekton. The biomass, composition and distribution of zooplankton are therefore contributing factors in changing salmon productivity. This project will investigate several key aspects of zooplankton ecology in the North Pacific and develop zooplankton resources in support of salmon research, including spatial multivariate analyses of winter zooplankton communities, linking plankton biomass to physical, chemical, and satellite data; curation and standardization of multi-national historical zooplankton datasets from Canadian, US, Japanese, and Russian sources; analysis of long-term change in zooplankton biomass and community composition in the North Pacific; and comparison of core net sampling gears (vertical and oblique Bongo nets, MOCNESS and JUDAY nets) using existing datasets from NPAFC member countries, as well as new data from the 2019, 2020, and 2022 IYS Expeditions 

Biological Oceanography

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Principal Investigator: Maycira Costa 

Collaborators: Brian Hunt (University of British Columbia), Toru Hirawake (Hokkaido University), Angelica Pena (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: TBD 

Project DatesJuly 1 2021-June 30, 2023 

Project Title: Using Satellite Imagery and IYS Expedition Data from the pan-North Pacific to Document the Spatial Phenology of Phytoplankton and Identify Associated Bioregions 

Project Summary:

Understanding the relationship between environmental drivers, ocean dynamics, and salmon stocks is very important. For instance, the synchronicity in the timing of phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms and juvenile salmon migration periods has been shown to be highly variable, a result of the responses to physical drivers at different scales. In general, a “mismatch” year, where blooms occur either earlier or later than usual, may result in less or lower quality prey available for juvenile salmon, which decreases the chance of successful recruitment. In the North Pacific Oceanthere is limited data on the distribution patterns of salmon and responses to biological and physical forcing. This project aims to use 24 years (1997 to present) of satellite imagery and 2019, 2020, and 2022 IYS Expedition data from the pan-North Pacific to document the spatial phenology of phytoplankton and identify associated bioregions (i.e., geographically discrete regions with similar temporal phytoplankton phenology), and responses to physical forcing at different time scales. Specifically, this project will document the phenology of phytoplankton at monthly (or bi-weekly), seasonal, and interannual time scalesand associated bioregionalization of extracted chlorophyll-a concentrations from satellite imagery. These satellite data will be cross validated from field samples collected during IYS Expeditions and other data available from international partnersThese bioregional dynamics will be compared to physical driversand the phenology of satellite-derived chlorophylla compared with zooplankton phenology and biomass. 

Salmon Genomics & Stock ID

Svetlana Esenkulova

Principal Investigator: TBD 

Collaborators: Kristina Miller (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: Christoph Deeg 

Project Dates: Ongoing, IYS funding supporting February 1, 2022 – April 30, 2023 

Project TitleExploring the salmosphere in the high seas with genomic tools 

Project Summary:

Quantitative detection of nucleic acids of infectious agents and host gene expression biomarkers allows high throughput screening of salmon stress and disease at an unprecedented resolution. High throughput qPCR screening of 47 infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and protist and fungal parasites, from fish tissues will be conducted. This project will utilize new salmon Fit-Chip technology, which are curated host biomarker panels, to identify the presence of a large range of stressors, diseases, and other signatures associated with poor salmon survival. Preliminary analyses on salmon caught in the IYS 2019 International Gulf of Alaska Expedition revealed 21 pathogens and newly discovered viruses in coho, chum, pink, and sockeye salmon. This genomic research will provide a comprehensive overview of the health and condition of Pacific salmon in the high seas, which will provide key insights into the factors and mechanisms controlling survival and abundance, and identify the key stressors and pathogens impacting salmon health and condition and how these are distributed across the North Pacific among salmon species. 

Environmental DNA (eDNA) is an emerging field to study the diversity and distribution of aquatic communities without the need to capture individuals. This allows for an unbiased account of low abundance species or species that are difficult to capture, such as large, highly mobile predators. eDNA samples will be collected onboard the 2022 IYS Expedition to analyze for the presence of chordates, cephalopods, and invertebrates to complement catch data from the Expedition. The eDNA data will provide an unbiased approach to document the spatial and temporal variation in distribution, condition, and standing stocks of zooplankton, nekton as well as competitors and predators of salmon. Furthermore, this technology might allow for future low-impact biodiversity assessments using remotely operated sampling equipment. The preliminary eDNA results from the IYS 2019 and 2020 International Gulf of Alaska Expeditions have revealed several potential salmon predators in the survey zone, including orcas, salmon sharks and porpoises. 

Salmon Distribution, Abundance, and Migration

Eiko Jones Photography

Principal Investigator: Francis Juanes 

Collaborators: Tanya Brown (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Joshua Chamberlain (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), and Lance Campbell (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife) 

Graduate Student: Micah Quindazzi 

Project Dates: April 1, 2021 – March 31, 2023 

Project TitleOtolith microchemical markers of Pacific salmon high seas migration 

Project Summary:

This project aims to identify the microchemistry markers within the otoliths of Chinook and coho salmon from biogeochemical regions across the North Pacific Ocean. Reference salmon caught in various regions across the North Pacific during the IYS Expedition will have their otoliths used to characterize the microchemical signals (trace elements, and carbon and oxygen stable isotopes) of said regionThese can be used as a reference to determine the marine migration history of adult salmon returning to rivers by examining their otolith microchemistry. Essentially, this project aims to produce a universal method by which any Chinook or coho, whether wild or hatchery, can have their marine migration history identified, which will allow us to determine the marine regions of greatest concern when conserving important salmon stocks. This project will also assess the early marine growth of these salmon to identify how environmental conditions in the first year at sea influence the marine migration pathway undertaken.  

Salmon Feeding Ecology & Energetics

Eiko Jones Photography

Principal Investigator: Brian Hunt  

Collaborators: Evgeny Pakhomov (University of British Columbia), Chrys Neville (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), and Ian Forster (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: TBD 

Project Dates: TBD

Project TitleDeveloping a comprehensive understanding of overall food web structure, salmon feeding biology, and salmon health 


Project Summary:

Foraging ecology is a critical factor in salmon growth and survival on the high seas, and the winter period is expected to be particularly stressful since this is when ocean productivity is at its lowest. Since 2013, we have entered into unchartered waters in the North Pacific, with intense heat wave activity potentially leading to shifts in the structure of the food webs that support salmon. The IYS sample sets from the 2019, 2020, and 2022 Expeditions provide the opportunity to develop a comprehensive understanding of overall food web structure, salmon feeding biology (prey, trophic niche, competition), and to correlate these with salmon health. This project will combine the biochemical approaches of stable isotopes and fatty acids with stomach content data to resolve the food web dynamics and trophic pathways, e.g., the importance of the coastal vs offshore and mesopelagic vs. epipelagic resources to salmon in the Gulf of AlaskaAnalysis of Pacific salmon stable isotope, fatty acid and stomach content data will inform species’ trophic niche and dietary overlap. Through size and stock specific analyses, we will better understand life history dynamics in the Gulf of Alaska, including age-based shifts in diets and large-scale movement dynamics. Finally, we will assess the role of foraging ecology and life history parameters in Pacific salmon health. The established trophic structure will provide an empirical framework for ecosystem model development. 

Physical Oceanography

Eiko Jones Photography

Principal Investigator: Jody Klymak 

Collaborators: Tetjana Ross (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Stephanie Waterman (University of British Columbia), Roberta Hamme (University of Victoria), Amber Holdsworth (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Postdoctoral Fellow: TBD 

Project Dates: November 1, 2021 – October 31, 2023 

Project Title:  Constructing a Synoptic Picture of the North Pacific Ocean 

Project Summary:

There are substantial resources available to understand the state of the North Pacific and its relation to salmon and other fish stocks.  The IYS Expeditions will be collecting CTD/Rosette data, yielding information about upper ocean physical, chemical, and optical properties. This project will couple these measurements with satellite colour, altimetry, and sea surface temperature measurements derived from existing autonomous platforms to construct a synoptic picture of the North Pacific OceanThe North Pacific Argo floats will be used to understand hydrographic properties on a large scale. Specialized Argo floats equipped with oxygen sensors will be deployed during the IYS cruise.  Finally, Line P data, collected from both the regular research cruises and from autonomous gliders moving along Line P, will give us a detailed picture of the upper ocean.  If possible, we will also send a glider from the IYS Expedition to complete a north-south section through the planned Gulf of Alaska sampling array.  Both glider deployments will measure temperature, salinity, oxygen, and chlorophyll in the upper 1000 m of the ocean. A large integrative data set like this will help to address a wide variety of questions including: what processes regulate the mixed layer depth and resulting habitat for salmon offshore, what processes drive restratification in the spring and what role does that play in nutrient and oxygen flux in the upper ocean?, how does warm, coastal, nutrient-rich water mix in the Gulf of Alaska, and do Northeast Pacific Ocean models replicate observed stratification and transport processes? All of these questions are directly linked to the availability and suitability of fish habitat through their physical/chemical environment and indirectly through ocean productivity, which is linked to food sources for fish and their survival. 


Eiko Jones Photography

Principal Investigator: John Dower (University of Victoria) 

Collaborators: Stephane Gautier (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), Akash Sastri (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), and Jackie King (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) 

Graduate Student: Nicolas Ens 

Project Dates: May 1, 2021 – March 31, 2023

Project TitleCorrelating multi-frequency acoustic backscatter with net capture data to assess the distribution and variability of salmon and their prey 

Project Summary:

This project will focus on integrating the multi-frequency acoustic backscatter with net capture data to assess the distribution and variability of salmon, salmon prey, and associated fauna at a high spatial resolution along the IYS 2022 Expedition track. The multi-frequency acoustic data will first be partitioned into distinct backscattering groups, including swim bladder-bearing fish, other gas-bearing organisms, krill and krill-like aggregations, and zooplankton layers. Samples from net data (surface trawl, bongo vertical profiles, and MOCNESS stratified tows) will be used to further link backscatter data to species and investigate potential acoustic signatures of salmon aggregations in the upper water column, as well as prey availability. Variability in backscatter and potential biological hotspots will be examined through the water column, from the near-surface to deep scattering layers (~400-500 m depth) to assess spatial and environmental correlations, as well as potential for vertical energy transfer. Regional differences (or lack thereof) in abundance and productivity of salmon and salmon prey will be examined with physical processes in mind to identify factors that may explain observed distribution patterns. This comprehensive dataset will offer a unique opportunity to look at salmon and salmon habitat at high spatial resolution over a large area and gradient of physical processes.  

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