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Fraser River Environmental Watch - DFO

The DFO Environmental Watch (EWatch) Program provides scientific advice on the impact of different environmental factors on the migration success of Pacific salmon in fresh water. This advice is based on our understanding of migration biology of Pacific salmon and the interaction with environmental conditions.


Phylogenetically conserved host traits and local abiotic conditions jointly drive the geography of parasite intensity

Published in Functional Ecology, 2020

The role of biotic interactions in shaping species distributions is a cornerstone of biogeographic theory; yet, it remains elusive. Such interactions are more likely to have an influence on organisms with obligate associations, such as hosts and their parasites. Whereas abiotic conditions may affect the abundance and distribution of parasites in ways similar to free-living species, attributes of the host could also play a part. Here, we focus on parasitic water mites and their dragonfly and damselfly hosts, and use a hierarchical Bayesian model to examine the relative influence of the abiotic environment and biotic factors such as local host community structure and individual host characteristics on parasite intensity along a broad-scale environmental gradient. Specifically, we assessed how climate, surrounding vegetation, water chemistry, host community structure as well as the relative abundance and body mass of host species affected the intensity of parasitism on individual hosts along a latitudinal gradient. We found that water chemistry and body mass of the host were the best predictors of variation in parasite intensity among hosts. High parasite intensity was observed in hosts sampled from lakes with high pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. Additionally, we found that the intensity of parasitism was strongly influenced by host species identity. In particular, body mass, which shows strong phylogenetic signal, was negatively related to parasite intensity. It may be that larger species, or individuals within species, are more immune to high level of parasitism and/or body mass is correlated with other traits of the host which relate to immunity. Considering both the abiotic environment and attributes of host species is necessary to understand why certain host individuals and locations exhibit more intense parasitism. Amid widespread decline of insect populations world-wide, some of which are attributed to pathogens and parasites, models predicting rates of parasitism in space and time could become an essential tool for guiding management and conservation efforts. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.

Recommended citation: LoScerbo et al. "Phylogenetically conserved host traits and local abiotic conditions jointly drive the geography of parasite intensity." Funct Ecol. 2020;00:1–11.


Identification of wildlife corridors and passages either side of highway 10 (Estrie and Monteregie Est regions, Southern QC)


While the ability to move between habitats is critical for the viability of animal populations, the spread of urbanization is continuously adding barriers within the natural landscape; the most pervasive of which is the construction of roads and highways. The ideal situation of using existing structures, such as train and road underpasses and water culverts for wildlife cannot be assumed for all animal species, as it may also be that human use of structures is a deterrent for specific wildlife. Employing 36 wildlife cameras at 9 underpasses below Highway 10 East, our research provides 9 months of continuous, standardized, and non-invasive observation of human and mammal use, in order to (1) estimate the permeability of the road for medium and large mammals and (2) to determine the effect of human use of underpasses on the use by medium and large mammals. Over a maximum period of 315 continuous observation days at each of 9 underpasses, a total of 1450 individuals from 10 medium to large mammalian species were observed: white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, black bear, red fox, fisher, raccoon, mink, otter, and marmot. All three types of underpasses monitored, train, road, and culvert, were used by mammals to cross below Highway 10. The effect of human use varied depending on structure type and by species of mammal. Recommendations to increase the use of all underpasses by wildlife include addition of a dry pathway through all culverts, highway fencing along mortality hotspots, and whenever possible, dedicated wildlife under/overpasses to increase the permeability of the highway to large mammals.

Les passages peuvent-ils être partagés? Comment la co-utilisation humaine desstructures de passages souterrain affecte l’utilisation par la faune?


S’étendant sur 33,6 millions d’hectares, l’écorégion des Appalaches nordiques et de l’Acadie présente la plus vaste étendue de forêt feuillue intacte contigüe de l’Amérique du Nord, et celle-ci se trouve fragmentée par l’autoroute 10 Est, qui est une route à quatre voies au trafic dense.Quatre tronçons prioritaires des 75 km de la portion de l’autoroute 10 Est étudiée entre Granby et Sherbrooke, ont été choisis, aux endroits où les corridors naturels identifiés par Corridor appalachien sont intersectés par la route à quatre voies. Neufs passages inférieurs situés au niveau de ces tronçons et comprenant une superficie minimale d’ouverturede 1,5 m2 ont été jugés accessibles et appropriés pour une utilisation par les mammifères de moyenne et grande taille. Des caméras à détecteur de mouvement infrarouge ont été utilisés pour une observation continue de l’activité animale et humaine au niveau de toutes les structures ciblées. Les passages ferroviaires inférieurs, les passages routiers inférieurs à faible circulation ainsi que les ponceaux de drainage réguliers peuvent servir de passages fauniques pour de nombreuses espèces de grands et mésomammifères. Les analyses statistiques des résultats par structure n’ont pas permis de confirmer que des niveaux croissants d’activité humaine aux passages inférieurs diminuent la probabilité de présence des mammifères ou d’utilisation des structures par les mammifères, ni n’augmentent leur aversion envers celles-ci. La température est vraisemblablement responsable tant de l’augmentation de l’activité humaine qu’animale aux structures dont la dimension permet les franchissements. Il est probable que d’autres covariables jouent un rôle important, telles que le niveau d’eau et le type de structure.

Climate Change Across the Salmon Life-Cycle


Climate change is affecting salmon throughout their life cycle in different and sometimes unexpected ways. Individual life stages are impacted—from ocean climate variability driving large shifts in survival and growth to warming streams causing mortality in adult migrants. Yet, the population-level impacts of climate change will be a function of cumulative impacts of climate change across life stages. Importantly, climate impacts in one life-stage may carryover to the next. Experiences/conditions from the freshwater environment can be carried over to the early ocean environment and this may affect early ocean survival, and population growth. Likewise, changes in ocean conditions could change en-route mortality, pre-spawn mortality and influence the next generation through intergenerational effects. This symposium will bring together researchers studying salmonids across life-stages including carryover and intergenerational effects. We will begin with the juvenile life-history stage and work through the life stages of salmon ending where we began, at the juvenile life-history stage. The end of the symposium will include a panel discussion on next steps for research. For this symposium we welcome studies that examine climate change in the context of individual, population and species-level effects on salmonids that cut across one or more life stages.

West coast estuaries as critical fish habitat: from ecological complexity to management


Estuaries are biodiversity hotspots and are increasingly degraded by human development yet are much less studied compared to their freshwater counterparts. Found at the interface of land and sea, they are incredibly productive regions that can support multitudes of fish species such as juvenile salmon, herring, and groundfish. These fish rely on estuaries, likely due to their high productivity and relatively low predation risk. The dynamic nature of estuaries makes them challenging areas to characterise and as a result, knowledge gaps exist surrounding how fish utilize estuaries across their life cycles. Furthermore, continued estuary development has made it increasingly important to fill knowledge gaps surrounding how alteration or destruction of estuary habitat will affect estuary-dependent fish species, particularly at the population-level (e.g. growth and survival). Together these knowledge gaps can lead to challenges in prioritizing areas for protection or development.


Teaching experience 1

Undergraduate course, University 1, Department, 2014

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Teaching experience 2

Workshop, University 1, Department, 2015

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