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Vol 38  No 16
June 29, 2006


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Student committed to salmon conservation

By Deborah Inkpen

Nate Wilke negotiates a salmon river. (Photo submitted.)

This summer Memorial University PhD student Nate Wilke can be found in the woods of New Brunswick with colleagues from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and his supervisor, Dr. Ian Fleming, director of the Ocean Sciences Centre. They are carrying baby Atlantic salmon in backpacks through the woods to Big Salmon River where they will release thousands of the species.

Mr. Wilke is participating in a project funded through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Strategic Grant aimed at understanding the conservation biology and genomics of Atlantic salmon, with the hopes of preserving the Bay of Fundy salmon stocks in rivers of New Brunswick.

Mr. Wilke and his colleagues are hoping to come up with a plan which will restore the salmon populations in the in the region that have been listed as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). They raised the offspring of 32 different families of salmon with slightly different genetic makeup and then released them in a tributary of the Big Salmon River.

“We are trying to determine which strains can be raised in captivity and will still do well in the wild,” said Mr. Wilke.

The team will return to the river in 40 days time to see to begin identifying which salmon survived, what traits made them successful and who their parents (using a form of “DNA fingerprinting”). The hope is to follow these fish through various stages of their life and compare them to their siblings (brothers and sisters) raised in captivity to better understand the processes of natural selection and thus develop appropriate conservation strategies.

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