Environmental influences on salmon migrations in a changing world

Migratory salmon, both as juvenile smolts migrating from natal freshwater habitats to marine feeding grounds, and as adults returning to spawning grounds, experience multiple landscapes or seascapes. These landscapes each have unique environmental conditions (e.g., water temperature and salinity, ocean currents, river flows), and even within landscapes these conditions vary with space and time. Climate change has the potential to create new environmental conditions for migratory salmon to experience. We use a variety of techniques and tools to create links between the complex environments an individual fish experiences and its behaviour and survival. We tag salmon with transmitters that track individual fish throughout their migrations and provide detailed information on muscle activity, 3D-acceleration, behavioural thermoregulation, fine-scale movements, and migration speeds. This information allows us to understand how salmon complete their difficult migration in fluctuating environmental conditions. Our approaches include environmental monitoring to characterize migration experience, simulation models to better understand the role of ocean currents in salmon movements and laboratory studies to isolate the influences of water quality on fish behaviour and survival. We couple a fish’s experience and behaviour with physiological traits to also investigate interactions between individual physiology and the environment. Studies have taken place in the Fraser River watershed, as well as in the marine environment in the Strait of Georgia.

Selected Publications

Brooks, J.L., Chapman, J., Barkley, A., Kessel, S., Hussey, N., S.G. Hinch, Patterson, D.A., Hedges, K., Cooke, S.J., Fisk, A., Gruber, S., Nguyen V.M. 2019. Biotelemetry informing management: case studies exploring successful integration of biotelemetry data into fisheries and habitat management. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 76(7): 1238-1252.

Furey, N.B., Armstrong, J.B., Beauchamp, D.A., Hinch, S.G. 2018. Migratory coupling between predators and prey. Nature Ecology & Evolution 2: 1846-1853.

Furey, N.B., Hinch, S.G. 2017. Bull trout movements match the life history of sockeye salmon: consumers can exploit seasonally distinct pulses. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 146: 450-461.

Furey, N.B., Hinch, S.G., Mesa, M.G., Beauchamp, D.A. (2016) Piscivorous fish exhibit temperature-influenced binge feeding during an annual prey pulse. Journal of Animal Ecology 85:1307-1317. *Selected as runner-up for 2016 Elton Prize

Furey, N.B., Hinch, S.G., Bass, A.L., Middleton, C.T., Minke-Martin, V., Lotto, A.G. (2016) Predator swamping reduces predation risk during nocturnal migration of juvenile salmon in a high-mortality landscape. Journal of Animal Ecology 85(4):948-959.

Clark, T.D., Furey, N.B., Rechisky, E.L., Gale, M.K., Jeffries, K.M., Porter, A.D., Casselman, M.T., Lotto, A.G., Patterson, D.A., Cooke, S.J., Farrell, A.P., Welch, D.W., Hinch, S.G. (2016) Tracking wild salmon smolts to the ocean reveals distinct regions of nocturnal movement and high mortality. Ecological Applications 26(4):959-978.

Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Farrell, A.P., Miller, K.M., Lapointe, M., Patterson, D.A. (2012) Dead fish swimming: a review of research on the early migration and high premature mortality in adult Fraser River sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka. Journal of Fish Biology 81: 576-599.

Martins, E.G., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Patterson, D.A. (2012) Climate effects on growth, phenology, and survival of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka): a synthesis of the current state of knowledge and future research directions. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 22: 887-914.

Jeffries, K.M., Hinch, S.G., Sierocinski, T., Clark, T.D., Eliason, E.J., Donaldson, M.R., Li, S., Pavlidis, P., Miller, K.M. (2012) Consequences of high temperatures and premature mortality on the transcriptome and blood physiology of wild adult sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Ecology and Evolution 2: 1747-1764. PDF

Jeffries, K.M., Hinch, S.G., Martins, E.G., Clark, T.D., Lotto, A.G., Patterson, D.A., Cooke, S.J., Farrell, A.P., Miller, K.M. (2012) Sex and proximity to reproductive maturity influence the survival, final maturation, and blood physiology of Pacific salmon when exposed to high temperature during a simulated migration. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 85: 62-73.

Martins, E.G., Hinch, S.G., Patterson, D.A., Hague, M.J., Cooke, S.J., Miller, K.M., Lapointe, M.F., English, K.K., Farrell, A.P. (2011) Effects of river temperature and climate warming on stock-specific survival of adult migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Global Change Biology 17: 99-114.

Crossin, G.T., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Welch, D.W., Lotto, A.G., Patterson, D.A., Jones, S.R.M., Leggatt, R.A., Mathes, M.T., Shrimpton, J.M., Van Der Kraak, G., Farrell, A.P. (2008) Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migrations. Canadian Journal of Zoology 86: 127-140.

For other publications, please see our Publications page.