Research

Sockeye salmon in Hansen Creek, Alaska

Sockeye salmon in Hansen Creek, Alaska

The research that my students, post-docs and I conduct is directed at the behavior, ecology, evolution, and conservation of salmon, trout and char. These fishes are noteworthy for their migrations and homing behavior, complex population structure, importance in commercial, recreational, and subsistence fisheries, roles are cultural icons around the Pacific Rim, and complex connections within their ecosystems. In addition, some populations of salmon and trout are in serious decline or have already become extinct, chiefly towards the southern end of their distribution, although others are extremely healthy and support sustainable fisheries. Therefore, the research that we conduct is always placed in the context of the natural and human-related processes affecting the fish, and we emphasize the importance of linking basic scientific investigations to conservation and management. The specific projects have varied over the years, as the interests of students, the pressing issues, and the funding opportunities have changed.

Currently, the projects are largely divided geographically between those conducted in western Alaska, at the University of Washington’s field camps, and those conducted in Washington.  As part of a long-term, multi-investigator program whose goal is to understand the basic and applied ecology of western Alaska sockeye salmon and their habitats,  we have conducted studies of the life history traits, spawning site characteristics, reproductive behavior, energetics, and predator-prey interactions of sockeye salmon. Specific projects have examined: (1) the scale of population structure and homing by sockeye salmon, (2) the relationships between stream entry date, body size, population density, energetics and longevity of adult sockeye salmon in small streams, (3) the influences of habitat, body size, and sex on vulnerability of adult sockeye salmon to predation by bears, and (4) the forms of selection exerted on salmon by the commercial fishery. In addition to these projects on sockeye salmon, we are also investigating the ecology, migrations, and life history of char in the genus Salvelinus, including Dolly Varden and Arctic char, and rainbow trout. See links to the Alaska Salmon Program for more about the field camps and research being conducted there.

In Washington, we have been studying the re-colonization of the Cedar River by salmon after modification of the Landsburg diversion dam in 2003, and are participating in a study of the re-colonization and restoration of the Elwha River after dam removal, with components investigating estuary, river and lake habitats, in collaboration with scientists representing many different agencies and organizations. We are also investigating the migration patterns of different salmonids species in Puget Sound. This work involves a combination of ultrasonic tagging and tracking, and also analysis of coded wire tagging data, in collaboration with NOAA scientists. We are comparing the movement patterns of steelhead trout, cutthroat trout, bull trout, coho salmon and Chinook salmon.