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Affiliations:

land and foodzoology

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Research Interests:

Integrative and comparative animal physiology―cardiorespiratory dynamics, myocardial oxygen supply, coronary physiology and pathology, blood flow regulation, hypoxia and anoxia tolerance.
Salmon migratory passage, exercise / handling stress and recovery, sustainable aquaculture, aquatic toxicology.

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Recent Publications:

What is conservation physiology? perspectives on an increasingly integrated and essential science. Conserv. Physiol. 1:cot001.

Niche expansion of the shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius) to Arctic waters is supported by a thermal independence of cardiac performance at low temperature. Can. J. Zool. 91:573-580.

Pharmacological characterization of the heartbeat in an extant vertebrate ancestor, the Pacific hagfish, Eptatretus stoutii. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A. 164: 258-263.

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Recent Reports:

A Review of Scientific Literature Related to "Can Farmed and Wild Salmon Co-Exist?"

Report 1: Parasitic Sea Lice and Other Diseases of Pacific Salmon

Report 2: An Analysis of Annual Trends for Wild Pacific Salmon in British Columbia

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Recent Awards:

2010 - Beverton Medal, Fisheries Society of the British Isles
2009 - Fry Medal, Canadian Society of Zoologists
2006 - Award of Excellence for Fish Physiology, American Fisheries Society
2005 - Award of Excellence in Fisheries Management, American Fisheries Society
2002 - Murray A Newman Award for Excellence in Aquatic Conservation and Pioneering Marine Research, Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre

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Recent Awards for lab members:

E. Eliason - Cameron Award for Best Ph.D. Thesis in Canada (2012)
B. Ferreira - NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (2012)
R. Sidhu - NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (2012)
S. Lague - Julie Payette- NSERC Research Scholarship (2012)
S. Lague - UBC Zoology Graduate Fellowship (2011)
G. Cox - NSERC Post Graduate Scholarship, Ph.D. (2010-2014)
G. Cox - GES Star Fellowship, Ph.D. (2010-2014)
K. Anttila - Research Abroad Grant, Academy of Finland (2010-2012)
M. Casselman - Coho Society Partnership (2010-2012)
A. Azzam - NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship, M.Sc. (2009)
M. Casselman - Community Stewardship Bursary, Pacific Salmon Foundation (2009)
E. Eliason - Four Year Doctoral Fellowship (2009-2010)
C. Verhille - NSERC Industrial Post-graduate Scholarship (2007-2009)
E. Eliason - McLean Fraser Summer Research Fellowship (2009)
G. Galli - Killam Post-doctoral Fellowship (2008-2010)
J. Stecyk - Cameron Award for Best Ph.D. Thesis in Canada (2008)
E. Eliason - NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship (2007-2010)

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Current projects:

Cardiac control in primitive fishes (hagfish): C. Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, is investigating cardiac control in the Pacific hagfish heart. These hearts have no neural input, and therefore the heart rate control mechanisms are unknown. Using realtime reverse-transcriptase PCR, pharmacology, electrophysiology, electrocardiogram and molecular biological techniques, it has been discovered that the pacemaker of the hagfish heart is governed by hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels, the funny current, and that catecholamine and bicarbonate ions may be involved in regulation of that beating rhythm.

The Structure and Function of the Coronary Artery in Elasmobranchs:Ph.D. student G. Cox's research focuses on how the coronary artery optimizes oxygen delivery to the elasmobranch heart under environmental and physiological stressors. Currently she is examining the structure and function of the coronary artery in a variety of shark species that vary in athleticism and habitat to determine if there are adaptations to the coronary artery that may be beneficial to exercise, and hypoxia and temperature tolerances.

Cardiac adrenergic sensitivity of Fraser River sockeye Salmon: Cardiac adrenoceptor density has recently been shown to differ among Fraser River sockeye Salmon populations. Such receptor density differences may manifest as differences in cardiac performance between these populations. M.Sc. Student A. Goulding is isolated cardiac muscle preparations to study the cardiac adrenergic sensitivity of upper and lower Fraser River sockeye Salmon.

Cardiorespiratory responses to high-altitude hypoxia in bar-headed geese:

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Recent and past projects:

Cardiorespiratory physiology of fish:
See how the swim tunnel works

Spawning migration of Pacific salmon and climate change: Elevated river temperatures during physically demanding spawning migrations have been repeatedly associated with adult mortality in Fraser River sockeye. Post-doc T. D. Clark investigated the energetic requirements of the migrating fish, while Ph.D. student E. Eliason tested the hypothesis that cardiac function becomes a limiting factor at high temperatures for these fish.
* Read article in UBC Reports

Triploidy and fitness in rainbow trout: Triploid fish are less tolerant of suboptimal environmental conditions (most remarkably high temperature), possibly due to their enlarged cell volume. Ph.D. student C. Verhille compared the cardiorespiratory physiology of diploid and triploid rainbow trout, and related it to swimming performance and survival.

Pink salmon & Sea lice project: Sea lice from salmon farms are often blamed for the collapse of the pink salmon runs in northern Vancouver Island, and few scientific studies had quantified how sea lice really affect pink salmon smolts. In collaboration with Dr. Colin Brauner of the UBC Zoology Department, we undertook an objective examination of the effects of lice loading on:

  • Ontogeny of salinity tolerance in pink salmon (Z. Gallagher)
  • The effect of seawater migration and sea lice infestation on metabolic rate and aerobic scope of pink salmon (A. Azzam)
  • Swim performance of juvenile pink salmon (L. Nendick)
  • Stress physiology of juvenile pink salmon (M. Gardner)
  • Osmoregulation in juvenile pink salmon (M. Sackville)
  • Growth and smoltification in juvenile pink salmon (A. Grant)

Stress and recovery during commercial fish transport: Commercially farmed salmon must be transported live from freshwater hatcheries to the saltwater farms, and often from the saltwater farm to the processing plant. M.Sc. student M. Nomura examined changes in plasma chemistry and schooling behaviour in smolts during transport, while a concurrent study by M.Sc. student S. Tang looked at changes in water quality to determine oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide tolerance in adult salmon, as well as final flesh quality.

Anoxia tolerance in reptiles and fish: Freshwater turtles living in temperate climates lie dormant at the bottom of ponds and lakes during the cold season. For his Ph.D. thesis, J. Stecyk examined cardiovascular function in anoxic and normoxic turtles, as well as similar traits in the surprisingly anoxia-tolerant Crucian carp.

Exercise physiology of fish hearts: Intense exercise results in changes, sometimes detrimental, to the extracellular fluids bathing the vertebrate heart. Former M.Sc. student and current lab manager L. M. Hanson used the perfused heart technique to investigate cardiac performance in rainbow trout and in African catfish during hypoxia, hyperkalemia and acidosis at different temperatures, as well as the stimulatory and protective effects of adrenaline.

Nutrition, gut blood flow and growth in rainbow trout: New developments and understanding of the digestive physiology of fish are desired for  environmental, economical and scientific reasons. Former M.Sc. student E. Eliason simultaneously measured oxygen consumption, blood flow to the gastrointestinal system and heart rate in postprandial rainbow trout. Oxygen consumption was found to closely correlate with heart rate, which could lead to exciting new research using biotelemetry systems to indirectly monitor MO2. Furthermore, a novel technique to cannulate the hepatic portal vein of fish has been pioneered by E. Eliason in collaboration with researchers in Norway in order to assess nutrient uptake and gut function.

Fish Recovery Box: In collaboration with Dr. Rick Routledge and Dr. Patricia Gallagher of Simon Fraser University and gillnetter Jake Fraser we helped the Department of Fisheries and Oceans redesign a fish recovery box used by commercial fishermen. The recovery box is used to revive coho salmon inadvertently caught as by-catch during other fisheries openings. The newly designed box is highly effective and has drastically reduced coho mortality rates.

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YouTube and Media Coverage:





Globe and Mail - Sockeye salmon at risk of overheating due to climate change: study

CBC - Strong salmon hearts may hedge against climate change

New tank may help save coho - May 2001

Three researchers named winner of Newman Award - May 2002

Aquaculture feeds the world, All Points West, CBC Radio One - Sept. 2009 (transcript)

For tank fish two is not enough company - July 2009 (Discover News)


A crystal ball for Pacific Salmon
- Feb. 2009

Death by degrees - Feb. 2008

UBC study established formula for predicting climate change impact on salmon stocks - Nov. 2008

Highlights from the literature (featured in Physiol.) - Feb. 2005 

Anoxia not a real heartbreaker, Outside JEB (featured in J. Exp. Biol.) - 2005


The heart of a carp
- Oct. 5, 2004 New York Times

How do homing slamon find their way back to their home stream? CBC Quirks and Quarks radio show - June 2003

Researchers focus on water - Feb. 2002

Farrell awarded honorary degree - Oct. 2000

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Last updated:August 2013