Student profile: Nolan Bett

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OTN HQP Nolan Bett documents his visit with researchers at the Ueda Lab in Sapporo, Japan

Report prepared by Nolan Bett

I am a PhD candidate in Dr. Scott Hinch’s research lab at the University of British Columbia, and I study olfaction and homing in Pacific salmon.

In June of 2015, I had the opportunity to spend a week with Dr. Hiroshi Ueda and his research group at Hokkaido University. Over the past couple of decades, his group has contributed many important findings that have greatly furthered our understanding of olfactory homing in salmon.

The university is located in Sapporo, which is a city in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. Upon my arrival, I met with Dr. Ueda and was introduced to his graduate and undergraduate students. During my visit, we had many fruitful discussions about our field of work, and I was shown their research spaces, both on- and off-campus. Off-campus sites included the Chitose Hatchery and Sapporo Salmon Museum, where the group conducts much of their telemetry, electrophysiological, and behavioural research. There, I learned about research techniques that could benefit my own work. For example, both myself and Dr. Ueda’s group conduct behavioural research using Y-mazes, which are experimental chambers that allow us to test for behavioural responses to environmental characteristics such as chemical compounds. Dr. Ueda’s group has installed a PIT antenna array in their Y-maze–something I have not done. This method of applying telemetry to an experimental research set-up allows Dr. Ueda’s group to track the fish’s movements within the Y-maze efficiently and unobtrusively, without the need for direct observation (which can disturb the fish) or video recorders.

I am currently rearing pink salmon that have been PIT tagged, and I plan to incorporate their PIT array design into my own future Y-maze experiments with these fish. I was also given the opportunity to present my own research on olfactory navigation in sockeye salmon to Dr. Ueda’s group and other members of his department. My presentation and subsequent discussions with Dr. Ueda and other researchers at Hokkaido University allowed me to describe research questions and findings from our research group in British Columbia, which complemented what I learned about their research in Japan. In doing so, my visit has contributed to establishing a trans-Pacific connection between our two research groups, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share and discuss research from opposite sides of the ocean. I would like to thank Ocean Tracking Network for their generous support that made my visit possible.

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