Poster and Presentation Abstracts


Organized Alphabetically by Title

Presenters are underlined. Presentations are the work of the presenter as well as co-authors within the network.

Laura M. Logan-Chesney, R. H. Karsten, M. J. W. Stokesbury and M. J. Dadswell

Atlantic sturgeon seasonality and breaching behaviour in Minas Basin, inner Bay of Fundy, Canada

Atlantic sturgeon Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus Mitchill, 1815 are large, anadromous fish that aggregate in Minas Basin, inner Bay of Fundy, Canada during the summer to feed. Breaching is a common behaviour in Atlantic sturgeon but it is not well understood. Breaching events in Minas Basin, Minas Passage and the outer Bay of Fundy were investigated from MiniPAT archival data. Two of six MiniPATs deployed on Atlantic sturgeon were recovered after approximately four months. Analysis of breaching data revealed that the tidal cycle had the greatest influence on breaching frequency, with the most breaches occurring on the flood tide, above mid-tide. Breaching frequency dropped off dramatically when each fish left Minas Basin and moved into deeper water. Buoyancy control, by regulation of air in the gas bladder, is suspected to be the main purpose of breaching in Atlantic sturgeon.

Poster Session

Steve Kessel, N.E. Hussey, S.J. Cooke, M.R. Heupel and A.T. Fisk

Does the distribution of telemetry effort bias our understanding of global aquatic ecosystems?

Aquatic telemetry studies have been widely distributed across the globe since their emergence in the late 1980s, however, there may still be important areas that have been overlooked. Study effort by focus nation was compared to the Fragile States Index for political stability, scaled with group 1 the most stable and 11 the least. Of 1,106 aquatic telemetry studies published up to 31 December 2013, 77% were conducted in nations from groups 1 to 3. Acoustic telemetry studies were conducted in nations from groups 1 to 8 and satellite telemetry studies from groups 1 to 10. The fire-and- forget nature of satellite telemetry increases feasible deployment in unstable nations, relative to acoustic telemetry where equipment typically must be maintained and recovered. Current global telemetry efforts are under representing biota in less politically stable regions. Despite the associated difficulties of working in these nations, without focused effort a more complete understanding of global aquatic ecosystems will not be possible.

10:50 am

D.C. Lidgard, F. Broell, W.D. Bowen and S.J. Iverson

 Exploration of predator-prey interactions in the grey seal using acoustic and accelerometer technology

The movement of marine predators is influenced by the availability of their prey. Here we provide an 8-year summary of interactions between grey seals and one of their potential prey, Atlantic cod, using acoustic (Vemco Mobile Transceiver), GPS and accelerometer technology in the Eastern Scotian Shelf and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Data recovered from 123 grey seals showed that 67% visited areas where Atlantic cod were known to reside, of which only 26% detected cod tagged with V13s (n=66). Approximately 50% detected a single cod while a single female spent ~2 months associating with 18 individual cod. Data from 26 Maritime Biologger accelerometers recovered from 13 seals in 2015 will provide predation and other behavioural signatures during seal-fish encounters; signatures will be verified using animal-borne video cameras. These data will be used to improve the predictive ability of state-switching models and help determine the spatial-temporal patterns of grey seal foraging behaviour.

Poster Session

D. Lidgard, M. Béguer-Pon, M. Auger-Méthé, E. Eliason, N. Hussey, S. Kessel, E. Martins and V. Nguyen

 ideasOTN: Connecting students & postdocs through synthesis activities

The Integrate Describe Expand and Synthesize OTN (ideasOTN) team supports the continued development and growth of OTN through collaboration and synthesis activities. Graduate students are key to the development, accomplishment and overall success of these activities. Here we provide a dynamic schematic view of ideasOTN synthesis activities and how students can become involved.

Poster Session

Arthur Bass, Kristi Miller, Scott Hinch

Impacts of fisheries non-retention on adult sockeye salmon: behavioral modification and mechanisms of mortality

Wherever fisheries exist, a proportion of the targeted population encounters fisheries gear but is not captured (non-retention). The subsequent delayed mortality for the non-retained group is difficult to study in a natural environment since fish are difficult to recapture. Using a river spanning weir on the Seton River (a tributary to the Fraser), BC, we captured adult sockeye salmon during their freshwater migration. By sampling and tagging these fish, which had already been exposed to a freshwater gillnet fishery, we were able to: 1) determine survival for fish with different levels of injury resulting from gillnet encounter, 2) identify mechanisms of mortality for injured fish, including freshwater pathogens and host gene response, 3) identify behavioral patterns associated with injury, including the selection of certain temperature ranges in a stratified lake, and 4) related the above factors to pre-spawn mortality, by assessing egg retention on spawning grounds.

Poster Session

R. Davis, M. Beck, A. Comeau, B. Covey, D. Hebert, K. Fupsova, S. L’Orsa, T. Ross

Ocean observations on the Scotian Shelf using autonomous vehicles

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) and the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) fund the largest operational glider group in Canada. The AZMP line off of Halifax is occupied by the gliders on a more continuous basis than the semi-annual cruises conducted by DFO. Environmental context is provided for the movements of tagged marine animals passing over OTN’s acoustic receiver line that stretches from Halifax to the shelf break. Gliders equipped with hydrophones are deployed to listen for marine mammals and then report the positions of key species. Gliders can be used to offload data from bottom-mounted instruments and then send data to shore via satellite, reducing costs associated with data collection. The Dalhousie glider group uses internationally recognized data quality control and analysis procedures and makes all data available via the Internet. Glider data are also submitted to international organizations for use by the general research community.

Poster Session


I.M. Mulder, M. Power, I. Fleming, C. Morris, M. Robertson,B. Dempson

Overwintering Behaviour of Anadromous Arctic Charr (Salvelinus Alpinus) in Gilbert Bay, Labrador

Anadromous Arctic charr are believed to reduce or cease feeding during winter residency in lakes and their winter movement activity is poorly understood, having never been studied. It has been presumed in the literature that cessation of feeding and low water temperatures combine to restrict Arctic charr movements. Here, preliminary results will be presented on the movement activity and temperature use of anadromous Arctic charr in Shinney’s Pond, Labrador. Data were collected from a telemetry array where Arctic charr were tagged with sonic transmitters, to test the following hypotheses concerning Arctic charr winter activity: [i]Anadromous Arctic charr remain active throughout the winter, and [ii]Arctic charr activity levels increase significantly prior to spring ice breakup and out-migration.

Poster Session

R. Davis, A. Comeau, B. Covey, K, Davies, M. Dever, K. Fupsova, D. Hebert, A. Katavouta, S. L’Orsa, T. Ross

Project 4.2: Ocean Observation Component – OTN Gliders

The Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) and the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) jointly operate autonomous vehicles in Canadian waters in support of a variety of projects. These vehicles operate independently at sea from weeks to months, collecting data and reporting back to shore via satellite. Gliders can measure water conditions, detect tagged animals, listen for whales and offload data from acoustic receivers. Data from the glider group have been used to extend federal monitoring programs on the Scotian Shelf, including the monitoring of persistent subsurface chlorophyll layers not visible by satellite; relate ocean conditions to salmon migration; validate models of ocean temperature and salinity; aid in environmental assessments of the effects of the Maritime Link on snow crab behavior; and hunt for feeding grounds of marine mammals on the east and west coast of Canada.

3:25 pm

Xavier Bordeleau

 Project 4.4: Survival strategies of Atlantic salmon in the UNESCO Bras d’Or Lakes Biosphere Reserve

Atlantic salmon populations originating from the Bras d’Or Lakes (BdOL) watershed occupy a unique ecological niche. This brackish- water inland sea offers alternative possibilities for migrating salmon, and could serve as an important reconditioning habitat for post-spawned individuals (kelts). Despite limited knowledge on the kelt life stage, post-spawning condition is believed to influence decisions about migration timing and strategy, with implications for longer-term survival. To test this hypothesis, and to evaluate the role of the BdOL in Atlantic salmon life-cycle, in fall 2014 and 2015, a total of 61 kelts were surgically implanted with acoustic transmitters and bio-sampled for indicators of their physiological state. Results suggest the implication of individual’s condition (i.e. nutritional state) on migratory timing, with repercussion on longer- term survival. Furthermore, BdOL residency periods of up to 61 days have been observed, but permanent residency remains speculative.

11:35 am

Mélanie Béguer-Pon, Martin Castonguay, Julian Dodson, José Benchetrit, Shiliang Shan, Kyoko Ohashi

 Project 4.5: Oceanic migration of the threatened American eel to spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea

Solving the mystery of the oceanic spawning migration of anguillid eels has been the holy grail of eel scientists for over a century. We revealed the trajectories and behavioural mechanisms underlying the migration of American eel from the Gulf of St. Lawrence R. to the Atlantic Ocean spawning grounds. We used satellite telemetry to provide the first direct evidence of adult eels migrating up to 2,700 km. to reach the Sargasso Sea. Given the extensive predation of eels by Porbeagle sharks previously documented in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we also compared, using acoustic telemetry, the escapement rate across the Cabot Strait acoustic line of native and non-native eels in collaboration with the MFFP and OPG. Coupled physical-behavioural models simulating the migration of eels were also developed in collaboration with physical oceanographers from Project 4.1 to test the validity of various behavioural scenarios purported to underlie observed migratory performance.

9:45 am

Laura M. Logan-ChesneyMargaret M. Whitmore, J.W. Beardsall, J.W.W. Bell, M.J. Dadswell, M.K. Litvak, M.F. McLean, N.D. Stewart, M.J.W. Stokesbury, A.D. Taylor

Project 4.6: Atlantic sturgeon movement, behaviour and habitat use

The OTN Canada Atlantic Sturgeon Tracking project is a collaboration between researchers at Mount Allison University and Acadia University investigating the movement, behaviour and habitat use of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus), using acoustic and satellite telemetry. The Fish Ecology and Aquaculture Lab at Mount Allison U. has studied river and ocean movement patterns and overwintering ecology of juvenile and adult Atlantic sturgeon from the Saint John River Basin, Canada. The Coastal Ecology Lab at Acadia U. has studied Atlantic sturgeon feeding ecology, by-catch stress and survival, movement patterns, depth preferences, population-specific behaviours, growth, abundance and breaching behaviour in the Bay of Fundy, Canada. Spatial and temporal overlap between Atlantic sturgeon and planned operations of tidal power turbines has been an overarching focus of Acadia’s research. Our results are used by regulators to improve management regimes for the conservation and protection of Atlantic sturgeon.

2:05 pm

B. Nowak, D.C. Lidgard, F. Broell, W.D. Bowen and S.J. Iverson

Project 4.7: Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) as Bioprobes: Predicting Impacts on their Ecosystems

The distribution of prey and oceanographic features influence the movement and distribution of marine predators. During an 8-year study in the Eastern Scotian Shelf and southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, 123 grey seals were deployed with a Vemco Mobile Transceiver and GPS transmitter and 1208 Atlantic cod tagged with V13s. Two-thirds of seals moved through areas where cod are known to reside, although only 26% detected cod (n=66). More than half detected a single cod while one seal spent ~2 months associating with 18 individual cod. In collaboration with  Maritime Biologgers, analysis of accelerometer data from a single seal suggest it is possible to identify predation signatures from accelerometer data. We used the R package swim to estimate the behavioural states of grey seals along their movement track. These results will be used to investigate the relationship between foraging behaviour and oceanographic conditions encountered by grey seals.

2:40 pm

Kim Whoriskey, Marie Auger-Méthé, Stuart Carson, Duncan Murdoch, and Joanna Mills Flemming

Project 4.8: Moving forward: Advances in modeling and visualizing movement data

Animal movement data are challenging to model because they are inherently correlated in both time and space, and their analysis often necessitates the inclusion of large numbers of potentially multi-dimensional random effects. We develop cutting-edge statistical techniques to advance the analysis and visualization of such complex spatiotemporal data. This year, our group has primarily focused on three objectives. First, we devised a set of approaches that rapidly estimate behavioral states from animal tracks in order to better understand movement patterns. Second, to shed a new light on the ecological footprint of the Sable Island grey seals, we developed models to relate seal diving behavior to fields of prey distribution and environmental covariates. Third, we used the R package rgl to create new methods for visualizing both OTN data and model output. Most of these tools are available online and will help propel marine tracking studies forward.

2:55 pm

Jean-Sébastien Moore, K. Bøe, I.M. Mulder, M. Power, I. Fleming, M. Robertson, C. Morris, B. Dempson, L. Harris, R. Tallman, A. Fisk

 Project 4.9: Salmonids in the North – Species transition zones and beyond, predicting impacts of climate change

Salmonids are fishes of economic and cultural importance to the people of Northern Canada, and predicting potential responses to climate change is crucial. This project contrasts migratory patterns of Arctic char and Atlantic salmon in areas of sympatry and allopatry. Research aims to quantify the spatial and temporal patterns of estuarine and nearshore marine habitat use, as well as overwintering behaviour, and link biotelemetry studies to ecology, physiology and genomics. First, a long-term biotelemetry study of Arctic char in Nunavut documents marine habitat use in the absence of other anadromous salmonids. Second, a similar study documents Atlantic salmon migrations in the absence of Arctic char in Newfoundland. Third, migratory behaviour of co-existing salmonid populations is examined in northern Newfoundland and Labrador, a species transition zone, to understand niche segregation and life history differences. Contrasts between mono- and multi-species areas will help predict species responses to climate change as their distributions are expected to shift.

11:05 am

Silviya Ivanova, Steven T. Kessel, Svein Vagle, Mario Espinoza, Montana McLean, Caitlin O’Neill, Justin Landry, Nigel E. Hussey, David Yurkowski, Aaron T. Fisk

Project 4.10: Fish and marine mammal interactions in the high Arctic

This project aimed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the high Arctic marine ecosystem through studying movements of Arctic fishes and marine mammals in relation to anthropogenic disturbance and oceanographic variables. Arctic cod displayed extended residence in Resolute Bay, in both open water and ice cover periods. The presence of vessels displaced cod from their preferential home range and altered the proportions of identified swimming behaviors. Shorthorn sculpin were observed to alter their swimming behavior in the presence of high cod abundance, indicating either direct predation or exploitation of a mutual resource. The first ever large-scale horizontal movements of Arctic cod were recorded, with a displacement of 192 km. Ringed seals (Pusa hispida) at higher latitudes spent less time foraging than conspecifics at lower latitudes, as a response to large-scale geographic differences in the distribution of prey resources driven by sea ice dynamics. A slow decrease in dissolved oxygen during the ice-covered months created hypoxic waters in Resolute Bay until ice retreated. The results of this study provide an important resource to aid the prediction of future trends in a changing Arctic. 

1:35 pm


Nigel E Hussey, Kevin Hedges, Amanda Barkley, Steve Ferguson, Marianne Marcoux, Svein Vagle, Jeannette Bedard, Aaron Fisk

Project 4.11: Deep-water Arctic ecosystems and developing commercial fisheries 

Decreasing sea ice extent is leading to increased interest in Arctic fishery development. Commercial Greenland Halibut fisheries have been established in the Eastern Canadian Arctic and are expected to expand. The Ocean Tracking Network is currently monitoring Greenland halibut movements and factors driving observed behaviors at three sites to assist (i) the management of an established Inuit coastal fishery in Cumberland Sound and (ii) the development of coastal fisheries at two additional communities, Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River. In 2016 monitoring will expand to examine stock connectivity between inshore and offshore environments relative to management areas. Simultaneous monitoring of two principal bycatch species, Greenland shark and Arctic skate and documentation of coincident marine mammal communities is also underway. This program integrates long-term acoustic telemetry (years) with satellite tracking (up to a year), high-resolution biologgers (days), passive and active environmental sampling and marine mammal recordings to support ecosystem- based management of Arctic fisheries.

9:15 am

Katrina V. Cook, Arthur L Bass, Amy K Teffer, Kristi Miller, Steve J Cooke, Scott G Hinch

Project 4.12: Delayed mortality, behaviours, and physiology of salmon in fisheries bycatch

Pacific salmon fisheries in British Columbia capture a mixture of co- migrating species and populations, some of which must be released as bycatch or escape fishing gears. Such a capture and release event exposes fish to multiple acute stressors that can occur simultaneously, and from which impacts can be cumulative. Through several years of collaborative research, we have used telemetry and holding studies to evaluate how these stressors impact Pacific salmon to better understand causes of delayed mortality as a result of fisheries capture and release. The magnitude of injury sustained following capture has consistently emerged as a significant predictor of delayed mortality. Therefore, in 2015, our group focused on how capture-induced injury influences immune health and pathogen development in Pacific salmon. Using different model species, we examined differences among gear types in freshwater fisheries and handling methods in marine commercial fisheries.

11:20 am

Steven J. Cooke, Jacqueline Chapman, Melissa Dick, Katrina Cooke, Kendra Robinson, David A. Patterson, and Scott G. Hinch

Project 4.13: Interpreting tracking data to support resource management of Pacific salmon

Tracking data are often used to support resource management. Yet, to do so it is important to understand the biases underlying such data and the limitations with using tracking data to inform management. Here we discuss a series of experiments that contrast different tagging methods and their effects of the physiology, behaviour, and survival of Pacific salmon. We emphasize the important role of tagging validation studies to understand uncertainty and ensure that resource management is based on the best available science.

9:30 am

Montana F. McLean, Steve J. Cooke, Scott G. Hinch, David A. Patterson, Matt K. Litvak, Glenn T. Crossin

Project 4.14: Seasonal movements and spawning migrations of white sturgeon

White sturgeon are large, long-lived anadromous fish that are exposed to widespread fishing in the form of catch-and-release angling. Despite their popularity as a game fish on the west coast of Canada, the low recruitment levels in some populations, as well as mass die-offs during warm summer temperatures, have managers questioning the impact additional stressors, like recreational angling, might have. Through combined lab and field work, our group is working to fill some of the knowledge gaps surrounding the sub-lethal changes in stress physiology, reflex impairment and post-release behaviour of white sturgeon subjected to angling. We have been working closely with all stakeholders, including the provincial and federal governments, non-profit conservation organizations, recreational angling guides, and managers and will present some of our preliminary findings.

 1:50 pm

Steve Healy, Nathan Furey, Christine Stevenson, Scott Hinch, Aswea Porter, Erin Rechisky, David Welch, Stephen Vincent

Project 4.15: Survival and movements of out-migrating juvenile Pacific salmon

The Salish Sea has been labelled as a potentially critical lifestage for juvenile Pacific salmon smolts, yet little is known regarding movement behavior and survival here. We have used acoustic telemetry to estimate migration survival for wild sockeye smolts, define migration routes of sockeye and steelhead, and identify potential mortality hotspots for a hatchery steelhead population within the Salish Sea. Substantial contingents (20•-50%) of both sockeye and steelhead across years and populations exhibit westward movements in the northern Strait of Georgia, indicative of potential milling behaviors, with migratory route influencing survival of steelhead. Burrard Inlet appears to be an area of low survival for hatchery steelhead, with smolts traveling through this region having ~3•times lower survival than fish released in West Vancouver. Our findings greatly contribute to understanding the migration ecology of smolts in the Salish Sea, and have identified specific regions of poor survival.

3:10 pm

Kristin Bøe, Ian Fleming, Michael Power, Martha Robertson, Marie Auger-Méthé, Corey Morris, Brian Dempson

 Spatial extent and temperature use during the marine migration of consecutive repeat spawning Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)

 The predictive accuracy of anadromous fish population responses to changes in the ocean environment are contingent upon an understanding of the spatial extent of their oceanic migrations and the environmental conditions they experience therein. In the Western Atlantic salmon stock complex, many populations have a high percentage of consecutive repeat spawners. This life history is unique insofar as between-breeding migrations are short in duration, lasting on average two months. Migrations are, therefore, limited in distance compared to maiden post-smolts. As a consequence, the ecological factors faced by the two life stages are likely to differ. A combination of acoustic and archival telemetry was applied to migrating Atlantic salmon kelts from a Newfoundland population to better understand the marine behaviour of this important, often overlooked, population component.  The migration  patterns  identified  divided  into two groups where: i) was distinguished by localized movements, and ii) showed longer movements ranging up to 300 km from the release location.

Poster Session

C.F. Stevenson, S.G. Hinch, N.B. Furey, S.J. Healy, D.D. Welch, E.L. Rechisky

Survival and travel speeds of 1-year-old sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) smolts in the freshwater and marine environments

Over the past 5 years, we have tracked >1000 2-year-old Chilko Lake sockeye salmon smolts from freshwater rearing to coastal regions. They experience high mortality (>50% in some years) during freshwater outmigration to the Salish Sea. Predation and pathogens contribute to a large portion of mortalities. However, >90% of smolts emigrate as 1-year-olds and nothing is known of their survival. For the first time, we tagged 1-yr-old Chilko sockeye smolts (N=200, Vemco V4 acoustic transmitters) along with 2-year- old smolts (N=100, Vemco V7 transmitters) and tracked individuals along the first ~1150km of their migration using large scale receiver arrays. Non-lethal gill biopsies were also collected in order to assess genes associated with immune responses and pathogen presence. We predict that (1) smolts with higher and more variable pathogen loads will exhibit slower migration and reduced survival and (2) 1- year-old smolts will show slower migration rates and poorer survival than the larger 2-year-old smolts.

Poster Session

N.E. Hussey, M. Béguer-Pon, R. Lennox, V. Nguyen, E. Eliason, S. Kessel, D. Lidgard, E. Martins and M. Auger-Méthé 

The Ocean Tracking Network: Management and conservation of aquatic ecosystems

The Ocean Tracking Network Canada is a leader in the scientific use of aquatic telemetry technology as a tool to directly guide management and conservation of commercially important and imperiled species. We demonstrate this powerful approach through three regional case studies that are: (i) comparing the migration behaviors of wild, trapped, and transported and stocked American eels to address concerns over eel recruitment (Atlantic); (ii) providing data to readdress fishing related mortality estimates of salmon fisheries (Pacific) and (iii) revealing migrations of  deep water Greenland halibut to direct spatial planning of inshore community fisheries (Arctic). We also highlight studies from three species of conservation concern. Telemetry is in the midst of rapid technological growth and development that is leading to its global acceptance. This will rapidly advance both fundamental and applied aquatic science, however, we will finish by highlighting emerging challenges that will need to be addressed to maximize its future potential and success.

10:20 am

Vivian M. Nguyen, Jill Brooks, Robert J. Lennox, Neal Haddaway, Frederick G. Whoriskey, Nathan Young, and Steven J. Cooke

To share or not to share – Perspectives from fish telemetry researchers on data sharing

 The potential for biotelemetry data to help answer complex questions about animals and their interactions with the environment across large scales is limited by the capacity to store, manage, and access its expanding data across the research community. Large biotelemetry networks and associated databases exist, but are still not reaching their full potential because of reluctance or unawareness among research scientists to share their telemetry data. Establishing appropriate data sharing protocols is therefore the next step needed to take advantage of big data in ecology. To do so we must understand why do some individuals share data and why some don’t, and what the barriers are to sharing fish biotelemetry data. This presentation focuses on exploratory analyses on characteristics of individuals who share or do not share their data, identify perceived barriers to sharing data, and document actual examples of both benefits and concerns that have materialized from sharing biotelemetry data.

3:40 pm


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