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My lab’s research focuses on the genetic architecture of fitness (i.e. additive genetic effects (good genes) and non-additive genetic effects (genetic compatibility) in fishes, including salmonids from the Great Lakes and the west coast of Canada (see pictures). For example, my lab is interested in the roles of particular paternal and maternal genes (e.g. major histocompatibility genes) in determining the genetic quality of offspring and how that research can be used to improve conservation related breeding protocols (see below).

 

Genetic quality, sexual selection and natural selection in salmon

The importance of genetic quality to conservation biology recently has been recognized. However, few captive/supportive breeding programs have been developed that capitalize on natural biological mechanisms such as sexual selection. My research program investigates the merits of incorporating natural mating mechanisms into captive breeding programs for fishes. For example, I have empirically assessed the potential value of incorporating good genes and compatible genes in increasing the effectiveness of breeding programs through increased

Incorporating genetic quality into conservation breeding programs

My lab is now investigating the link between aquatic contaminant stress (e.g. due to PCBs), reproductive parameters (sperm & egg quality). We have examined these relationships in the brown bullhead from the Detroit River (note the tumours, image to the right).

Reproduction and aquatic contaminant stress

Aquaculture of Chinook salmon

The primary objective of this research is to (1) examine the genetic architecture of reproductive traits in Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and (2) develop and evaluate high and low performance strains of Chinook salmon for direct or hybrid use in the Organic Salmon Aquaculture industry on the west coast of Canada. My lab is collaborating with our industrial partner (pictured), Yellow Island Aquaculture Ltd and other academics from the University of Windsor (Semeniuk, Love, Heath, Higgs), Western (Neff), and Waterloo (Dixon). 

 

offspring performance in Chinook and Atlantic salmon. Finally, my lab is also testing whether these same techniques can be applied to an endangered species of freshwater fish in Canada, the Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus).

Reproductive ecology of salmonids

This research investigates genetic compatibility at the gamete level. We are interested in the effects of ovarian fluid on the outcome of spawning competition among males in the wild. For example, we have been examining cryptic female choice via the effects that ovarian fluid have on sperm quality metrics.  We found that when sperm was activated in ovarian fluid, sperm velocity from the related male was significantly higher than that of the unrelated male (lake trout, pictured to the right) and that fertilization success of males from alternative reproductive tactics differs in the presence of ovarian fluid (Chinook salmon). We also focus on differences in reproduction between hatchery-origin and wild-origin fish.

We are interested in restoring species of fish to self-sustaining population levels.  For example, Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) were nearly extirpated from the Detroit river after extensive destruction of suitable spawning habitat and over-fishing.  In an effort to restore this population, artificial spawning reefs were constructed in the Detroit River.  Currently researchers with the US Fish & Wildlife and USGS as well as the University of Windsor are investigating the success of these artificial spawning reefs.  We are also working on Atlantic salmon and bloater reintorduction to Lake Ontario and captive breeding efforts for the imperiled redside dace (see below).

Restoration ecology of Great Lakes Fishes