Meet the lab’s peeps: Dr. Ella Bowles the Post-Doctoral Researcher, conservation biologist, bioinformatician, outdoor adventurer

Incorporating traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) together with scientific information for conservation management has increasingly been shown to be valuable, and Dr. Ella Bowles uses this wealth of knowledge to inform her research monitoring fisheries. Tying together TEK, and her knowledge of genomics and bioinformatics, she is working with the Cree Nation of Mistissini to monitor fish populations in Quebec’s largest lake: Mistassini. Ella utilizes tissue samples from walleye, northern pike, brook trout, and lake trout to investigate unique questions for each species. Questions range from investigating concerns raised by the community, to determining baseline biodiversity information to lay a foundation for future monitoring, to figuring out if modern genetic techniques can resolve stock structure better than historical, to assessing whether genomics and TEK can be used to arrive at common conclusions regarding the life history of a species.

Born on a mountainside in British Colombia, Ella came to the Fraser Lab from the west after working with stickleback for her PhD in Alaska. In addition to her work as an ecologist, Ella has been a strong advocate for access to education and science for people who are visually impaired. In her spare time Ella enjoys rising to new heights rock climbing and enjoying music and people through swing dancing.

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Meet the lab’s peeps! Elizabeth Lawrence: PhD student, macroecologist, Judoka, fan of the imaginary.

(Every few weeks, we introduce one of our lab’s beloved peeps, so you can learn more about their research and why it matters for our planet)

Species richness is greater in the tropics than at the poles, species richness increases with temperature, and species with high genetic diversity are “healthy” – these are just a few “rules of thumb” often stated in macroecological literature. The question is, are they translatable to a population-level scale. PhD student Elizabeth Lawrence is studying just this using a large-scale meta-analysis. She, together with many research assistants, has assembled a massive database of microsatellite studies of freshwater and anadromous fish, reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals, collating population richness metrics across the Americas, and conducting several different studies using the database. The types of questions she is addressing include: does population richness follow the same patterns as species richness, are population- and species-area relationships the same, and is there a latitudinal gradient in genetic diversity / structures a gradient in genetic diversity if a gradient exists? Availability of the database that Elizabeth has created will be extremely useful for long-term comparative studies and further macro-ecological investigations, and each of the questions that she is addressing with the database will contribute to better conservation prioritization.

Elizabeth came to Dylan’s lab from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she did her BSc in Marine Biology at Dalhousie U. and an honours project with Dr Jeffrey Hutchings. She brought with her a deep fondness for the ocean and a life-long love of fish. Elizabeth takes her extra-curriculars pretty seriously too, as an active Dungeons and Dragons participant, Magic the Gathering player, and painter. A black belt in Judo, Elizabeth also enjoys throwing her labmates around in the field, all for fun of course, and safely!

Read more about Elizabeth’s work, and view some of her artwork here: https://erlawrence.weebly.com/about.html

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Meet our lab’s peeps: causes and consequences of density-dependence in animals

(Every few weeks, we introduce one of our lab’s beloved peeps, so you can learn more about their research and why it matters for our planet)

Little is known about mechanisms driving density-dependence in the wild and how it regulates animal populations. Our very own PhD candidate Jean-Michel Matte’s (co-supervised by Dr. James Grant at Concordia U.) work addresses questions about density dependence through an in-stream experiment with brook trout in Cape Race Newfoundland and large-scale meta-analysis across taxa. Specifically, his work aims to understand if growth and survival of different populations of brook trout are regulated by density. For the meta-analysis, he is interested in understanding and comparing trends in density dependent mechanisms across taxa.  His field-based, multi-population experiment and multi-taxa meta-analysis are the first to address these issues and can have applications for salmonid recovery programs as well as management of different taxa.

Jean-Michel, started his graduate studies as a MSc candidate and shortly thereafter fast -tracked to the PhD program.  He is known as our resident “superhuman” as he has extensive field and statistical experience and is always willing to lend a hand on various graduate projects. Apart from academia, Jean-Michel has expressed that he would like to visit to Australia and New Zealand and enjoys the outdoors, fishing, playing magic the gathering and dungeons and dragons with friends and colleagues.

Part of Jean-Michel’s field experiment on Cape Race, Newfoundland, brook trout.

Jean-Michel in his element

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Meet the lab’s peeps: when invasive species are being removed from ecosystems, how do species communities and the ecosystem change?

(Every few weeks, we introduce one of our lab’s beloved peeps, so you can learn more about their research and why it matters for our planet)

The presence of high trophic level predators can drastically alter community and ecosystem function. Based out of Dr. Alison Derry’s lab in UQAM (and co-supervised by Dr. Fraser at Concordia), PhD student Mélia Lagacé is a member of a team of researchers aiming to study how the removal of fish from an ecosystem affects community-level ecological processes. Her work, which is part of a NSERC Strategic Project Grant and conducted in partnership with Parks Canada, focuses on a series of lakes in the Rocky Mountains in which invasive brook trout are being subjected to simulated size-selective harvesting regimes. Mélia’s research focuses on understanding how lake metabolism and nutrient cycling in alpine and sub-alpine lakes change as a result of the removal of invasive predatory fish in these ecosystems. She is also interested in what factors influence invertebrate community structure as the fish are being removed from the lakes. Her research will provide invaluable knowledge on how both invasive species and human harvesting activities affect community and ecosystem function.

Mélia is a vegan (meat production contributes substantially to global warming!) who is also an avid diver; she taught in Vietnam as a dive master, and has also dove in many locations across the world (Thailand, Honduras, Costa Rica, Australia, Mexico, British-columbia and more…). She also has a background in film as a camera assistant; hopefully she will also be able to capture the scenic beauty of her alpine research sites in the Rocky Mountains!”

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Meet our lab’s peeps: how far do juvenile salmonids disperse?

(Every few weeks, we introduce one of our lab’s beloved peeps, so you can learn more about their research and why it matters for our planet)

Salmonid fish movement is thought to be restricted during earlier life stages and non-migratory periods; however, recent works have challenged this theory. MSc student Zach Eisenhauer’s meta-analysis aims to resolve this paradigm by analysing published literature data on salmonid juvenile movement. A long-time biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Zach has tremendous knowledge of salmonids from his work on restoring Atlantic salmon populations to Lake Champlain in the northeastern U.S. Zach’s work is part of collaboration partnership between Concordia U. and USFWS which aims to understand limiting factors affecting reintroduction success of salmon to Lake Champlain.

Zach’s research will not only aid fisheries managers in assessing recolonization potential of native salmonids, but also shed light on the extent to which juvenile salmonids can disperse.

Zach is an avid fisher in his spare time. As a Yank new to Canada, he wishes he had discovered the great Canadian wilderness earlier in life; the fish there wish he never found them. To read more about Zach and Atlantic salmon introduction:

http://www.adirondacklifemag.com/blogs/2018/08/29/return-of-the-natives/

Zach Eisenhauer in his element: measuring and tagging an Atlantic salmon on the Boquet River, New York.

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