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Environmental influences on salmon migrations in a changing world

Migratory salmon, both as juvenile smolts migrating from natal freshwater habitats to marine feeding grounds, and as adults returning to spawning grounds, experience multiple landscapes or seascapes. These landscapes each have unique environmental conditions (e.g., water temperature and salinity, ocean currents, river flows), and even within landscapes these conditions vary with space and time. Climate change has the potential to create new environmental conditions for migratory salmon to experience. We use a variety of techniques and tools to create links between the complex environments an individual fish experiences and its behaviour and survival. We tag salmon with transmitters that track individual fish throughout their migrations and provide detailed information on muscle activity, 3D-acceleration, behavioural thermoregulation, fine-scale movements, and migration speeds. This information allows us to understand how salmon complete their difficult migration in fluctuating environmental conditions. Our approaches include environmental monitoring to characterize migration experience, simulation models to better understand the role of ocean currents in salmon movements and laboratory studies to isolate the influences of water quality on fish behaviour and survival. We couple a fish’s experience and behaviour with physiological traits to also investigate interactions between individual physiology and the environment. Studies have taken place in the Fraser River watershed, as well as in the marine environment in the Strait of Georgia.


Selected Publications

Drenner, S.M., Hinch, S.G., Martins, E.G., Robichaud, D., Thompson, L.A., Patterson, D.A., Cooke, S.J., Thomson, R.E. (2014) Variable thermal experience and diel thermal patterns of homing sockeye salmon in coastal marine waters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 496:109-124.

Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Farrell, A.P., Miller, K.M., Lapointe, M., Patterson, D.A. (2012) Dead fish swimming: a review of research on the early migration and high premature mortality in adult Fraser River sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka. Journal of Fish Biology 81: 576-599.

Martins, E.G., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Patterson, D.A. (2012) Climate effects on growth, phenology, and survival of sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka): a synthesis of the current state of knowledge and future research directions. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 22: 887-914.

Martins, E.G., Hinch, S.G., Patterson, D.A., Hague, M.J., Cooke, S.J., Miller, K.M., Lapointe, M.F., English, K.K., Farrell, A.P. (2011) Effects of river temperature and climate warming on stock-specific survival of adult migrating Fraser River sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). Global Change Biology 17: 99-114.

Crossin, G.T., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Welch, D.W., Lotto, A.G., Patterson, D.A., Jones, S.R.M., Leggatt, R.A., Mathes, M.T., Shrimpton, J.M., Van Der Kraak, G., Farrell, A.P. (2008) Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migrations. Canadian Journal of Zoology 86: 127-140.

For other publications, please see our Publications page.