Science & Research

Knowledge is Power

Rigorous and applied scientific research on salmon ecosystems

SkeenaWild engages in rigorous and applied scientific research on salmon ecosystems. In addition to ongoing fisheries and Wild Salmon Policy related projects, we have five core science programs underway:

Rebuilding Plans

SkeenaWild provides science support to several First Nations and their respective fisheries programs – including Wet’suwet’en, Gitksan, and Ned’u’ten – towards the development of recovery plans for diminished sockeye salmon populations. Our work with Wet’suwet’en Fisheries Program has culminated in the implementation of priority research programs outlined in their Morice Sockeye Recovery Plan, which is composed of three major projects:

  1. Juvenile health monitoring. A study that live captures juvenile sockeye emigrating from Morice Lake, with the aim to determine age at emigration, size at age, and ultimately to explore whether mortality during this life stage is impeding the population’s recovery.
  2. Spawning distribution. A study that tracks adult sockeye back to spawning grounds. Fish are inserted with tags at Witset Canyon that transmit a signal, which we track via helicopter and fixed stations located throughout Wet’suwet’en territory. We also use environmental DNA technology (water samples filtered for DNA shed by salmon) to monitor unique populations.
  3. Habitat assessment. A study to assess the change in riparian habitat of the Nanika River due to logging and associated road building. The Nanika River hosts the primary spawning grounds for sockeye in Wet’suwet’en territory, yet this sub-basin remains largely unprotected.

Morice Sockeye Recovery Plan

The Future of Salmon

SkeenaWild is partnered with Simon Fraser University (Dr. Jonathan Moore’s Salmon Watersheds Lab) and Gitanyow Nation to undertake research that explores the evolution of salmon habitat following glacier retreat and land-use activity. The goal is to identify and proactively protect future climate refuge habitat for salmon by understanding how salmon populations have responded to past climate and land-use change.

Skeena Sockeye Century Project

Our Science Director, Dr. Michael Price, successfully defended his PhD early in 2022. His research investigates changes in the abundance and diversity of wild salmon populations in the Skeena over the last century, which not only has revealed the extent of loss, but also the potential for the future recovery of diminished populations. Learn more about Dr. Price’s research.

Genetics of century-old fish scales reveal population patterns of decline

Michael H.H. Price, Brendan M. Connors, John R. Candy, Brenda McIntosh, Terry D. Beacham, Jonathan W. Moore, John D. Reynolds

Portfolio simplification arising from a century of change in salmon population diversity and artificial production

Michael H. H. Price, Jonathan W. Moore, Brendan M. Connors, Kyle L. Wilson, John D. Reynolds

Habitat modulates population-level responses of freshwater salmon growth to a century of change in climate and competition

Michael H. H. Price, Jonathan W. Moore, Skip McKinnell, Brendan M. Connors, John D. Reynolds

Journal: Global Change Biology

First published 21 December 2023
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Millennial-Scale Changes in Salmon Populations

This is an exciting fledgling program in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia and Simon Fraser University that is examining salmon bones unearthed at First Nation traditional fishing sites – some dating more than 1,000 years – to answer important conservation questions.

Understanding Project Impacts

SkeenaWild participates in Environmental Assessments on a range of proposed projects within the Skeena Watershed. We advocate for transparency, better public participation, and independent science in conducting assessment work.