Neufeld, K.*, Watkinson, D., and Poesch, M.S. (2016) The effect of hydrologic alteration on capture efficiency of freshwater fishes in a highly modified Prairie stream: Implications for bio-monitoring programs. River Research and Applications 32: 975-983.

Citation: Neufeld, K.*, Watkinson, D., and Poesch, M.S. (2016) The effect of hydrologic alteration on capture efficiency of freshwater fishes in a highly modified Prairie stream: Implications for bio-monitoring programs. River Research and Applications 32: 975-983.

Abstract

Hydrology is a defining feature of aquatic ecosystems. Changes in stream hydrology, due to climate change, water use and impoundment, have been shown to negatively affect fish populations. Assessing changes in hydrology and its effect on fish populations and communities remains an important consideration for aquatic monitoring programmes across the globe. In this study, we used the Milk River in southern Alberta as a model system to understand how hydrologic alteration may also affect capture probabilities of fishes and impact instream monitoring programmes. The Milk River receives the majority of its April to October flow via an inter-basin transfer from the St. Mary River, drastically altering the hydrologic regime and instream habitats for fishes during this augmentation period. We estimated species-specific seine net capture probabilities of fishes in the Milk River during augmentation and natural flow periods using depletion surveys in both open and enclosed sites. Using habitat data collected during the seine surveys, linear mixed-effects models were created with capture efficiency as the dependent variable. Models were compared using corrected Akaike’s information criterion, and the relative contributions of the different variables to the top models were examined. We found that species and flow characteristics, such as water velocity and the state of augmentation, played a prominent role in many of the top models explaining variation in capture efficiency. These results demonstrate that changes to stream hydrology clearly have the potential to impact gear efficiency and individual species assessments. Stream monitoring programmes, which aim to determine long-term trends in aquatic ecosystem health, need to be mindful that any change to stream hydrology—from climate change, fragmentation or stream alteration—can alter capture efficiency of the sampling gear and inadvertently alter species-specific trends.

*Lab members: Kenton NeufeldMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Seine net capture probability for Flathead Chub, Longnose Dace, Sucker species, and Western Silvery Minnow in the Milk River in southern Alberta during augmented and natural flow conditions, and from open and closed surveys. 

 

Neufeld, K.*, Blair, S., and Poesch, M.S. (2015) Retention and stress effects of visible implant tags when marking Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis and its application to other cyprinids (family Cyprinidae). North American Journal of Fisheries Management 35: 1070-1076.

Citation: Neufeld, K.*, Blair, S., and Poesch, M.S. 2015. Retention and stress effects of visible implant tags when marking Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis and its application to other cyprinids (family Cyprinidae). North American Journal of Fisheries Management 35: 1070-1076.

Abstract

Visible implant tags are commonly used in fisheries research to mark individuals or batches of fish as part of movement and mark–recapture studies. To be effective, these tags generally need to have high retention rates and little impact on the behavior or physiology of the marked individuals. We tested the retention rates of both visible implant elastomer (VIE) and visible implant alphanumeric (VIA) tags in 80–139-mm Western Silvery Minnow Hybognathus argyritis over a 104-d period. We also measured plasma cortisol and lactate to determine the impact of tagging on stress levels. We found that VIE tags had 100% retention and did not cause a significant increase in plasma cortisol levels, though plasma lactate levels were elevated in VIE treatment groups. Overall, VIE tags were found to be suitable for marking Western Silvery Minnow and similar species. Visible implant alphanumeric tags had 36% retention over 104 d and did not cause significant increases in plasma cortisol, though plasma lactate was elevated in the treatment group with both VIE and VIA tags. Given the high retention rates and low stress effects, VIE tags appear to be more beneficial for use with Western Silvery Minnow and similar-sized cyprinids.

*Lab members: Kenton NeufeldMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Average Western Silvery Minnow (a) plasma cortisol and (b) plasma lactate concentrations for the various tagging treatments (VIE – Visual Implant Elastomer, VIA – Visual Implant Alpha, VIE+VIE – both) for days 1, 54 and 103/104. Error bars represent SD.

Maitland, B.*, Cooke, S. and M.S. Poesch. (2015) Finding the path to a successful graduate and research career: Advice for early career researchers. Fisheries 40: 399-403.

Citation: Maitland, B.*, Cooke, S. and M.S. Poesch. 2015. Finding the path to a successful graduate and research career: Advice for early career researchers. Fisheries 40: 399-403.

Abstract

The path to a successful graduate and research career is a complex and difficult one. Early career researchers (ECRs) have myriad choices and tasks to prioritize and complete as they build their CV but are often confronted with unfamiliar situations in which advice from more senior researchers can be extremely valuable. Here, we summarize a recent workshop held for ECRs by the Canadian Aquatic Resource Section of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) with support from the Education Section. Sessions touched on (1) getting published, (2) science communication and outreach, (3) scoring a job or grad school position, and (4) working within the science–policy interface. The decades of collective experience brought to the table should be shared with the broader readership of AFS because it may prove useful to ECRs as well as stimulate meaningful conversations on these important and timely issues.

*Lab members: Bryan MaitlandMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Poesch, M.S. (2015) To dendrogram or not? Consensus methods show that the question needed to move functional diversity metrics forward. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution. 8: 70-74.

Citation: Poesch, M.S. 2015. To dendrogram or not? Consensus methods show that the question needed to move functional diversity metrics forward. Ideas in Ecology and Evolution. 8: 70-74.

Abstract

Functional diversity indices have become important tools for measuring variation in species characteristics that are relevant for ecosystem services. A frequently used dendrogram-based method for measuring functional diversity, ‘FD’, was shown to be sensitive to methodological choices in its calculation, and consensus methods have been suggested as an improvement. The objective of this study was to determine whether consensus methods can be used to reduce sensitivity when measuring FD. To calculate FD, a distance measure and a clustering method must be chosen. Using data from three natural communities, this study demonstrates that consensus methods were unable to resolve even simple choices of distance measure (Euclidean and cosine) and clustering method (UPGMA, complete and single linkage). Overall, there was low consensus, ranging from 41–45%, across choices inherent in functional diversity. Further, regardless of how FD was measured, or how many species were removed from the community, FD closely mirrored species richness. Future research on the impact of methodological choices, including choices inherent in producing a dendrogram and the statistical complications they produce, are needed to move functional diversity metrics forward.

Christensen-Dalsgaard, K., Sinnatamby, R.N.*, and M.S. Poesch. (2014) Metrics for assessing fisheries productivity of oil sands compensation lakes under Canada’s new Fisheries Act. Oil Sands Research and Information Network, University of Alberta, School of Energy and the Environment, Edmonton, Alberta. OSRIN Report No. TR-X. 52 pp

Citation: Christensen-Dalsgaard, K., Sinnatamby, R.N., and M.S. Poesch. (2014) Metrics for assessing fisheries productivity of oil sands compensation lakes under Canada’s new Fisheries Act. Oil Sands Research and Information Network, University of Alberta, School of Energy and the Environment, Edmonton, Alberta. OSRIN Report No. TR-X. 52 pp.

Link to Online Article

Link to Gallery

Summary

The Alberta oil sands region contains one of the world’s largest oil deposits, estimated at 1.7 trillion barrels. Development in this region can have negative effects for aquatic species, governed under Canada’s Fisheries Act. The Fisheries Act allows the possibility for offsetting losses in fisheries productivity, e.g., through the creation of compensation lakes. Offsetting strategies are becoming increasingly important for large-scale developments such as mining operations in the oil sands region; they allow for development while ensuring that the project has ‘no net loss’ in fisheries productivity. In 2012, omnibus Bill C-38 fundamentally changed large sections of the federal Fisheries Act. The focus of fisheries management was shifted from the protection of fish habitat in general to ensuring the ongoing productivity (FP) of fish important to commercial, recreational and aboriginal (CRA) fisheries. Further, the changes formalized the use of offsetting strategies to compensate for damage to fish caused by development. The changes marked the move from the fisheries habitat management program (FHMP) as implemented prior to 2012, to the fisheries protection program (FPP). The goal of the FPP is to “provide for the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and Aboriginal fisheries”. Lack of standardized protocols and procedures following a shift of this magnitude could not only result in considerable additional expenses for industry, but also in less reproducible and so less reliable results. Rapid standardization of best practices and data collection methods would help ensure cost-efficient, meaningful and transferable data. Currently, these best management practices are being determined through an ongoing process involving Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), industrial partners and government officials. The aim is to define a standard set of indicators for use under the FPP framework and assess which models may suitable for forming the link between data sets and long-term projections for whole-population productivity. The interpretation of the changes to the Fisheries Act has been subject to controversy, making concise and publically available information important. Numerous scientific advisory reports have been published by DFO. However, there is currently a shortage of documents that give an overview over the scientific background necessary to understand how the changes may affect management practices, taking into account knowledge gaps and limitations in terms of data collection techniques. In this report, we will review existing monitoring tools as well as how the changes in policies associated with the shift from the FHMP to the FPP may affect management protocols. Under the FHMP, the conceptual endpoint for assessing the impacts of development on fisheries was to achieve no net loss of the productive capacity of fish habitat (PC). Habitat was quantified mainly by area, and the success of an offsetting project was often determined mainly through acceptable installation. Methods in use under the FHMP provided only approximate values for PC. For a meaningful planning, measurement and monitoring protocol that can help ensure fisheries productivity under the FPP, it may be necessary to move away from the previous practice of managing fish habitat in Canada based on the use of FP as a theoretical concept only. As productivity in itself is difficult to measure directly, it is necessary to find appropriate indicators that can link changes in the components of productivity of individual fish or subsections of populations to changes in population-level fisheries productivity. We have compiled a list of indicators that may be used for estimating productivity of fisheries populations. Solid measurements of fisheries productivity require repeated monitoring protocols extended over multiple years as well as a broadening of the definition of habitat affected by development. The financially and ecologically prohibitive nature of obtaining comprehensive, long-term data sets may make models an essential tool for linking limited data on subsets of populations with whole-population productivity and long-term projections. However, the trade-off between strength of model predictions and quality and quantity of data may make it a challenge to strike the balance between data needs for accurate predictions and financial feasibility. In using knowledge-based standards for planning and executing compensation lake development, a key parameter to evaluate would be the carrying capacity of various compensation lake ecosystems. It may be a challenge to ensure an appropriate agreement between offsetting indicators and environmental assessment indicators, as established ecosystems are compared with populations in the process of establishing in a newly expanded habitat. On the other hand, lack of density dependence in the early establishment phase gives good possibilities for providing solid estimates of intrinsic growth rate of the populations within this specific habitat. Future research should be conducted for areas characterized by intensive development to create models that allow for robust estimates of productivity based on limited and specific indicators that are manageable to measure. As factors limiting fisheries productivity vary between species, habitats and regions, it is likely that this would have to occur through the development of models specific for the given habitats and geographical areas. If the drivers of the ecosystem in question are not well studied, the most cost-effective and ecologically sound way of implementing the FPP may be to adopt the management practices of the FHMP largely unaltered, but with the interpretive end goal shifted to FP. This would only require a mandatory inclusion of population level data in the monitoring protocols, and an extended monitoring period of several years. All of this constitutes protocols already in use under the FHMP. Though much work has been done on measuring and modelling the productivity of fish populations, it has proven difficult or impossible to find simple, reproducible techniques that can be applied across habitat types and ecosystems. In our opinion, the best predictors for fisheries productivity remain the quantity and quality of available fish habitat combined with abundance, size structure data and species composition within the given habitats.

*Lab members: Nilo SinnatambyMark Poesch. Check out opportunities in the lab!

Poesch, M.S. (2014) Developing standardized methods for sampling freshwater fishes with multiple gears: Effect of sampling order versus sampling method. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 143: 353-362

Citation: Poesch, M.S. 2014. Developing standardized methods for sampling freshwater fishes with multiple gears: Effect of sampling order versus sampling method. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 143: 353-362.

Abstract

Developing robust methodologies for sampling freshwater fishes is important for the assessment and recovery of aquatic biodiversity. Commonly, sampling protocols recommend the use of both electrofishing and seining to reduce bias when sampling freshwater fishes. The objective of this study was to determine whether sampling method, sampling order, or the combination of these influenced the assessment of diversity and abundance of common or rare freshwater fishes at both the species and assemblage level. Fifty sites were sampled in the Sydenham River, Ontario, Canada, where paired sites were sampled using both electrofishing and seine netting in close proximity but also reversing the initial sampling order. Differences in the abundance and richness of common and rare freshwater fishes were tested with two-way ANOVA and multivariate ANOVA. Multivariate differences in the representation of species assemblages were compared using Procrustes analysis across ordinations built using differences in sampling method and sampling order. Electrofishing outperformed seine netting for maximizing the abundance of both all species caught (P = 0.004) and only those species considered rare (P = 0.049). While capture efficiencies generally decreased with subsequent sampling, the interaction between sampling method and sampling order for maximizing richness estimates of rare species was significant (P = 0.049). There were important species and assemblage differences when sampling order was reversed. The representation of either sunfishes (family Centrarchidae) or catfishes (family Ictaluridae) differed in multivariate space, given different sampling order. In addition, the capture of Blackstripe Topminnow Fundulus notatus was enhanced when seine netting was used after electrofishing. This study highlights the often neglected aspect of choosing an appropriate sampling order when developing protocols for sampling freshwater fishes with multiple methods. Overall, the combination of electrofishing, followed by seine netting, appears to maximize capture efficiencies of both common and rare fishes; however, researchers should be aware that sampling order can alter the representation of species and assemblages in multivariate assessments.

Boyce, M. and Poesch, M.S. 2013. Research needs for fisheries and wildlife in Alberta. 35pp., Alberta Conservation Association, Edmonton, AB.

CitationBoyce, M. and Poesch, M.S. 2013. Research needs for fisheries and wildlife in Alberta. 35pp., Alberta Conservation Association, Edmonton, AB.

Link to report

Summary

Fisheries and wildlife management in North America is based on an extensive background of basic and applied research (Geist and McTaggart-Cowan 1995, Organ et al. 2010). Alberta has some of the finest hunting and fishing opportunities in the world with sustainably harvested populations of a diversity of fishes, birds, and mammals. However, because of aggressive industrial development, especially by the energy sector, future opportunities for hunting and fishing might be jeopardized unless habitats are managed carefully to ensure viable populations of fish and wildlife (Naugle 2011). Our objective is to identify research that is required to ensure that resource managers have the information required to make sound management decisions in the future. To obtain this list of research topics we have surveyed fisheries and wildlife biologists and managers from the Alberta Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), and the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA). We held meetings with ESRD and ACA staff in Sherwood Park, Lethbridge, and Edmonton, Alberta and also received suggestions from others throughout the province by e-mail. Subsequently we conducted literature reviews to provide background information on the published research already conducted on each topic, and we summarize briefly what we believe to be feasible and timely research.

This report is an update of the original research-needs document prepared by Boyce (2000) that was updated for wildlife research in 2005 (Boyce 2005). We have used the Simple Multi-attribute Rating Techniques (SMART) process again to rank research projects according to a process developed by Ralls and Starfield (1995), which is detailed in the Appendix. These ranks identify the most-important research according to criteria identified by ACA and ESRD fish and wildlife biologists and managers. Academic ecologists likely would identify a different list of priorities (Cristescu and Boyce 2013), and input from practicing field biologists and managers will help to ensure that research can influence policy (Neff 2011). Projects in the top third are marked ***, middle third **, and lowest-ranked projects *