Now, more than ever, conservation practitioners and environmental managers need credible evidence and practical solutions to identify and mitigate threats, reverse population decline, restore degraded ecosystems and manage natural resources sustainability. A Carleton University researcher is meeting this need using ground-breaking technologies that are profoundly changing the way we understand marine and freshwater species.
Dr. Steven Cooke is one of the key thinkers in fish conservation and one of the most prolific and creative conservation scientists of his generation. When faced with the challenge of studying the mechanisms underlying conservation problems, he created a new scientific discipline and a new scientific journal. ‘Conservation physiology’ is an emerging field that relies on several disciplines—including behaviour, physiology and even social science—to understand how natural and human activity stressors (e.g. fishing, pollution, climate change) affect the fitness and survival of various fish species.
Dr. Cooke’s focus on practical solutions is having an impact worldwide. For example, his team identified optimal flows for hydropower operations and developed tools for ensuring that non-target animals (especially fish and turtles) captured and released by fishers survive. The Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology is also renowned for his work on catch-and-release angling science. He co-authored the code of practice for responsible recreational fisheries for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and is leading the development of guiding principles for sustainable recreational fisheries for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Dr. Cooke is funded by Environment Canada to develop an online portal for disseminating science-based information on best practices for catch-and-release. As a Steacie fellow, he will also study the consequences of multiple stressors on the migration of Pacific salmon—a $750 million annual industry with a strong social and cultural connection to Canada’s Pacific coast and First Nations communities.
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