By Elizabeth Howell
Jason Thiem’s experience with fish migration literally spans both sides of the globe. He spent years following cod and freshwater perch in Australia, and now works at Carleton tracking sturgeon migrations through dams.
“It’s quite an honour to come here,” says Thiem, who earned a $60,000 President’s Doctoral Fellowship from Carleton.
His journey north began with a conference in New Zealand at which Carleton biology professor Steven Cooke was presenting. Thiem’s enthusiasm in fish research hooked Cooke’s attention.
“A number of things came together, and that just served as the ‘first date’, if you will,” Cooke said. “I’m always looking for keen, talented people.”
Adds biology biomechanics professor and co-supervisor Jeff Dawson, “He is an exceptional student and I just jumped at the chance to work with him.”
Thiem’s research demonstrates laboratory and field work working as one.
“Thiem’s enthusiasm in fish research hooked Cooke’s attention”
In partnership with the University of Alberta and the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, among others, Thiem is looking at more efficient “fishways” in dams for sturgeon to go through the structure and spawn.
Thiem and Cooke, who is Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology, visited the St. Lawrence River to plant electronic “tags” on the sturgeon and track how far they got after reaching a dam.
In the lab, Thiem’s next project is to collaborate with Dawson on how efficiently fish move through different barriers.
They will do 3-D modelling to picture water flow around the fish, and look for ways to improve.
The project is all part of NSERC’s HydroNet, a collaboration between academics, industry and government.
“Sturgeon live for quite a long time – up to 150 years – and don’t spawn very often,” Thiem adds. “This is why it’s so important for us to improve their numbers now, while we still have time.”
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