Ken Shortreed

Dear colleagues,

It is with profound sadness that I write to inform you that Ken Shortreed, a greatly-respected and long-serving researcher with Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Pacific Region Science Branch passed away suddenly at his home in Chilliwack on January 25, 2016.

Ken was a key part of freshwater (and marine) research with the department from 1973 until his retirement in 2009.  He was based at the West Vancouver Laboratory until 1998 when he relocated to the Cultus Lake Laboratory near Chilliwack.  In the 1970’s, Ken worked on the well-known Carnation Creek Project studying the effects of logging on lower trophic levels in streams.  Concurrently, he participated in several coastal oceanographic studies of the productivity of Georgia Strait, Howe Sound, and Burrard Inlet.  In 1977, Ken began his limnological research in earnest, developing an ecosystem-based approach to lake assessment that enabled investigation of whole-lake fertilization as a Sockeye Salmon enhancement technique along with Dr. John Stockner and the Lakes Enrichment Program.  This research became his passion, and from the 1980’s his research focussed on understanding the multi-trophic ecological structure and functioning of lakes throughout BC and the Yukon to establish the controls on the productive capacity of these ecosystems to support Sockeye Salmon.  Ken’s efforts, along with those of Jeremy Hume and their team, culminated in comprehensive habitat-based methods of assessing and predicting juvenile Sockeye Salmon rearing capacity and optimal spawner escapements for British Columbia nursery lakes (The Photosynthetic Rate (PR) Model), along with a seminal scientific literature, which to this day continues to be broadly cited by researchers and graduate students working on limnology and freshwater fisheries around the world.

Ken’s work was consistently highly-relevant to the Department, contributing significantly to understanding the production dynamics and enhancement strategies for the most valuable commercial salmon species on Canada’s West Coast.  The “recipe” of integrated limnological surveys and hydroacoustic/trawl surveys executed by the Lakes Research Program provided one of the first, and enduring applied tools partitioning habitat-linked life cycle production variation for a wide range of sockeye stocks and lake types, allowing fisheries predictions without the requirement of multi-decadal series. This gave fisheries managers a tool, based upon the characteristics of specific nursery lakes, to evaluate alternate adult salmon escapement strategies in terms of optimal salmon production.

Ken’s passion for the science he championed was rivaled only by his love of being out-of-doors.  An avid hiker, hunter, and fisherman over his life, his passion was being on the water in British Columbia.  Be it raft-based assessments of tiny coastal potholes, float plane access sites across southern Vancouver Island or the Central and North coasts, or the interior Fraser or Skeena nursery lakes, Ken was most at home pulling up a Van Dorn bottle, a CTD cast, or a plankton tow. The work itself was an adventure few get to experience, and Ken thrived on being out on the lakes that he so loved. He passed this passion on to a great number he worked with and mentored over the years.

Ken Shortreed leaves a rich legacy for current and future researchers, and an invaluable reference from which to build upon, particularly as large-scale forcings such as climate change exert new pressures on biological systems and the species which depend upon them. Like a fine vintage, the value of Ken’s detailed work only increases through time.

Ken is survived by his wife Edith, his daughter Kelly Knill (Patrick), his son, Bill Shortreed, his grandchildren, Jaxson and Madison Knill and Kaya Shortreed, his mother, Jean Shortreed, his sister, Susan Evans, his nieces and nephews, Sarah, David Christopher and Katherine Evans, and his dog, Sadie.

A memorial service will be held at the Cultus Lake Golf Course (4000 Columbia Valley Rd., Cultus Lake, BC) on Saturday, February 27th from 12:00-3:00 pm.  All are welcome to attend.


Daniel Selbie

Head, Lakes Research Program
Science Branch, Salmon & Freshwater Ecosystems
Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Pacific Region
Cultus Lake Salmon Research Laboratory