Larkin Award

The Peter A. Larkin Award for Excellence in Fisheries at a Canadian Institution is given yearly to two deserving graduate students (one PhD student and one MSc student). The award recognizes one of Canada’s great fisheries scientists who was passionate about students. The Peter A. Larkin Memorial Fund was established in memory of Peter Anthony Larkin, C.M., O.B.C., F.R.S.C.; M.A. (Sask.), D.Phil. (Oxon), D.Sc. (UBC), University Professor Emeritus, world-renowned leader in fisheries science, and an active and honoured member of the American Fisheries Society (more about Dr. Larkin can be found here). Successful applicants will be chosen by CARS based on academic qualifications, a proposal of their research, and their AFS involvement.

Applications are CLOSED for the Larkin Award. The purpose of the award is to identify the top current Masters and PhD level students that are conducting fisheries research at a Canadian institution. The award is not restricted to students with Canadian citizenship. For specific details and to download the application instructions, click here.
Deadline: TBD

The award is administered and supported by the Canadian Aquatic Resources Section (CARS) of the American Fisheries Society (AFS). To be eligible for the award, you must be a current member of AFS (go to fisheries.org). You can join at the time of applying to this award. We also encourage you to check the box to be a CARS member in the AFS application form, which comes as no additional cost for students. Note if you are already an AFS member but didn’t know about CARS, you should be able to make changes to your membership by logging into the AFS membership page.

2022 Larkin Award Results

In 2022, we received 16 applications for the Larkin Award (13 PhD and 3 MSc). The Larkin Award program is run by Dr. Sarah Lehnert (DFO). Thanks to our judges for the award, who in 2022 were Kyle Wellband (DFO), Graham Raby (Trent University), Clare Venney (Universite Laval), Paul Bzonek (DFO), and Liz Mandeville (University of Guelph).

Winner (PhD level): Morgan Piczak

Hey there! My name is Morgan Piczak and I am a PhD Candidate co-supervised by Dr. Steven Cooke (Carleton University) and Dr. Jon Midwood (Fisheries and Oceans Canada). My doctoral research focuses on the restoration ecology of freshwater fish habitat within the Laurentian Great Lakes! More broadly, I am interested in evidence-based conservation, spatial ecology, policy and decision-making, conservation social science, and environmental management.

There has been widespread habitat loss throughout the Great Lakes, with many of the remaining wetlands suffering from degraded water quality. Despite the presence of anthropogenic stressors, wetlands provide important habitat to native fishes, as well as invasive species such as common carp. Common carp impart negative ecological impacts on aquatic vegetation and water quality, often further compromising wetland habitats. In response to adverse impacts associated with anthropogenic activities including habitat destruction or introduction of invasive species, practitioners and land managers often turn to tools such as ecological restoration. The goal of ecological restoration is to assist the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed. Generally, financial resources are limited within conservation, so it is important to ensure that restoration efforts are effective, however, efficacy is rarely examined.

My work takes place in Toronto Harbour, where I am using acoustic telemetry to examine movements of both native and invasive freshwater fishes and how these movements pertain to the restoration ecology. I plan to evaluate the efficacy of restoration within Tommy Thompson Park in Toronto Harbour by examining changes in fish residency before, during and after restoration efforts. I have also researched the social dimensions of restoration ecology within Toronto Harbour in efforts to mitigate the knowledge-action-gap. Working with Aquatic Habitat Toronto, a consensus-based partnership that engages in restoration ecology and practice, we found that this partnership effectively brings knowledge generators and practitioners together to collaboratively produce actionable science.

My research is also intended to aid in the management of invasive common carp within the Great Lakes as apart of restoration efforts. Using acoustic telemetry, I found that common carp are very mobile within Lake Ontario as they move to potentially access spawning sites, with some individuals travelling along the nearshore over 300 km. I also conducted a literature review examining ways to implement selective fragmentation using barriers to decrease common carp access to spawning sites, while permitting passage to native species. Broadly, selective fragmentation with barriers can be achieved by exploiting various biological traits of common carp versus native species: phenology (e.g., timing in spawning movements), behaviour (e.g., common carp jumping behaviours), sensory capability (e.g., acoustic or electric barriers), and morphology (e.g., body width). I have also produced predictive models based on environmental drivers (photoperiod and temperature) aimed to guide the seasonal operation of physical barriers based on spawning migrations (phenology) to control common carp, while minimizing impacts on native species. Keep an eye out for some publications coming out very soon! @morganpiczak

Runner-up (PhD level): Jennifer Herbig

I am a PhD candidate in the Fisheries Science program at the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland in the Center for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) under the supervision of Dr. Maxime Geoffroy and Dr. Jonathan Fisher. My research focuses on the effects of environmental variation and bottom-up processes on the abundance, distribution, and movement of Arctic Cod (Boreogadus saida) in the Canadian Arctic.

Arctic cod is the most abundant forage fish species in the Canadian Arctic and as the main prey for groundfish, seabirds, and marine mammals is responsible for most of the energy transferred between trophic levels. Research has shown that environmental changes have cascading effects leading to an increase in juvenile Arctic cod recruitment in the Canadian Arctic, but a decline in other Arctic regions. In the long term, evidence suggests an eventual similar decline in the Canadian Arctic most likely due to a decrease in habitat. In addition, warming temperatures have resulted in a northward expansion and increased abundance of non-native boreal species, which could shift energetic pathways as competitive and predatory pressures increase. Variations in the population dynamics of Arctic cod could drive changes in the rest of the Arctic ecosystem, resulting in substantial shifts in the marine food web and ecosystem functioning. Greenland halibut and Arctic char, the main fish species harvested in the Canadian Arctic, directly prey on Arctic cod and such shifts could greatly impact subsistence and commercial fisheries.

My research uses multiple methods to better understand the impacts of environmental variation and bottom-up processes on Arctic cod. I use hydroacoustic-trawl survey data to characterize the abundance and distribution of Arctic cod and their zooplankton prey in relation to environmental and climatic variables. In addition, I use a continuous plankton recorder to assess the spatial variation in plankton communities and how this influences Arctic cod distribution. To better understand movement between Arctic cod sub-populations, I am analyzing trace elements and stable isotopes in Arctic cod otoliths (ear bones) which incorporate chemical elements in proportion to their concentration in a fish’s environment and allow me to infer movement patterns between sub-populations. It is my hope that by combining multiple technologies, I will be able to provide a better understanding of Arctic cod ecology to help predict the effects of climate change on the region and inform management of the Canadian Arctic.

Winner (MSc level): Bradley Howell 

Hi everyone, my name is Bradley Howell and I am a M.Sc. student at the University of Winnipeg who is co-supervised by Dr. Caleb Hasler and Dr. Steven Cooke. My research focuses on catch-and-release (C&R) angling and the behavioural and physiological responses of Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush). My aim is to quantify, across seasons, the recovery of large- and small-bodied individuals by using techniques such as phlebotomy, behavioural assessment, and tri-axial accelerometry. Fish size is an important part of my study since trophy fish are continuously promoted and catalogued by the provincial Master Angler program.

C&R angling is a common process used to promote survival of fish caught using rod and reels. While this method is considered an effective way to preserve wild stocks of fish, the assumed high survival of released fish is fundamental to maintain its nonexploitive impact. Salmonids are susceptible to negative impacts associated with C&R angling processes (e.g., air exposure, exhaustive exercise, and hook removal), and a suite of sub-lethal physiological changes that depend on varying factors (e.g., temperature, hooking location) which have the potential to lead to delayed mortality. Despite a lot of recreational angling promotion, lake trout are an under-studied species in the context of C&R angling. Fish of “trophy” size (i.e., fish > 89 cm) are frequently encountered in Canadian lakes and are likely to be caught multiple times in their lifetime. Knowing how fish of varying size differ with respect to handing, fight time, sublethal physiological and behavioural responses, and mortality is needed to quantify the risk C&R angling poses to lake trout populations.

For my project, Lake Trout were angled from Clearwater Lake Provincial Park, one of Manitoba’s most popular trophy Lake Trout fishing locations above the 54th parallel north. Sampling was conducted during multiple seasons, thus both open water and ice fishing angling methods were used. Reflex action mortality predictor (RAMP) and barotrauma assessments allowed me to assess behavioural impairment. Following this, fish underwent phlebotomy at pre-determined recovery periods to quantify stress physiology characteristics (e.g., plasma cortisol, lactate, glucose, and pH). A subset of trout were externally fitted with tri-axial accelerometer tags which allowed me to examine post-release recovery profiles via depth preference and overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA).

The results of my study will provide information on C&R angling of a highly valued freshwater fish that has important economic benefits for northern communities. It may be used to assist fisheries managers in selecting appropriate management legislation to protect and enhance lake trout C&R fisheries for continued use. Effective legislation that incorporates fishery-specific management strategies relating to C&R and trophy fisheries can result in less destructive harvestable numbers and improved catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) in individual lakes. Many lake trout populations are at risk of declining in Canada and thus, ensuring the promotion of recreational angling opportunities does not negatively impact stock populations is vital. I hope to advance local, regional, and provincial understandings of these fisheries, and aid recreational anglers in becoming more effective in reducing post-release mortality.

Runner-up (MSc level): Veronica Groves

I recently completed my MSc (Summer 2022) under the supervision of Dr. Grant E. Brown at Concordia University in Montreal. My thesis experimentally explored the effects of abiotic and biotic stressors on the cognitive ecology of Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata).

Predation risk can result in lethal impacts on prey species, however, the non-lethal impacts on prey can be less apparent. For instance, an increase in antipredator behaviours such as shoaling or shelter use, comes at the cost of missed foraging or mating opportunities. As such, prey should only respond to relevant predation threats. However, anthropogenic disturbances can compromise the quality or quantity of information available to prey in their microhabitat, in addition to behavioural, physiological, and cognitive impacts. In such cases, the ability for prey to perceive risk may be compromised, resulting in important fitness consequences such as death, decreased reproduction, or altered community dynamics. However, it has yet to be explored how these abiotic stressors interact with pre-existing biotic stressors, such as predation risk. The use of multiple stressors in evaluating the impacts of disturbances on fishes is of growing importance due to the potential for stressors to interact.
With this framework in mind, I conducted laboratory experiments exposing shoals of guppies, over the course of one week, to combinations of temperatures (high vs low) and increased predation risk (high vs low) (experiment 1), or combinations of turbidity (high vs low) and predation risk (high vs low) (experiment 2). I then tested individuals for the impacts of these stressors on neophobia (the fear of novelty) and ability to learn novel predator cues.

We found that guppies simultaneously exposed to increased temperature and increased predation risk (experiment 1) displayed an increase in antipredator behaviours to a novel stimulus in comparison to a known risky stimulus. In contrast, guppies exposed to increased turbidity and increased predation risk (experiment 2), both individually and in combination, displayed increased antipredator behaviours to a known risky stimulus in comparison to a novel stimulus. Surprisingly, individuals exposed to both increased temperatures and increased predation risk exhibited learning of novel predator cues suggesting a selective advantage under highly disturbed conditions. In contrast, guppies exposed to increased turbidity and/or increased predation risk in experiment 2 did not exhibit learning, with perhaps turbidity lowering the perception of predation risk. Taken together, our findings suggest that interactions between abiotic stressors, namely temperature or turbidity, and biotic stressors such as predation risk can impact learning of novel predator cues, and to a lesser extent neophobia.