HydroNet scholarship funds trip to Dalhousie University

Lee Gutowsky: March 3-9, 2014 - HydroNet recently awarded me with a Canadian Graduate Student Scholarship. This scholarship gave me the opportunity to visit Dalhousie University and deliver a guest lecture and lab demonstration for a course on biotelemetry and biologging.

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  1. I was recently fortunate enough to receive a Canadian Graduate Student Scholarship through HydroNet. Broadly speaking, the scholarship is a professional development fund to support student travel to a Canadian institution. With this scholarship, I flew to Halifax where I primarily worked out of Marty Leonard's lab at Dalhousie University. Due to scheduling conflicts I was unable to meet many of Dal's eminent fisheries scientists, however I did speak with Dr. Aaron MacNeil after he gave an excellent departmental seminar on Contemporary Fisheries Solutions for the Coral Reef. In it he discussed the plights of global coral reefs and presented a method to predict the recovery rate of coral reefs given their current state. For example, with a marine protected area in place, it will take 50+ years to recover Fiji and Guam reefs to 90% harvestable biomass. He also had some interesting anecdotes that illustrated how local customs can be a form of fisheries management (see the third twitter post, below).

    Dr. MacNeil's research is high impact and I encourage anyone interested in the dynamic interplay among coral reef ecology, comanagement of fisheries, and climate change to look into his research. Here's one of his papers on transitional states in marine fisheries.
  2. The other part of my trip to Nova Scotia was to give an invited talk and lab demonstration for the new Biologging in Ecology course at Dal (course code: biol/mari 4323). This course may not have existed if not for my sister, Sarah, who both developed the curriculum and invited all of the guest speakers including Ron O'Dor, Glen Crossin, Ian Jonsen, Sarah Iverson, and reps from Lotek and Vemco. I was invited to speak to the application of acoustic telemetry, which is the technology that I use for my research. If you're interested, my presentation (along with all participating guest speakers) is available on YouTube.

    As part of their preparation for all guest lectures, students in this course are asked to read one of the presenter's papers. Students are also asked to write down a well thought out question which they hand in after the talk. I think this is an excellent exercise for students and a great way for a speaker to receive new perspectives on their research, published or not. Overall, I was very impressed to see how attentive and genuinely interested these students were to learn about acoustic telemetry, the research done in the HydroNet Network, and the work we are doing on Kinbasket Reservoir.
  3. During their lab, students learned the procedure for implanting a telemetry device into the abdominal cavity of a fish. Rather than demonstrating on an actual fish, we used a banana as our subject. After the lesson, students worked in groups and practiced on their own "fish". Students learned the value of maintaining, as-much-as-possible, a "sterile" environment, the necessity of protecting the viscera from needle pokes, and that tying a good suture takes practice. Rather than training the next generation of fish surgeons, I think this exercise was more designed to show students an important but perhaps under appreciated element of many telemetry studies. We also emphasized to students the importance of the minimizing stress to the animals under our supervision during surgery. The lab went without incident and students were evidently very happy to learn the procedure.
  4. Finally, I spent time learning about state-space-models (from Sarah who also works with Ian Jonsen), watching student presentations on biotelemetry studies, and exploring Halifax and beautiful Nova Scotia. I'll finish by saying this trip was an enriching experience and I'm appreciative to HydroNet for giving me this opportunity. 

    -Lee Gutowsky
    PhD Student, Carleton University
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