Iqaluk: Tracking abundance of a cultural keystone species using adaptive resolution imaging sonar (ARIS) and historical catch data
Image by Alex Sawatzky
Need | We are seeking a highly qualified and ambitious candidate interested in pursuing a PhD in Biology. The successful candidate will contribute to work of the Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI, https://oceanfrontierinstitute.com/), and be housed within the Sustainable Nunatsiavut Futures Program. This is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of combining different information sources towards sustainable fisheries and Inuit food security. Based at Dalhousie University, in Halifax Canada, the successful candidate will be co-supervised by Drs. Megan Bailey and Aaron MacNeil, with supervisory support from the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat and the Torngat Fish Producers Co-operative.
Rationale | Arctic char (Iqaluk, Salvelinus alpinus) supports commercial and domestic fisheries that connect people through harvesting, processing and sharing. Char significantly impacts food security and family economies across the region. Concerns raised about the health of Arctic char in Nunatsiavut, particularly the Nain stock complex has driven the need for research focused on abundance. DFO ran counting fences in the region in the 1980s, and although samples from the commercial fishery continued until 2014, the catch information collected does not provide enough data for substantial resource assessment. The current commercial Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the Voisey’s, Nain and Okak stock complexes was derived from data collected in the 1990s and has been maintained at a combined TAC of 77t. Since 2005, only about 30% of the Nain TAC (42 t) is taken every year; in-part due to stock uncertainties and a precautionary approach to the commercial fishery. Voisey’s and Okak stocks have been less economically viable to harvest and are therefore underutilized. There are currently no Limit Reference Point or Conservation Requirements for any of the three stock complexes.
Project | Through July and August 2021, the TJFB, with support from Nunatsiavut Government and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) established and managed an Arctic Char research facility on the Fraser River, 45 km west-northwest of Nain. ARIS sonar imaging technology “proof of concept” and data collection occurred from August 4-22, 2021. Data collection was successful again in 2022 and analysis will be ongoing soon. In addition to the collection of contemporary data to better understand char abundance, we intend to compile and analyze archival data from the commercial fishery in pursuit of reconstructing likely char population biomass through time over the past four decades. Together, the combination of historical data and ongoing sonar data provide a timely opportunity to estimate abundance trends of the Nain stock complex in support of healthy fisheries for Northern Labrador Inuit. This project will involve field work at the Torngat Secretariat research station northwest of Nain, data analysis, as well as archiving and analysis of historical data throughout Nunatsiavut.
Qualifications | The ideal candidate will have a Masters degree in biology, fisheries management, marine management, fisheries science, environmental science, or a related discipline. Experience in, and knowledge of, quantitative and qualitative research methods is preferred. Candidates should also have (i) the ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment, (ii) strong written and oral communication skills and (iii) experience conducting fieldwork. They will also have a demonstrated ability to work as a constructive and positive member of a team. We are particularly interested in recruitment of Inuit candidates, and will work with candidates to ensure their program of study and supervisory committee is supportive of their personal and professional backgrounds and current needs.
Compensation | Student tuition support and stipend will be provided. Funding is through the Ocean Frontier Institute, with partnership and support from the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat.
To apply | Interested applicants should send a CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Closing date for applications will be November 1. The selected candidate will most likely apply through the Biology department at Dalhousie (https://www.dal.ca/faculty/gradstudies/idphd/details.html), with an expected start date of January 1, 2023.