Emma Atkinson

Honours B.Sc Student, Simon Fraser University

Email: eatkinso@sfu.ca

Why do fish jump? – The relationship between juvenile salmon leaping behaviour and sea louse dislodgement

As an undergraduate Honours student in the Reynolds lab working with Sean Godwin, Marty Krkosek, and Larry Dill, I am tackling this fundamental biology question in the context of juvenile Pacific salmon. During their outmigration through the Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait in British Columbia, these fish jump very frequently, but we do not know why. For that matter, why do any fish jump?  One hypothesis is that they may leap to dislodge ectoparasites like sea lice.

Working in the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis territory in the Broughton Archipelago, I sought to address this question through a field experiment comparing sea lice loads between sockeye salmon smolts prevented from leaping and those leaping at a natural frequency. Along with investigating the underpinnings of this behaviour, my project explores potential indirect effects of sea lice on salmon. I also worked with a fellow undergraduate to collect high-speed video footage documenting the leaping behaviour of sockeye, pink, and chum juvenile salmon with the goal of characterizing the jumps and illuminating potential differences across species.

Alongside my work in the Reynolds lab, I am a co-founder and executive editor of the SFU Science Undergraduate Research Journal, a project that seeks to promote undergraduate research by providing young scientists with exposure and recognition for their work as well as the opportunity to go through a peer review process.