Noel Swain

MSc student – graduated 2013.

Now Natural Resource Biologist, Ecoscape.  New website.

Degrees: BSc Biology Univ. New Brunswick


In the North Pacific marine and aquatic ecosystems are linked through nutrient subsidies of freshwaters by annual spawning runs of Pacific salmon. Despite increasing use of stable isotope analysis in understanding the transfer of energy across such boundaries and the trophic structure of recipient systems, a shift towards community level research over greater spatial scales is necessary to fill large knowledge gaps.

My MSc examined how spawning Pink and Chum salmon affect resident prickly and coast range sculpin (Cottus asper and C. aleuticus) across a wide range of watersheds on the central coast of British Columbia by providing marine-derived nutrient subsidies.  I compared trophic ecology and relative dependence on salmon-derived nutrients by sculpins through 15N and 13C stable isotope analysis, and use trapping and electrofishing to determine their relative distributions and densities.  I conducted this research in watersheds across three environmental gradients: salmon spawning density (marine biomass subsidy), productivity (water chemistry), and watershed size (ecosystem size).

Studying how annual pacific salmon spawning runs affect coastal community dynamics not only provides an excellent study system to understanding cross boundary nutrient subsidies to ecosystems, but as salmon populations decline from the combined effects of anthropogenic and environmental pressures, understanding impacts on coastal community dynamics becomes essential for conservation and management of these systems.