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KPU scientist honoured for fisheries research

Dr. Erika Eliason’s work has influenced management of sockeye salmon
Dr. Erika Eliason is an associate dean in the KPU Faculty of Science, recently awarded a medal by the Fisheries Society of the British Isles. (KPU/Special to the Langley Advance Times)

A Kwantlen Polytechnic University researcher has won the 2024 medal from the Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI) for her work on how environmental stressors impact fish.

Dr. Erika Eliason is an associate dean in the KPU Faculty of Science. Her studies have focused in particular on how Pacific salmon populations have been impacted by climate change.

“My work has shown that populations of salmon differ in their thermal tolerance, which has important management implications,” Eliason said in a statement after the award was announced. “I’ve also shown that Pacific salmon may be dying en route to their spawning grounds because of heart failure.”

She explained that most aquatic animals can’t regulate their own body temperature. If water temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius, then the fish’s temperature rises by the same amount.

“Fish can only thrive within a specific range of temperatures, so heat waves — or cold snaps — can create huge problems for fish, even leading to death,” Eliason said.

The FSBI noted that Eliason’s research has been used by policy-makers, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Pacific Salmon Commission, which used her paper on migrating salmon to help in the management of B.C.’s sockeye fishery.

“Erika’s contribution to fish biology is voluminous and broad, underscoring her exceptional productivity and dedication to the field of fish biology as well as the influence her work has had across the community,” said Dr. Holly Shiels, FSBI honorary president and Professor of Integrative Physiology at the University of Manchester.

“Fish are incredibly important for our economy, recreation, culture and ecosystems,” she noted. “When I decided to go to grad school, I was excited to bring together my curiosity about how the world works with my love of fish and nature.”

Growing up fishing and being outdoors, Eliason was drawn into studying biology.

She joined KPU in 2023, after having worked as an Associate Professor of Ecological and Evolutionary physiology at the University of California Santa Barbara, where her research program resulted in more than 90 scientific publications. She worked to train researchers at the undergraduate, masters, and doctorate levels.

The award will be presented this summer at the FSBI’s annual symposium in Bilbao, Spain.

“It is such an honour to win this award,” said Eliason. “Truly exceptional fish biologists and fisheries scientists have received this award in the past, and I am humbled and honoured to be included in their group.”

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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