Eco-evolutionary dynamics in Great Lakes fish stocks and why they matter for management

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Date: November 20, 2020
Time: 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Location: Virtual - Zoom
Category: Seminar

Transformative Change in Environmental Sustainability is a collaborative, student-led seminar series hosted by T-RUST (Transformative Research in Urban Sustainability Training) at WSU and GLIER (Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research) at the University of Windsor. Seminars are biweekly during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Please RSVP to this event and the Zoom link will be sent to the email used for registration two days before the seminar.

Evolution can occur in animal populations on short enough time scales to interact with ecological processes, with selection from human activities causing more rapid responses than natural sources of selection. There are many anthropogenic sources of selection in the Great Lakes that can alter the eco-evolutionary dynamics of fish stocks in ways that critically impact ecosystem services. The most studied example is fisheries-induced evolution, where harvesting leads to genetic changes in a population’s traits. Common evolutionary responses to fishing include smaller body size, earlier maturity, and shy behaviour. These evolutionary responses can have undesirable consequences from a management perspective, including reduced yield, lower catch rates by anglers, and slow rates of recovery in depleted populations. Furthermore, such responses can affect the accuracy of stock assessment models that are used to guide quota management decisions, leading to over or under harvesting depending on the direction of changes. Another relevant example of evolution in the Great Lakes is the possibility that sea lamprey may evolve resistance to the pesticide used to control their population. These examples indicate that eco-evolutionary dynamics need to be accounted for when providing information on stock status, defining sustainable harvest levels, controlling invasive species, and developing recovery strategies.

Dr. Erin Dunlop is a Research Scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and is based out of Trent University in Peterborough Ontario Canada. Erin leads a research program that focuses on fish population dynamics in the Great Lakes, with a focus on providing applied science to inform management and policy decisions. Follow Dr. Dunlop on Twitter: @airydunlop


Megan Wallen


November 2020