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MSc Proposal Presentation
Location: Bailey Hall, Room 27, UNBF
Biology Department, MSc Proposal Presentation by Michael Sweezey
Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 2:00 p.m.
Bailey Hall, Room 27
The importance of freshwater overwintering habitat to the life cycle of the American eel, Anguilla rostrata
Supervisors: Dr. S. Courtenay & Dr. M. Clément
Supervisory Committee: Dr. D. Cairns, Dr. R. Cunjak
Chair of Proposal: Dr. L. Cwynar
The American eel, Anguilla rostrata, is a valuable food source and an important commercial fishery in Atlantic Canada. However, the life cycle of the American eel is less understood compared to other commercial fish species. A precipitous decline in American eel abundance in the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario has highlighted the need for understanding the ecology of this species. The objective of this study is to examine the importance of seasonal migrations to freshwater overwintering habitat to the life cycle of the American eel. Eel exhibiting this behaviour will be examined in the Upper Salmon River (Fundy National Park, New Brunswick) using a variety of techniques. The number and proportion of eel undertaking migrations from saltwater summer feeding grounds (i.e., the estuary) to fresh water for overwintering will be estimated using mark-recapture techniques and passive integrated transponder (PIT) tagging techniques. In addition, manual radio tracking of 18 eel will be completed. Radio tracking will be used to determine daily and seasonal movement patterns, to identify and characterize burrowing microhabitat in the estuary in summer, and to identify and characterize freshwater microhabitat of eel in winter. Additional experiments include a manipulative experiment to determine if there is a selective benefit to overwintering in fresh water by allowing eel to overwinter in fixed locations inside an "overwintering capsule" and an experiment to determine if there is a genetic distinction between migrating and non-migrating eel through examination of DNA microsatellite markers. Information obtained from this study will be important to aid managers in making informed decisions in an attempt to manage and conserve this important fish species.