Latest Progress

Trade in your salmon and help the research!

posted Oct 6, 2015, 4:37 PM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Oct 6, 2015, 4:38 PM ]

Caught a salmon? Please consider trading it in for a gift card reward. We will use the salmon to try and figure out where it may be coming from, and how it may be adapted to make the long journey to the Canadian Arctic. Gift card rewards are available at DFO offices, most ENR offices, and many of the RRC and HTC offices in the NWT. Follow the salmon migration on Facebook:

Arctic Salmon's First Publication!

posted Apr 4, 2014, 7:40 PM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Apr 4, 2014, 7:41 PM ]

The first peer-reviewed publication for Arctic Salmon (as part of Karen's PhD thesis) is now available! It highlights the use of community-based monitoring to identify changes in distribution and abundance of salmon in the Arctic and also discusses what might be changing in the oceans that has lead to these changes. Want a copy? Download it here! Thanks to all the communities and community members for reporting their salmon harvest and participating in this research on climate change in the Arctic!

2013 Salmon Update

posted Feb 2, 2014, 9:38 AM by Karen Dunmall

Although only 11 salmon were traded in for gift card rewards in 2013, documenting this low number of salmon in the Canadian Arctic is as useful as keeping track of the years with lots of salmon. In this way, we are putting some numbers around the local knowledge of years of higher salmon abundances, followed by years of lower abundances. Here is a summary of what happened in 2013:
  • Ten of the salmon traded in this year were chum salmon and one was a Chinook salmon. 
  • No pink salmon were traded in, and there were no reports of pink salmon being caught in the Canadian Arctic.
  • The salmon started being harvested earlier in the season (end of August) than in other years.
  • Three of the chum salmon were harvested in Great Bear Lake. Although chum salmon have been caught in Great Bear Lake in the past, this is quite rare. Once of these chum salmon were harvested in Great Bear Lake in August, which is extraordinarily early as we assume it swam in from the ocean and all the way up river to Great Bear Lake before it was caught.
  • A photo recently appeared showing what appears to be a sockeye salmon that was harvested in Sachs Harbour in 2013. This salmon was not traded in for reward, so is not included in the tally, but is certainly an interesting catch! Hopefully if more salmon are harvested in Sachs Harbour or other Beaufort Sea coastal communities, we will get a sample to verify species identification and perhaps see where these fish might be coming from!
Chum salmon harvested in Great Bear Lake, NT 2013
Alphonse Takazo harvested this chum salmon from Great Bear Lake, 2013

Preparing for salmon!

posted Aug 1, 2013, 9:18 AM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Sep 23, 2013, 5:04 PM ]

Preparations are underway so we are ready for the arrival of the salmon to the Canadian Arctic in 2013. There seemed to be lots of salmon in 2011, and many fewer in 2012. Although we never know how many salmon will appear each year, we are rolling out the Pacific Salmon Collection Program once again for 2013 in the hopes that the salmon will appear and people will trade harvested salmon for gift card rewards. Posters with information about the reward program and a research progress update will be distributed shortly. If you catch a salmon and would like the reward, please contact your local RRC, HTC, Renewable Resources Board or Resource Officer for more information.

Less Salmon in 2012

posted Feb 27, 2013, 7:46 PM by Karen Dunmall

The salmon collections are finished for 2012 and there were 22 salmon turned in for reward.  This is a huge drop in numbers compared to the 226 salmon collected in 2011.  Although there were the same number or more people interested in trading in salmon for rewards in 2012, the chum salmon just didn't show up as they did in 2011.  It is an interesting result and one that supports local knowledge of a cyclical pattern of salmon in the Mackenzie River.  Hopefully we will get funding to support collections in 2013 to see if the salmon appear once again.

DNA extractions complete

posted Aug 27, 2012, 1:11 PM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Aug 27, 2012, 1:12 PM ]

DNA was extracted from almost 500 salmon samples!  This includes all the salmon collected in 2011 plus others archived in the freezer from prior years.  Next steps are to 1) select pieces of DNA; 2) mark them with a fluorescent tag; 3) make tonnes of copies of those special pieces; and 4) send them through a machine that finds those tags and takes pictures of how long the pieces are.  Then we can compare these special pieces of DNA to figure out relationships between the salmon!
DNA extractions of Arctic salmon

DNA extracted

posted May 6, 2012, 8:55 AM by Karen Dunmall

DNA was extracted from 41 of the 231 salmon returned for reward in 2011.  DNA is in the cells of the salmon.  I took muscle and fin tissue when each fish was sub-sampled so that I could get the DNA from the salmon.  These samples have been frozen in ethanol to preserve them until it was time to extract the DNA.  

I followed a "recipe" to get the DNA out of the cells:
1) Cut a small piece of muscle from the whole sample.  The amount of tissue needed is about the size of a finger nail clipping!  
2) Put the tissue in a vial and add an enzyme that breaks apart the cell walls (called lysing)
3) Heat it up and gently shake for 4 hours; there is a machine that does this!
4) Add a buffer (a liquid made up of salts and detergents) and more ethanol.
5) Spin in a centrifuge (fancy name for spinner) at a set spinning speed for a minute
6) Add more buffer
7) Spin
8) More buffer...
9) Spin for longer and faster
10) More buffer... different kind this time.
11) Spin one last time
12) What is left in the vial is DNA!  It is in a clear liquid; looks like water.  Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

DNA is so small, you can't see it.  So, I did a test to make sure the recipe worked and we actually got the DNA out of the cell.  I took a very small amount of this liquid and added some special blue dye (called a marker) that actually attaches itself in the DNA.  This marker glows under UV light so we can see the DNA if this marker is attached.  I then made the liquid with the DNA and the marker spread it out in a gel (like clear jello but made out of seaweed) which sorted the DNA by the size of the piece.  The longer pieces couldn't move as far, so they show up as a band near the beginning and the shorter pieces moved further through the gel and show up as a band further away from the beginning.

This photo is of the gel under UV light.  Each rectangle is a different salmon.  The yellow box is a chum salmon from Aklavik; the pink box is a chum salmon from Tsiighetchic.  The bright lines in each box are the DNA.  Shows that the recipe worked!  We extracted DNA from these 41 salmon.  Next step: get DNA from the remaining 170 salmon.

Salmon are sub-sampled!

posted Mar 5, 2012, 2:29 PM by Karen Dunmall

All of the 210 salmon caught in 2011 and turned in to DFO have now been sub-sampled.  We worked with AAE Tech Services Inc. to get the sub-sampling completed, and they did a fantastic job.  To sub-sample the salmon, we take their measurements, scales, otoliths, and samples of their muscle, liver, spleen, kidney, gills, and stomach.  This information will be used to try and answer questions such as: Where are these fish coming from?  Are they successfully spawning, and if so, where? Are they interacting with local fish species?  As these data are analysed, more info will be posted.  Also, follow the progress on Facebook!  

205 out of the 210 salmon caught this year were chum salmon, also called dog salmon.  There were also 3 pink salmon, 1 coho salmon and 1 sockeye salmon.
Here's where the chum salmon were caught (closest community to catch location):

Salmon Distribution Maps

posted Jan 10, 2012, 6:56 PM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Jan 11, 2012, 9:53 AM ]

Just in: Distribution maps were recently developed which show catch locations of salmon in the Canadian Arctic.  All salmon captured to 2011 and turned in to Fisheries and Oceans Canada are included on these maps.  Look at the "Salmon Biology" page to find an overview map for all species or find maps for each individual species on their species pages at Salmon Biology. These maps were developed in a collaborative effort with Wayne Condon at the GIS Department, Aurora Research Institute.  Thanks to all who turned in salmon and thanks to Wayne for the maps!  


posted Dec 9, 2011, 7:48 PM by Karen Dunmall   [ updated Dec 19, 2011, 6:49 PM ]

Salmon are colonizing the Canadian Arctic.  Their numbers seem to be increasing and their range appears to be expanding.  Karen, a PhD student at the University of Manitoba, is working in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to study these salmon and identify what this colonization might indicate about the arctic ecosystem and how the presence of salmon may affect native fish species in the Mackenzie River and tributaries.  Karen developed this website and created an Arctic Salmon Facebook page to use as tools to distribute information about this project, the reward program for salmon, and any results that are found.  These tools also provide the opportunity for people from communities across the Arctic to share their own information about salmon with others in the North.  Every salmon sighting is important, so please share on Facebook.  Let others in your community know about this project, this website, and the possibility of salmon in their area.  Let's work together to answer some of the many questions about salmon in the Canadian Arctic.  

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