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A rare sunny day in the Great Bear Rainforest. Professor John Reynolds (far right), winner of the 2010 President’s award for service in media and public relations, with his research team l-r: Joel Harding, Jenny Linton and Heather Recker.

‘Go-to’ salmon scientist wins President’s award

February 10, 2011


John Reynolds was working at home last fall when CBC-TV’s The National phoned requesting an immediate on-camera interview about the year’s completely unexpected record Fraser River Sockeye salmon return, following the worst return ever the previous year.

Within minutes, CTV National News called with an identical request of the world-renowned SFU ecologist and 2010 President’s award winner for service in media and public relations.

“I ended up running to one location on a beach to be interviewed by one camera crew,” he recalls, “and then immediately went to another beach so the other crew would have a different backdrop for their interview.”

Days like that are almost commonplace for Reynolds, who holds the Tom Buell B.C. Leadership Chair in Salmon Conservation. He has become the “go-to scientist,” for Pacific salmon-related issues, as one nominator puts it, not just to national and international media but also to a myriad of community, public policy and Aboriginal groups.

Reynolds’ research since joining SFU in 2005 has focused on the conservation and ecology of Pacific salmon, with an emphasis on their ecosystems, including connections between marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats.

He and his large cadre of grad students and post-doctoral associates are currently monitoring 50 streams in the Great Bear Rainforest to determine how the nutrients from salmon carcasses fertilize vegetation and affect biodiversity in the region.

But Reynolds is not just knowledgeable, he’s “an engaging interview” says one prominent environmental writer. “It’s why journalists call him from around the world. He’s approachable, available, and explains science in layperson’s terms without sacrificing accuracy.”

An avid kayaker, runner and occasional scuba diver, the Toronto-born transplant cares deeply about B.C.’s coastal ecosystems, in which salmon are a bellwether species. “Salmon embody a lot of our cultural values for what we love about living on the West Coast,” he says.

“But they also are central to food webs involving other species. You’re never talking just about salmon—you’re talking about ecosystems, the sea, rivers, watersheds, and then all the impacts we’re having on the environment.

“So if we can get the salmon right we’re probably getting a lot of other things right.”

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