Reynolds returns as leadership chair

December 01, 2005, vol. 34, no. 7
By Carol Thorbes

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A one-time doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, who is now internationally recognized as an expert on biodiversity and fish ecology, has returned to SFU to take up the province's third B.C. Leadership Chair.

John Reynolds, a professor and chair in conservation ecology at the University of East Anglia, England, has been appointed the Tom Buell B.C. Leadership Chair in salmon conservation through the province's Leading Edge endowment fund.

The province established 20 such permanent leadership chairs across a wide variety of disciplines in B.C. in 2002. The province provided $2.25 million for each chair, with matching funds to be secured by the host universities from external partners.

Reynolds will bring together diverse academic approaches to conserving salmon and their ecosystems. He will be based in SFU's biology department, and will be able to collaborate with more than a dozen faculty members throughout the university who study various aspects of salmon biology and conservation. Reynolds says, “I will also work with a number of outside organizations, including federal and provincial agencies, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.”

Originally from Toronto, Reynolds has devised a number of projects to fulfill his key leadership chair objectives. One objective is to improve scientific understanding of the dynamics of wild salmon populations and their ecosystems.

Another is to identify the importance of various potential threats to the decline and recovery of populations. A third objective is to translate this knowledge into well-founded management advice on salmon and their habitats.

Reynolds plans to assemble a large team of researchers from several institutions to undertake comparative studies and long-term experiments on wild salmon populations at unprecedented levels of replication and detail.

For example, salmon carcasses are key sources of nitrogen and phosphorous in streams and adjacent forests, with direct and indirect impacts on the growth of juvenile salmon. A set of experiments will track these nutrients through the ecosystem as they are absorbed by plants and ingested by insects, birds, and mammals.

“The connections revealed by these experiments,” says Reynolds, “could lead to a major shift in the way we approach salmon management. I hope a better understanding of how salmon fisheries and habitat management affect both salmon and wider aspects of our ecosystem will lead to more holistic approaches to conservation.”

Reynolds sees the SFU centre for coastal studies as a key communication vehicle for disseminating the results of his collaborative research. “A natural complement to this research would be an annual or bi-annual salmon status meeting, hosted through SFU's Speaking for the Salmon program. This would feature lively public presentations on trends and current issues,” notes Reynolds.

“Ultimately, I'd like to pool the collective efforts of a number of organizations to produce user-friendly, web-based indices of the annual status of fish stocks.”

This leadership chair is named after the late Tom Buell, the former president, CEO and chair of Weldwood of Canada.

One of Buell's enduring concerns was the sustainability of Pacific salmon stocks. He was recognized for having a progressive stance on environmental protection and integrated resource management.

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