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Dr. Kyle Wilson receives 2019 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship

Congratulations to Dr. Kyle Wilson, who has received a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship for $140,000 to support his research in the Faculty of the Environment. Wilson's research, Social-ecological diversity and resilience in changing fisheries, aims to illuminate the processes that underpin resilience in one of Canada's iconic social-ecological systems, steelhead trough fisheries, by integrating diversity in biological and social processes to better support the diversity, stability and resilience of Canada's fisheries. 

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of the Environment

May 24, 2019
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I grew up along the coast of San Diego, California and received my BSc in Biology from San Diego State University, MSc in Fisheries from the University of Florida, and PhD in Ecology from the University of Calgary. I am a former Vanier and Killam Scholar that blends research with mentorship and education opportunities, and I work alongside government and academic colleagues to help understand key social and ecological drivers affecting the sustainability of freshwater and coastal fisheries. My research has culminated in recent years into a more holistic perspective for improving fisheries conservation, which includes advising new management for the British Columbia and Yukon lake trout fishery. Now, I am applying this social-ecological perspective towards Pacific salmon fisheries to highlight how managing for diversity in both people and nature can help sustain fisheries in a changing environment.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

I came to SFU to work alongside Dr. Jonathan Moore and colleagues in the Earth2Ocean Research Group to research aquatic ecology and conservation. It also helps being near both beautiful mountains and coastline.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH.

Fisheries are complex social-ecological interactions between people and nature, and they provide subsistence, cultural, and leisure opportunities for billions of people. Many fisheries are collapsing from overfishing and ecosystem changes, yet some fisheries remain resilient to these threats. Biodiversity may help foster resilience via the ‘portfolio effect’, analogous to how financial managers select portfolios composed of diverse assets to stabilize their returns. Hence, fisheries with high diversity (some populations ‘boom’ when others ‘bust’) appear more stable than fisheries with low diversity (populations ‘boom’ or ‘bust’ at the same time). However, fisheries are also diverse socio-culturally, yet current research exploring fishery portfolio effects has ignored these human dimensions. My research aims to illuminate the processes that underpin resilience in one of Canada’s iconic social-ecological systems, steelhead fisheries, by integrating diversity in biological and social processes to understand how interactions between these dimensions contribute to the stability and resilience of fisheries. To answer this, I will first contrast the contributions of diverse people and their behaviours with fish biodiversity in a theoretical model. As not all fisheries have high biodiversity to conserve, these results can be used to determine how social-ecological diversity drives portfolio effects, and whether fishery managers can increase social well-being to manage for resilience. I will then apply these concepts to British Columbia steelhead: a migratory Pacific salmon recommended for emergency-listing as an at-risk species that supports dozens of fisheries worth $33 million CAD·yr-1 to BC’s economy. My work aims to integrate steelhead life-cycle dynamics with fisher diversity to determine policies that best realize resilience of BC fisheries and beyond, to help manage both existing biodiversity and the vast range of human interactions with that diversity.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AT SFU?

I enjoy sharing ideas and working alongside my tremendous colleagues in the Earth2Ocean Research Group. I have also enjoyed being close to many government collaborators in fisheries and conservation biology. When the weather cooperates, it’s also great to be able to hike to and from work every day and enjoy the sunshine.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE GRADUATE STUDENTS/POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS?

Write and seek feedback from others early and often. It takes a village to be a good scientist.

Contact Kyle: kl_wilson@sfu.ca

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