SGS Celebrates Graduate Student Winners of Federal Tri-Council Awards - Nicole Daigle

Author: Andrea

Posted on Dec 14, 2022

Category: Student Stories , Money Matters

Profile of: Nicole Daigle

Award Received: Postgraduate Scholarship-Doctoral (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) 

Awarded for the project: Investigating the effects of conservation stocking programs on sturgeon populations across North America

Faculty: Science

Department: Biology

Project supervised by: Dr. Charles Sacobie (UNB Indigenous Science Scholar) and Dr. Christine Verhille (Montana State University)

The conservation of endangered species is essential to protect biodiversity, which is vital for the survival of our human race. Currently, all 26 living species of sturgeon are listed under a conservation designation. It is theorized that their declines are primarily due to human-related activities such as commercial harvest, habitat alteration, and climate change. In my doctoral research, I am focusing on the implications of contemporary habitat conditions and fisheries management actions on two sturgeon species: the pallid sturgeon and the Atlantic sturgeon. The goal of both of these studies is to provide recommendations to improve (or implement) conservation management practices.

Firstly, I am investigating whether conservation stocking has contributed to recent declines in growth rates (through increased competition) for a managed sturgeon species: the pallid sturgeon (Missouri River, USA). I will be investigating this theory by building bioenergetics models (which quantitatively describe how energy is spent within the organism) to simulate growth under historical conditions to uncover the mechanism(s) behind the declines observed today, and why the declines manifest differently based on the region in the river (which is fragmented by six mainstem dams). These models can not only help to explain the past but predict what the future may hold under various management scenarios.

Secondly, I will be using the same modelling techniques as well as new methods (genetic analyses, stable isotope analyses, and microchemistry) to study a cryptic population of Atlantic sturgeon (Restigouche River, NB) in partnership with the Gespe'gewaq Mi'gmaq Resource Council. This population is unintentionally being captured (as bycatch) by the Indigenous Atlantic salmon fishery and the community is eager to learn more about the sturgeon and its use of the estuary, with the ultimate goal of protecting them through modifications to current fishing strategies.