Taking the Pulse of Barra de Navidad Lagoon

The Canadian Rivers Institute leads projects in more than a dozen countries, including an important study of the Barra de Navidad coastal lagoon in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Led by CRI Science Director Dr. Consuelo Aguilar, the project aims to identify anthropogenic sources of stress affecting the health of the lagoon — a Ramsar site and among the 88 priority mangrove sites in Mexico.

“Our project will fill an important gap in ecological knowledge related to fish ecology in the lagoon,” says Dr. Aguilar, noting she is joined in the project by CRI Science Directors Dr. Gaspar González-Sansón, Dr. Karen Kidd, Dr. Allen Curry and Dr. Kelly Munkittrick.

The main targets of the research project include identifying estuarine fishes’ responses to anthropogenic drivers and stressors at different levels of biological organization (individuals, populations, assemblages), and tracking ecological connectivity among coastal habitats (rivers - coastal wetland - shelf) with emphasis on the nursery function of this coastal wetland and fish migration among coastal habitats.

Dr. Aguilar says her CRI colleagues in Canada provide invaluable access to labs for sample analyses and data interpretation. CRI researchers in Mexico have traveled to facilities in Saint John, N.B. and Fredericton N.B. for lab training, and they’ve hosted CRI researchers from Canada to teach courses in Jalisco state. Canadian researchers are collaborating with their colleagues in Mexico to organize more specialized courses for students in Jalisco in the future, and the institute is pursuing programs that would allow students in Canada to participate in projects led by Dr. Aguilar and Dr. González-Sansón in Mexico.

“I really enjoy working with researchers in developing countries and making sure the technologies we’re developing here benefit not just what we’re doing in Canada, but what’s happening abroad as well,” says Dr. Karen Kidd, CRI Science Director and professor in the University of New Brunswick’s Biology Department. “I find it a very satisfying part of my job and my involvement with the Canadian Rivers Institute.”

CRI Science Director Allen Curry says the institute’s international projects, such as work in the Barra de Navidad lagoon, demonstrate its researchers competency in both temperate and tropical ecosystems. “We can take what we’re learning on our rivers here in Canada where we do most of our work, and translate that into an application in any system, anywhere in the world,” Curry says.