Canadian Rivers Institute student researchers hit the water to answer questions about river health

Press Release
For Immediate Release

May 9, 2016

Fredericton- 50 student researchers at the Canadian Rivers Institute, hosted by the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and Saint John, kick off their summer field season in New Brunswick this week. These young scientists are working on projects aimed at answering questions about New Brunswick river flows, water quality, fisheries, food webs, and more.

Over the summer and fall, New Brunswick residents and visitors may notice signs of scientific research in many New Brunswick waterways including the St. John River and tributaries such as the Kennebacasis, the Miramichi River and Wolfe Point River in Fundy National Park.

Amanda Babin, a PhD Candidate with the Canadian Rivers Institute, at UNB Fredericton, just finished placing 22 large orange buoys in locations upstream of the Mactaquac reservoir on the St. John River as part of her research project.

The buoys mark the placement of data receivers that track the movements of Atlantic salmon as they pass downstream. 

“We want river users to know what we are doing out there on the water – people are curious about scientific research,” says Babin.

Babin also notes that with an increase in awareness of the river research going on around the province, also comes an increased regard for the scientific equipment. 

“We want boaters to be aware of buoys as they navigate the rivers and especially the Mactaquac head pond.  We also want people to know that the data that technology helps us collect is very important to our results and it would be very discouraging to have them go missing,” she continues.

Observers may also see other signs of river research over the summer and fall, including:

  • Orange buoys anchoring drift nets that catch fish eggs

  • Caught fish with a radio tag antenna located behind the dorsal fin that track migration

  • Research boats navigating to sample sites and providing platforms for collecting water and sediment samples

  • Students and technicians in and around the waters in waders and with clipboards

Dr. Allen Curry, a Science Director with the Canadian Rivers Institute, and a professor or Biology at UNB Fredericton, is directly involved in supervising and guiding the research projects of almost 30 students this season.  “This is an exciting time of year; the students work hard to prepare their field data collection methods and now they go out and contribute to some very high-level scientific research with very practical applications,” says Curry.

Dr. Curry is the lead on CRI’s Mactaquac Aquatic Ecosystem Study, which began in 2014 to provide independent river science to the NB Power decision on the future of the Mactaquac hydroelectric generating station and a future river monitoring program.

“This is just one example of how students’ research, guided by international river experts, can have a direct impact on a real-word question: how will the river respond to a big change? The students are helping to provide answers,” says Curry.

All of the CRI student research in New Brunswick, and rivers across Canada and around the world, goes towards the cumulative science contribution that the international network has been building over their 15 years. Their goal is to produce highly qualified water resources scientists, professionals, and policy makers across Canada and beyond, all working toward making every river a healthy river.


Media Contacts:

Amanda Babin, PhD Candidate: 506.259.1230,
Allen Curry, CRI Science Director, MAES Project lead: 506.452-6280,
Stephanie Merrill, Communications Coordinator: 506.261.8317,

CRI led projects awarded funding for fisheries and biodiversity research and education projects

The New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund recently announced their funding awards for 2016-2017.  Eight projects led by Canadian Rivers Instiute (CRI) Science Directors, students and staff have been awarded a total of $73,430 which will go toward research on fisheries and biodiversity and education related projects.  The New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund is administed through the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and has been established to fund a range of programs for the enhancement of New Brunswick’s wildlife, fish and their habitats. The main source of revenue is from a conservation fee on hunters, anglers and fur harvesters licences.

The full list of CRI awarded projects:

Fisheries related research

Dr. Michelle Gray, UNB, Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, Canadian Rivers Institute
Dispersion, Distribution, and Population Assessment of Slimy Sculpin in NB
Awarded $12,500

Antoin O’Sullivan, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Mapping River Temperature Change as a Result of Coldwater Refugia Augmentation in the Miramichi Watershed
Awarded $4,930

Kurt Samways, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Determining the Efficacy of Marine Reared Native Adult Atlantic Salmon Introductions:  Linking Telemetry with Behaviour and Experimental Biology
Awarded $12,000

Dr. Allen Curry, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Finding and Mapping Winter, Under-ice Habitats of Striped Bass in the Saint John River
Awarded $15,000

Dr. Tommi Linnansaari, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Developing Methods for Monitoring Abundance and Upstream Passage of Young American Eel at Migration Barriers
Awarded $6,000

Dr. Allen Curry, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Distribution, Abundance, and Spawning of Rainbow Trout in the Saint John River: Assessing the Potential Impacts for Atlantic Salmon and Brook Trout
Awarded $8,000

Biodiversity related research

Dr. Wendy Monk, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Environmental DNA as a Tool for Characterizing Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities: A Powerful Detection Tool for Species at Risk
Awarded $11,000

Education related projects

Mark Gautreau, UNB, Canadian Rivers Institute
Field Guide to the Inland Fishes of New Brunswick
Awarded $4,000

Ten projects led by CRI Science Directors and Associates supported by ASCF grants

The Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation (ASCF) has announced the 2016-2017 recipients of their annual granting program.  Over 1.08 million has been awarded to 61 projects across Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Ten projects led by CRI Science Directors and Associates were granted over $220,000, representing more than 20% of the provided funds.

The ASCF provides financial support to researchers and community organizations that work on conserving, restoring and protecting wild Atlantic salmon and its habitat in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.

Congratulations to the following successful projects led by CRI Science Directors and Associates:


Interprovincial projects

Dr. Normand Bergeron, CRI Associate, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS). Building a water temperature monitoring network in Canadian Atlantic salmon rivers. Approved grant: $25,000 for 2016 (3rd year of 3 year project, total: $75,000)

Dr. Tommi Linnansaari, CRI Associate, University of New Brunswick: Migration and survival of smolt, post-spawning (kelt) and adult Atlantic salmon in hydropower regulated Saint John River, New Brunswick. Approved grant: $46,000 for 2016 (2nd year of 3 year project, total: $118,500)

New Brunswick projects

Dr. Michelle Gray, CRI Science Director, University of New Brunswick: Thermal infrared remote sensing to identify critical thermal refuges in southern NB rivers. Approved amount: $7,000 for 2016 (2nd year of 2 year project, total: $27,000)

Kurt Samways, CRI PhD Candidate, University of New Brunswick: Restoring ecosystem health and increasing progeny fitness through marine reared native adult Atlantic salmon introductions. Approved grant: $28,000 for 2016 (2nd year of 3 year project, total: $84,000)

Dr. Rick Cunjak, CRI Science Director, University of New Brunswick: Patterns in the abundance and distribution of Atlantic salmon in Maritime Rivers. Approved grant: $25,000 (1st year of 2 year project, total: $50,000)

Dr. Tommi Linnansaari, CRI Associate, University of New Brunswick: Quantifying Striped Bass and Muskellunge Predation on Atlantic Salmon Smolts at the Base of the Mactaquac Dam, Saint John River, New Brunswick. Approved grant: $14,723

Quebec projects

Dr. Normand Bergeron, CRI Associate, Institut national de recherche scientifique: Fragmentation de l'habitat du saumon juvénile par les ponceaux routiers et forestiers
Approved grant: $25,000 for 2016 (2nd year of 3 year project; total $75,000)

Dr. Normand Bergeron, CRI Associate, Institut national de la recherche scientifique: Modélisation du potentiel de production des rivières à saumon du Québec à partir d’imagerie haute résolution. Approved grant : $30,000 in 2016  (1st year of 2 year project; total $60,000)

Dr. Normand Bergeron, CRI Associate, Institut national de la recherche scientifique: Utilisation des refuges thermiques par les saumons géniteurs. Approved grant: $15,000

Dr. André St-Hilaire, CRI Science Director, Institut national de la recherche scientifique: Inclusion de la température de l’eau dans un modèle généraliste d’habitat du saumon. Approved grant: $10,000 in 2016  (1st year of 3 year project; total $30,000)

CRI Fuses Biology and Engineering Disciplines in River Science

March was National Engineering Month, which recognizes the field of engineering, including its many sub disciplines. The Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) profiles one of the many examples of research within the institute that fuses the knowledge and expertise of ecological conditions and hydrologic processes in its mandate to develop the aquatic science needed to understand, protect, and sustain water resources.

Dr. Kerry MacQuarrie, a CRI Science Director based in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of New Brunswick is one of the researchers that bring a hydrologic engineering perspective to the CRI network.

“An engineering approach helps to bring aspects of physical hydrology – the ‘bedrock’ so to speak – of our river systems to research on river conditions and processes”, says Dr. Kerry MacQuarrie. MacQuarrie feels that his involvement in river science is necessary and valued: “my colleagues are very appreciative of the engineering perspectives I contribute as most have a multi-disciplinary understanding of river dynamics”.

One of MacQuarrie’s areas of research focus has been to use water temperature profiling and modeling to understand groundwater and surface water interactions, including how groundwater temperature may be influenced by climate change.  “Because groundwater temperature is often more constant and cooler [than surface water], we can look for the cooler areas within a river, stream, or estuary as an indicator of groundwater inflow”, explains MacQuarrie.

MacQuarrie has been a key member of a multi-disciplinary team working to identify and characterize the existence and temperature of thermal refugia in the Little Southwest Miramichi, a prominent salmon-producing tributary of the Miramichi River in New Brunswick.  Thermal refugia are described as cold water plumes, often sourced by groundwater inputs into a river that become areas of refuge for fish when river temperatures rise and exceed critical species-specific temperature thresholds.

The Miramichi River watershed has seen increasingly stressful water temperature conditions for salmonids in summer months, mainly due to regional climate change. In previous fishing seasons, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has closed pools to angling over concerns of stressed fish.

Led by three CRI Science Directors and three Associates, research on thermal refugia in the Miramichi is considered by MacQuarrie as “one of the best examples of CRI multidisciplinary research collaboration”.  MacQuarrie continues, “I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to contribute to the research if not for the drive of my CRI colleagues and their passion for Atlantic salmon. I am an avid salmon angler, so that also helps me work with the fisheries biologists on the CRI team”.

The years of research culminated in a set of recommendations for managing thermal refugia that include: identifying the existing refugia, limiting watershed activities that may induce their warming, restoration of inadequate, expansion of existing and creation of new thermal refugia.  While these recommendations are proposed for the management of the Miramichi River, they are also relevant to many other unregulated, alluvial channel rivers that are currently experiencing summer water temperature maxima that approach or exceed critical temperature thresholds for cold water fish.

“It has been ‘cool’ research”, MacQuarrie laughs “and I know that it would not have happened without the collaborative effort across our engineering and biological disciplines among the CRI network”.

More on the research

The work to develop recommendations for preserving, augmenting and creating cold water thermal refugia in rivers was derived from over ten years of research on the Miramichi river by a number of University of New Brunswick researchers within the CRI network.

Dr. Allen Curry (a CRI Science Director), Dr. Wendy Monk (CRI Associate) and Dr. MacQuarrie had previously mapped river temperature anomalies using aerial infrared technologies. Dr. Rick Cunjak (a CRI Science Director) and Dr. Tommi Linnansaari (CRI Associate) worked to determine if salmon were actually using these cooler areas for refuge during elevated river temperatures. Dr. MacQuarrie and former PhD candidate, Barret Kurylyk, brought in the engineering. They simulated temperature changes using field parameters to build a model of the groundwater influence, capturing details of thermal refugia. MacQuarrie and Kurylyk also ran New Brunswick climate change projections through the model to show how groundwater discharge rates and temperatures were changing under different climate scenarios.

MacQuarrie and Kurylyk found that a number of variables determined the temperature of the discharging groundwater, including depth to groundwater source, the groundwater recharge rate, and the thickness of the groundwater aquifer.  Through changing the climate parameters of the model, they also found that groundwater may warm up more than most researchers had assumed.

The research shows that if the thermal refugia are fed from shallow aquifers, which have warming influence from the aboveground conditions, they may warm up within 5 to 10 years. Combined with more rapidly warming river waters, these refugia may also become less suitable for fish habitat during stressful thermal conditions. Therefore, thermal refugia preservation, augmentation and creation become increasingly important for the survival of Atlantic salmon populations.

This research has recently been published: Kurylyk, B.L., K.T.B. MacQuarrie, T. Linnansaari, R.A. Cunjak, and R.A. Curry, 2015, Preserving, augmenting, and creating cold-water thermal refugia in rivers: Concepts derived from research on the Miramichi River, New Brunswick (Canada), Ecohydrology, 8, 1095-1108, doi: 10.1002/eco.1566.

Climate and Salmon Workshop March 31 2016

The signs of climate change are unmistakable; dramatic changes have affected our economy, our society and our environment. Anticipating these changes will be critical towards formulating an effective response.  In this timely workshop we explore the fate of Atlantic Salmon under a changing climate, employing the most up-to-date climate, and hydrological models

WHEN March 31st 2016, 9:00am
WHERE Wu Centre, UNB 6 Duffie Drive, Fredericton, NB

Workshop overview 
PART I: Our team of researchers will review their results, shedding light upon the atmospheric conditions expected in New Brunswick under a changing climate, and the likely impact this will have upon the Miramichi River.  
PART II: Research results from the first part of the workshop will be used to examine changes to salmon habitat, and the vulnerability of salmon populations.  Based upon these deliberations, a vulnerability model will be developed.

Who should attend? 
PART I: The first half (9:00am-12:00pm) of this workshop is open to anyone with a keen interest in the future of Atlantic Salmon in New Brunswick; you will hear from leading climate, hydrological, and biological experts and have an opportunity to discuss their results. 
PART II: The second half (1:00pm to 3:30pm) of the workshop is intended for practitioners and researchers with expertise in Atlantic Salmon habitat and phenology.  We seek your input in developing a vulnerability model.

Dr. A. St-Hilaire INRS
Dr. D. Caissie DFO
Dr. P. Gachon UQAM
Dr. J. MacLellan NBCCRC
Dr. A. Curry CRI UNB

For more information, or to reserve a spot in the second half of the workshop, plse contact Kim Reeder:  (506) 467-1927

Better Water, Better Jobs and the next generation of water practitioners

Today marks World Water Day, designated by the United Nations. This year’s theme is “better water, better jobs.” The Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) uses the occasion to celebrate its 19 Science Directors, 81 Research Associates, 88 graduate students, 30 research and administrative staff, and over 200 alumni researchers across the country and around the globe whose collective job is to make every river a healthy river.

One of the many examples of how the CRI community contributes to advancing professional opportunities for the protection of water quality and aquatic ecosystems around the world is a project that supports water managers in identifying the risk to lakes and municipal drinking water from cyanobacterial outbreaks.

In 2015, Dr. Allen Curry, one of CRI’s Science Directors, sought out Dr. Mouhamed Ndong to build a 3-D model, the most advanced in the world and the first physical limnology model in eastern Canada and possibly North America. A deterministic model can control all inputs and outputs of a specific lake, which allows researchers, and ultimately, lake and source water managers the ability to predict blue-green algae blooms under different scenarios, including: changes to lake water levels, precipitation, sedimentation and even future climate change projections.

Before accepting a postdoctoral position with CRI at the University of New Brunswick, Dr. Ndong completed a PhD at the École Polytechnique Montréal in Civil Engineering under the guidance of Dr. Sarah Dorner, the Canada Research Chair in Microbial Contaminant Dynamics in Source Waters. In his home country of Senegal, Dr. Ndong received both his BA and MSc. Degrees in Chemical, Process and Environmental Engineering from the École Supérieure Polytechnique de Dakar (University Cheikh Anta DIOP de Dakar-Sénégal). Before coming to Canada he spent three years focused on developing a fluoridation system for drinking water in Senegal.

The CRI is excited to have Dr. Ndong part of the network of the next generation water practitioners working towards solving real-world issues of water quality.

"Dr. Ndong is the perfect person to do this work. He has an integrated background in engineering and modelling and is quickly learning the biological background of lake systems.  He also has multiple language abilities and international experience. As this model becomes functional we can apply it to places like India and Africa where the necessity to predict water quality and blue-green algae outbreaks is becoming an important public health initiative,“ says Curry.

The structure of Dr. Ndong’s model is near completion for three New Brunswick Lakes and the reservoir above the Mactaquac hydroelectric dam.  “The model is very large and can accommodate a lot of data. We are focusing on the data we have, such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients, but many more parameters can be collected and added one step at a time,” Dr. Ndong says.

“Ideally we would help develop a lake monitoring program that collects water quality parameters over a shorter time period — once a month water sampling does not tell us much. The water quality conditions of a lake can change by the day or even by the hour. An intense rain can elevate the sediments and push the lake into having those characteristics that have the potential to induce a blue green algae outbreak.  It is those short windows of data collection that will be more informative.”

Dr. Ndong prefers to do practical research – research that helps solve a problem for people, especially of public health concern. “It is a driving factor for me, to understand how the problem impacts the people who live around and use lakes as their drinking water supply. The research is great, the graphics are nice and the results are interesting, but how does it help the problem?” he says.

Dr. Ndong focuses on modelling data as a way to help solve problems. His current work in New Brunswick demonstrates how his interest directly supports communities: “For example, the Town of Saint Andrews, who uses Chamcook Lake as their drinking water source and has a persistent blue-green algae problem, can use this model to determine how changes in their watershed and in the lake will have direct impacts on their drinking water and the risk for a potentially toxic algae outbreak. They can make management changes as a result,” he says.

Modelling is also fun for Dr. Ndong. “I get to be at the centre of a research question. I may not know much about the fish or the bugs or the geology, but I get to learn what happens to a system when something is added or removed. And it’s through the Canadian Rivers Institute that I have this opportunity. I love working at the Institute because it is so multi-disciplinary; the collaboration among the researchers in different fields is what attracted me here,” he says.

Dr. Ndong is excited about the opportunity to continue working to answer pressing questions about water quality and its impact on communities and increasing the professional development opportunities for the next generation of water practitioners with the CRI.

CRI at the centre of first international initiative on Arctic freshwater biodiversity

This week Fairbanks, Alaska is hosting the 2016 Arctic Science Summit, an annual gathering of international scientists and policymakers who advance Arctic research. The Summit will feature a special session on the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, in which the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) is playing a prominent role in the assessment of Arctic freshwater biodiversity and future monitoring.

Dr. Joseph Culp, CRI Science Director, and Dr. Jennifer Lento, CRI Associate, are right in the middle of a very ambitious project to bring together the tremendous amount of data collected in and about the Arctic over many years. This first international initiative is precedent setting and timely as agencies, organizations and communities around the globe work together to better understand the trends in Arctic ecosystems under pressure from rapidly changing climate conditions.

Dr. Culp is the co-Chair of the Freshwater Steering Group of the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program (CBMP), one of the four cornerstone programs in the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) working group under the Arctic Council - a governing body with representatives from most arctic countries and that makes recommendations for management in the Arctic. CAFF’s mandate is to “address the conservation of Arctic biodiversity, and to communicate its findings to the governments and residents of the Arctic, helping to promote practices which ensure the sustainability of the Arctic’s living resources."

Dr. Lento is the Secretariat of ten 10-member expert group with representation from Canada, Sweden, Finland, Greenland/Denmark, Iceland, Norway and the United States (and soon Russia). Her role as the Secretariat started as supporting the Committee with logistics of meetings and early report writing, which has since developed into helping coordinate the activities of the expert scientist group, organizing data collection, ensuring proper meta-data and reporting.  Dr. Lento says, “it is an amazing experience. I get to travel to international meetings and work closely with international scientists.”

The goal of the program, along with the work of colleagues in the three other programs (Marine, Terrestrial and Coastal), is to assess the circumpolar Arctic’s state of biodiversity for the first time.

The work began in 2010 by defining a monitoring plan.  Published in 2012, the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring Plan outlines a framework to facilitate circumpolar assessments by providing Arctic countries with a structure and a set of guidelines for initiating and developing monitoring activities that employ common approaches and indicators. The program has now begun its first assessment, which will be conducted by national freshwater expert networks that include: prominent Arctic freshwater researchers from government and academia, Traditional Ecological Knowledge experts and members of the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists. The Freshwater Steering Group is coordinating these expert networks in the collection of existing data – data from all over the circumpolar region, collected by different agencies, organizations, with different protocols in different countries. By the end of April the team will start new analysis of what they have collected.

The Freshwater team data collection focuses on rivers and lakes and attempting to assess the status and trends of fish, benthic macroinvertebrates, benthic algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton, and macrophytes. These data, which will go towards the State of Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment, come from three time periods: contemporary (1950-present), post-industrial (1800-1949) and pre-industrial (paleolimnological data from 1800 back about 10,000 years).

While the data collection and organizing is still ongoing, Dr. Lento indicates that data contributed directly from Canadian Rivers Institute research are helping to identify impacts of warming in the western Canadian Arctic region, where permafrost slumping has been shown to have significant effects on freshwater systems as sediments are introduced in the previously crystal clear Arctic rivers.  Early analysis of long-term (over 50 years) fish population data in Iceland is also showing shifts related to changing climatic conditions.

Dr. Lento is excited about the how these data can be used in the future. She explains:

“This is a first step toward better monitoring and trend analysis in a more coordinated fashion among many countries who have an interest in the Arctic. This is a critical time; climate changes are happening fast in the Arctic, and the impacts of these changes are especially important to Indigenous people who rely on subsistence fisheries and where changes in permafrost has huge implications for local infrastructure – where to build and where not to build. As the Arctic continues to warm, the north may begin to look more like current temperate regions and may become more attractive to population growth, especially in Scandinavia where the Arctic is more accessible.  The trends in these other countries can help Canada contemplate the types of changes we might expect to see.”

The Freshwater team aims to produce a State of the Arctic Freshwater Biodiversity Report under the umbrella of CAFF by 2018 and are planning on distilling assessed data into a series of journal articles slated for publication in a special edition of a prominent journal.

Dr. Lento admits that this is a long and continuous process: “We hope that we will be able to undertake a State of the Arctic update report every five years or so that helps us to determine changes over time and our hope is to try to stay as visible as possible over the coming years.”  The aim is to review the program’s success about every 10 years.

The team is continuing to welcome data contributions. Contact Jennifer Lento for more information.

CRI PhD candidate wins Annual Jack T.H. Fenety Conservation Scholarship

The Miramichi Salmon Association offers a major scholarship for salmon research in honour of its long time former President, Jack Fenety of Fredericton. The “Jack T. H. Fenety Conservation Scholarship” is made available each year to a selected graduate student attending a university who is conducting meaningful research about wild Atlantic salmon and/or its habitat which will have relevance for the Miramichi watershed. 2016 is the fourteenth year this scholarship has been offered, and we are pleased to announce that Mr. Antóin O’Sullivan, PhD candidate at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB is the recipient of this award.  Antóin is supervised by CRI Science Director Dr. Allen Curry.

Mr. O’Sullivan’s work is entitled Predicting the Occurrence of Cold Water Refugia as a Function of Landscape Variables in the Miramichi Watershed.

“We are pleased to present this award to such a deserving student in the person of Antóin O’Sullivan”, said MSA President Mark Hambrook. “The Jack T. H. Fenety Scholarship is something we are very proud of. It was established to honour Mr. Fenety’s legendary contribution to the protection and enhancement of Atlantic salmon stocks. His stewardship of the Miramichi River has paralleled the survival of that watershed as one of the most productive sources of salmon stocks in the world. It is only fitting that we offer this scholarship to Mr. O’Sullivan for this very important work.”

Originaly published at

UNB’s Canadian Rivers Institute receives $100,000 for wild Atlantic salmon conservation research

As chairman emeritus of the Miramichi Salmon Association, J. W. Bud Bird (LLD ’87) is an enthusiastic salmon angler and conservationist, as was his late wife Peggy, who passed away in 2013. His donation of $100,000 to the Canadian Rivers Institute at the University of New Brunswick will help ensure that the mystery of declining wild Atlantic salmon stocks continues to be addressed by research in order to restore their numbers and secure their habitat for the future.

The Bud and Peggy Bird Fund will be used to provide financial support to UNB students affiliated with the Institute, and fund ongoing and new wild Atlantic salmon research.

The Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) is located on UNB’s campuses in Saint John and Fredericton and is an internationally-recognized collaboration of academics, regulators, industry, and non-government agencies who are committed to promoting research that will meet society’s priority water issues. Founded by four scientists just 15 years ago, the CRI now boasts 19 science directors, 81 research associates, 88 students and 30 research staff.

The Institute’s work with wild Atlantic salmon, led by 15 science directors, including Dr. Allen Curry, aims to address key issues facing conservation, such as why only half of young salmon (smolts) are able to get to the open ocean. “Wild Atlantic salmon need clean, free-flowing rivers and healthy oceans to survive their long migrations,” says Dr. Curry. “We know that human activities can create stress on river ecosystems which in turn have negative impacts on wild Atlantic salmon populations. The CRI is extremely grateful that this contribution will continue support of our research to understand the threats and help mitigate the impacts on rivers, oceans, and salmon.”

A businessman and community leader, Bud Bird is a former Mayor of Fredericton. He also served a term as Minister of Natural Resources with the New Brunswick government and represented Fredericton as Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993. “The work that the CRI is doing in the area of wild Atlantic salmon conservation is world-class,” he says. “I know Peggy would have been pleased to join me in supporting this worthy cause. I hope others will be inspired to give as well. With such support, the CRI will be well-equipped to identify new methods of conservation so that healthy and diverse salmon populations are restored in New Brunswick and elsewhere around the Atlantic Ocean.”

“This fund will provide students with invaluable opportunities for hands-on learning at our internationally recognized Canadian Rivers Institute and will help ensure that vital research on wild Atlantic salmon continues,” said Eddy Campbell, UNB president and vice chancellor. “This is a truly fitting legacy for devoted conservationists like Bud Bird and his late wife Peggy, and we are grateful for this generous donation.”

- Orignally published at:

CRI welcomes new Communications Officer, Stephanie Merrill

This week, Stephanie Merrill joined the CRI team as our new Communications Officer

Stephanie Merrill joined our team this week as a Communications Officer for the next 7 months.  Stephanie has spent the last 6 years as the Freshwater Protection program director for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick where she gained experience in communications and public engagement on issues related to water protection. Stephanie graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a BSc. in Biology and an MSc in Forestry and Environmental Management. She has spent ten years in the non-profit sector also working at watershed groups and research institutes at the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University. Stephanie will be spending the next few months helping to profile CRI research, Science Directors and students and working on special Anniversary projects.

"I'm really excited to join the CRI team, especially this year, during the 15th anniversary. CRI has contributed so much toward making every river a healthy river and I am looking forward to helping elevate the profile of the institute and its work."  - Stephanie

Stephanie can be reached at and 506-453-4770

CRI welcomes new Training and Professional Development Division Manager, Sarah Tuziak

This week Sarah Tuziak joined the CRI team as our new Manager of Training and Professional Development.

Sarah completed a BSc. in Marine and Freshwater Biology, in Guelph and subsequently her MSc. and PhD. at Memorial University in Marine Biology. Sarah has a long history with New Brunswick, namely St Andrew’s, where she has worked and participated in field courses during her undergraduate and graduate degrees and later decided to make New Brunswick her home. Sarah has teaching experience in a broad range of undergraduate biology courses, field research experience focused on Arctic Seaweeds and Marine Biology, as well as experience in leading and managing provincial and city wide organizations.

"I look forward to continuing my personal development and I am excited to accept this new challenge working with the Canadian Rivers Institute." -Sarah

Putting science into action for 15 years

Canadian Rivers Institute celebrates 15 years of supporting governments, businesses and communities in making smart, evidence-based decisions through high-impact research


FREDERICTON — Our mission at the Canadian Rivers Institute is to ‘make every river a healthy river.’

As vision statements go, it sounds simple enough. In practise, it’s an incredibly complex undertaking — but it’s one of the reasons our institute has remained at the forefront of river science around the world, and why we’re proud to celebrate our 15th anniversary this month. Hosted by the University of New Brunswick’s campuses in Saint John and Fredericton, the CRI is an internationally-recognized collaboration of academics, regulators, industry, and non-government agencies who are committed to advancing science in order to meet society’s priority water issues.

We have 19 Science Directors located across Canada and we lead or assist projects in more than a dozen countries.

As my colleague and fellow founder Dr. Allen Curry describes it, we’re a bit like the ‘Ghostbusters’ of the aquatic sciences world.

“I’ve always thought the way the world should look at the Canadian Rivers Institute is when there is a question,” Curry told me recently. “‘I have a problem, how do I deal with this particular problem when it comes to water, who am I going to call? Let’s call the CRI and see if they can help.’”

Our focus on applied science — of not only employing the best available science in our research, but ensuring that our science is put into action — is a major draw for students and professionals alike.

The CRI network now includes more than 230 alumni who have been involved in cutting edge and at times groundbreaking river and estuarine research.

Our multidisciplinary, collaborative approach means students leave our projects armed with a broad set of connections and new professional relationships to help as they start their career.

They also experience, so early in their working life, what it means to have impact.

When it comes to healthy water, CRI scientists have played a significant, if often unseen, role in the lives of Canadians these past 15 years, particularly in Atlantic Canada.

Our members developed Canada’s Environmental Effects Monitoring for the pulp and paper and metal mining industries — recipient of the 2005 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation and the first comprehensive, national framework of its kind in the world.

CRI scientists dominated the Canadian Water Network’s watershed research consortia, which aimed to tackle one of the most challenging problems in environmental monitoring today.

We developed an internationally-recognized lab for measuring stable isotopes; worked on Environment Canada’s Integrated Oil Sands Monitoring Plan; sat on the committee that advised Canada’s Environment Ministers on water stewardship issues; and have been behind the science on various changes to fishing regulations in New Brunswick, among other achievements.

Looking toward the next 15 years, we’re eager to expand and bolster our activity in central and western Canada, and to continue our outreach abroad.

And I’m confident saying we’ll still be around that far down the road.

When myself and three colleagues started the CRI in 2001, I remember a friend at the time telling me we can expect this thing to run a good seven to 10 years, tops. That’s usually the way with academic institutes.

A decade-and-a-half later, we’re still here, still running stronger than ever, in fact, and that’s no mystery to me.

We’re here because each and every Science Director, Research Associate and grad student affiliated with the CRI has wholly bought into our philosophy and our mission. They want to make every river a healthy river and they want to be part of a team that puts the best science into action.

I’m also confident because the calibre and brand of science that the CRI brings is more relevant today than ever before.

The new federal government has demonstrated a commitment to making decisions that are based on the best scientific evidence available. That’s our bread and butter.

This, paired with our changing climate and the impact that will have on freshwaters, means the CRI will be busy answering the tough questions of today and tomorrow for years to come.

Rick Cunjak is a founder and current Science Director of the Canadian Rivers Institute. He lives in Fredericton, NB.

This OpEd was originally published in the Telegraph Journal on February 18th, 2016

Celebrating 15 years of Excellence in River Science

Canadian Rivers Institute supports governments, businesses and communities in making smart, evidence-based decisions through high-impact research

FREDERICTON — The Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) marks 15 years of making critical advancements to river and estuarine science this month.

The high-impact research institute based at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) has grown into an internationally-recognized collaboration of academics, regulators, industry, and non-government agencies committed to advancing science to meet the needs of society’s priority water issues.  From four founding members at UNB in 2001, the CRI today has 19 Science Directors, 81 Research Associates, 88 graduate students, 30 research and administrative staff, and over 200 alumni researchers across the country and globally.

“At CRI we use the best available science to find answers to the important questions being asked today. Whether it is a government department developing water regulations, industry looking to develop better management processes, or watershed groups wanting to understand the health of their river, every one of our projects is providing a much-needed answer to stakeholder questions,” states Dr. Michael van den Heuvel, CRI’s Director based at the University of Prince Edward Island. “The partnership between UNB and CRI has been critical and ensures the institute’s capacity to pursue important national and international research, scientific and educational projects and collaborations.”

The Institute is hosted at UNB but its membership is active at post-secondary institutions in Canada and internationally, including the University of Prince Edward Island, the Institute National de la Recherche Scientifique, Okanagan College, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Western University, the University of Florida (USA), the University of Milan (Italy) and the University of Guadalajara (Mexico).

“Student training and professional development are at the centre of everything we do,” says Anne Levesque, Executive Director. “CRI researchers are leaders in their fields. Their experience and scientific insights, coupled with our courses, workshops and projects, is equipping a new generation of students and professionals with the latest tools and knowledge to tackle today’s challenges for our rivers.”

The institute is recognized worldwide for its partnerships with government and industry to advance applied research and to improve management practices. Some of the current projects demonstrating the institute’s excellence in applied science include:

  • Environmental science in support of the Mactaquac Dam Project (MAES-Mactaquac Aquatic Ecosystem Study),

  • The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program of the Governments of Canada and Alberta.

  • Development of an aquatic cumulative effects assessment framework for the Grand River watershed, the largest watershed in southwestern Ontario, including the impacts of remedial actions at selected sewage treatment plants on fish health.

  • Investigating the impacts of permafrost degradation on Arctic rivers, including an International Polar Year assessment that established the ecological legacy conditions of more than 100 rivers in the eastern Canadian Arctic.

  • Creation of the internationally-renowned Stable Isotopes in Nature laboratory (SINLab).

  • Community-driven research to develop a cumulative effects monitoring program for the Saint John Harbour and the Northumberland Strait.

  • Development of cutting edge technologies for ecosystem observation using DNA, focusing on Wood Buffalo National Park's threatened wetlands.

  • International partnership with a project focusing on the Arctic Ring of Fire "Impacts of Global Warming in Sentinel Systems: from Genes to Ecosystems."

  • Partnership with the Environment Canada's CABIN river monitoring program to develop and provide training and certification in aquatic biomonitoring and assessment.

“With the changes occurring around the world and particularly the stress being put on our aquatic ecosystems, it’s important now more than ever to have the multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to problem solving provided by the CRI,” concludes Dr. van den Heuvel.

For more information about the CRI and its research projects, visit
To arrange an interview, contact: Dr. Michael van den Heuvel, Director, Canadian Rivers Institute, Department of Biology & Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Prince Edward Island | 902-388-0895 or 902-388-0895 cell|

CRI celebrates two Canadian Research Chair appointments

Today we congratulate Dr. Karen Kidd and Dr. Scott Pavey, Canadian Rivers Institute scientists who were awarded Canada Research Chair appointments, announced today by Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.

Dr. Karen Kidd was named the Tier 1 CRC in Chemical Contamination of Food Webs.  

Dr. Kidd’s research advances our understanding of how human activities are changing aquatic ecosystems and the effects chemicals have on aquatic life. Dr. Kidd uses novel approaches to examine contaminants in aquatic ecosystems from the Arctic to South America. Contamination from municipal and industrial discharges, resource development and food production continue to threaten the health and productivity of waterways across Canada and abroad, and her program identifies the aquatic systems and species at greatest risk. Consumption of contaminated fish is a serious issue, and fish contamination with mercury is a key concern across Canada and globally. It is the leading cause of fish-consumption advisories issued for thousands of lakes across North America. Dr. Kidd’s research is tracking mercury and othet contaminants across our lakes and rivers, assessing impacts and advising governments.

As the CRC in Chemical Contamination of Food Webs in the Canadian Rivers Institute and biology department at UNB, Dr. Kidd’s program is providing much-needed information to ensure that our waters are healthy and sustained. She will continue to conduct high impact, internationally recognized research on aquatic food webs with the goal to generate new knowledge to better understand the relative sensitivities of ecosystems to contaminants, and to ultimately manage the risks to the aquatic environment.

"The CRC award means that our group at CRI and UNB Saint john can continue to address key water issues within and outside the region.  We will be able to generate new knowledge on contaminants in waters and their impacts on fish, and provide information needed by decision makers to ensure healthy waters and wildlife." - Dr. Karen Kidd, CRI Science Director

Dr. Scott Pavey was named the Tier 2 CRC in Aquatic Molecular Ecology and Ecological Genomics.

Dr. Pavey’s research involves understanding how the genetic diversity in fish populations and species results in traits important to both adaption in nature and human user groups. Dr. Pavey uses state-of-the-art technologies and techniques to address questions in conservation, fisheries management, evolution and ecology with the aim of conserving the natural diversity. By using the latest sequencing technology to consider entire genomes of fish species, Dr. Pavey can determine the key genes for traits important to adaptation in nature and to human stakeholders like fishermen, aquaculture workers and those concerned about fish conservation. In so doing, Dr. Pavey can make recommendations about how to protect the most important populations of species and help make aquaculture more sustainable.

"It means quite a bit for my work, because it allows me to hit the ground running with equipment, staff, and students. My state-of-the-art genomics lab is now fully operational only 7 months after my position began. This would have taken years without the help of the CRC program." - Dr. Scott Pavey, CRI Associate

The full Government of Canada announcement can be seen here

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.

Celebrating Where Rivers Meet the Sea: CRI marks World Wetlands Day

How do we monitor the health of our estuaries?

CRI helps groups and decision-makers better understand and manage estuaries and ecosystem of the Northumberland Strait

Five years ago, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was not able to tell how much sediment was flowing down streams into the Northumberland Strait. Now, groundbreaking research led by scientists within the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) provides answers.

“We were in a situation in Prince Edward Island where nobody could tell how much sediment was going down a stream in a year,” says Dr. Michael van den Heuvel, lead researcher on The Northumberland Strait Environmental Monitoring Partnership (NorSt–EMP) and Institute Director of CRI.

“We now know how to monitor sediment flows, and have put together a predictive model  for sediment load that can be applied across the province. Our research will enable us to model all of the sediment coming out of P.E.I. streams and flowing into the Northumberland Strait in the near future.”

The NorSt—EMP project is part of the Canadian Watershed Research Consortium Program funded by the Canadian Water Network. This national initiative, launched in 2010, tackles one of the greatest challenges in environmental monitoring today: how to develop monitoring for cumulative effects assessments.

van den Heuvel notes that the Canadian Watershed Research Consortium was dominated by the CRI. Of the six nodes, three were led by CRI Scientific Directors, and another had heavy CRI involvement.

Cumulative effects assessment is a means of examining the risk to components of the ecosystem that people want to protect because of the social, economic or ecological value. Cumulative impacts assessment turns the normal process of environmental impacts assessment upside down — rather than examining the impacts of a particular activity, it examines the impacts of all past, current and proposed activities on the valued ecosystem component. While the concept has existed for decades, and is enshrined in Canadian legislation, it has not been effectively applied.

The reason, says Dr. Simon Courtenay, a CRI Science Director, Scientific Director of the Canadian Water Network and NorSt—EMP researcher, is few people understand exactly what the term entails.

“When we’re talking about cumulative effects, we’re talking about the sum of all of the activities we’re doing that impact the environment, and we’re talking about the sum over time,” says Courtenay, a professor at the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at University of Waterloo and Scientific Director of the Canadian Water Network. “So instead of doing affects assessments as a one-off whenever a new project is being proposed by a community sector, what is required is an understanding of the local geography, an understanding the ecosystems of that part of the world, and you need to understand the processes that drive change well enough that you can make real predictions about the impact your project is going to have.”

NorSt—EMP was initiated in 2011 as a partnership between government, industry and non-governmental organizations to build a monitoring framework to support cumulative effects assessment in the Northumberland Strait. The partnership represents exactly the type of applied science in which CRI researchers excel — investigating practical answers to real-world questions posed by end-users. 

“We’re a very applied research institute and we like to work with solutions for end-users. Our aim is to support water resource managers in understanding how aquatic ecosystem such as rivers and estuaries function and knowing the best monitoring frameworks to apply,” says van den Heuvel.

NorSt—EMP stakeholders identified the influx of sediments, contaminants and nutrients from land-based activities that degrade the rivers, estuaries and the coastal regions of the Strait. The study focused on a number of valued ecosystem components in streams and estuaries including native fish species such as brook trout, seagrass meadows in the estuaries, and the invertebrate and fish fauna that live in the seagrass habitat.

van den Heuvel says the research undertaken over the course of the four-year project has advanced the understanding of how cumulative effects assessments can be tackled in a number of ways. In addition to major gains in sediment monitoring, researchers applied new technology in monitoring nutrients such as oxygen and and eelgrass, to identify inputs coming into the estuary.

For both Courtenay and van den Heuvel, equally as satisfying as the scientific advances made through NorSt—EMP are the myriad opportunities the project created for students within the CRI network. The project involved four researchers — all CRI directors or associates — and eight students representing PhD students, masters students and undergraduates.

“The students had the opportunity to interact with a multitude of end-users — probably from 30 different organizations such as the federal government, provincial government, NGOs and industry,” says van den Heuvel. “It’s quite a unique opportunity for students to interact with so many end-users in terms of how their research is regarded and being used.”

“I think the project is cutting edge research, but also, what’s exciting for the students is the chance to be part of something bigger,“ adds Courtenay. “They’re involved in a program that has nodes all across Canada, trying to address the same questions but in different geographies and with different particulars.”

NorSt—EMP researchers are meeting in Moncton this month to discuss next steps and share their findings with DFO officials. They will then join the researchers from all six nodes of the Canadian Watershed Research Consortium Program in Calgary next March to discuss the best ways to take what they’ve learned and continue advancing the research around frameworks for cumulative effects assessments.

Water Initiative for the Future: Graduate Student Conference July 2016

The Water Research Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada is pleased to be hosting another successful Water Initiative for the Future (WatIF): Graduate Student Conference July 2016. Due to the overwhelming success at the first national WatIF Graduate Conference in 2014, the graduate student organizing committee has decided to host it another year but with some exciting news: WatIF 2016 will be going international!

For now, please mark your calendars!

Event Summary:
What: International, inter- and multidisciplinary graduate student water conference
When: July 27 - 29, 2016
Where: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Who: 200+ of the brightest graduate students from any water related disciplines or research topics across the globe and leading experts in the water industry.

Call for Abstracts OPENS: February 11, 2016
Please monitor the website for the call for abstracts and information on how to register in the near future!

WatIF is a conference designed for graduate students by graduate students with the intention of fostering the next generation of water researchers and leaders. WatIF provides an amazing opportunity to establish relationships among peers, which will allow us to learn, grow, and work together now and in the future in order to bring about awareness and change in water management. At this conference, you receive the chance to showcase your hard work, receive feedback and potentially obtain future collaborations!

The Economics and Environmental Policy Research Network is seeking academic research projects

The Economics and Environmental Policy Research Network (EEPRN) is seeking academic research project proposals in the following research areas:

  • Policies for a Low Carbon Economy;

  • Innovation & Competitiveness;

  • Conservation (including species at risk protection);

  • Data Set Development & Linkages

This is an opportunity to:

  • Produce research to advance innovative policies relevant to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s mandate;

  • Present your research to a policy and academic audience at the annual EEPRN Research Symposium in Spring 2017.

To be eligible:

  • Proposals may be submitted by faculty, graduate students, or post-doctoral fellows;

  • Research projects must be completed by March 2017;

  • Proposals generally not exceeding $25,000 per year will be considered for funding.  

Deadline is Sunday February 28, 2016, 11:59 pm EST. 

Webinar: health assessments for the St John-St.Croix and Maritime Coastal Watersheds

Since 2013, WWF-Canada has been working to complete a national assessment of the health of and threats to the country’s 25 major watersheds.  We are currently in the process of completing assessments for the Saint John-St. Croix watershed as well as the Maritime Coastal watershed (see map for reference).

You are invited to participate in a webinar where WWF-Canada will be presenting the preliminary results for the Saint John-St. Croix and Maritime Coastal watersheds.  These preliminary results build on earlier versions of the Saint John-St. Croix and Maritime Coastal watershed assessments by including previously unassessed territory within these two watersheds and by incorporating new data.

Before launching these updated results on our website later this year, we want to give you the opportunity to view the preliminary results, ask questions, and/or provide feedback.  The presentation will be delivered in English, however, presenters will be able to respond to French queries should there be any.

To add this webinar to your calendar, please open the attached meeting invitation.

Call in details are below:

Monday, February 1, 2016
2:00 pm  |  Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00)  |  1 hr

Join WebEx meeting
Meeting number:
708 795 196
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