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Media opportunity: Researchers help wild Atlantic salmon cool off during lengthy river migration by creating custom thermal refuges, as waters warm and populations decline

Posted by Communications and Marketing on November 1, 2023 in News

When temperatures soar to uncomfortable heights, people often seek out cooler spots to find relief from the heat.

Salmon do the same thing as they begin their journey from their ocean habitat to spawning grounds that can be thousands of miles away.

The trek back to their birthplace is difficult enough, but is becoming more challenging as freshwater rivers are getting warmer and less hospitable for cold-water species. Because of that, wild Atlantic salmon will often take breaks in cold-water nooks known as thermal refuges, which are dwindling because of the rising water temperatures.

Now, researchers are trying to provide more opportunities for them to rest and recover by creating two different human-made cooling stations for the fish. In one, they pumped cold water into a warm river and in the other, they dug an underground trench in the river where redirected water would cool hidden from the sun.

The approaches -- the first of their kind -- worked. Underwater wildlife cameras showed salmon congregating in the engineered thermal refuges, along with other species that sought relief during a heat wave.

Kathryn Smith, a PhD candidate in Dalhousie University's Coastal Hydrology Lab group, led the research project which was funded by the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. She is available, along with her supervisor Dr. Barret Kurylyk, to discuss the innovative way to proactively maintain thermal diversity in warming rivers and stave off the further decline of an endangered species.

Photos available upon request.


Media contact:

Alison Auld 
Senior Research Reporter 
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services 
Dalhousie University 
Cell: 1-902-220-0491 


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