Fish & Habitats– Genetics Program
Genetic diversity is essential for the
continued existence and evolution of healthy fish populations. Genetic differences exist among populations within a species
and reflect isolation from other populations and adaptations to local conditions (such as water temperatures, seasonal
changes in water flow, available food and presence of
predators). Genetic diversity provides the flexibility that
allows a population to survive changing conditions — this is especially important when either natural or human-induced
changes to climate, hydrology, habitat or community structure
(including changes in competitors, predators or pathogens)
occur. It is important to understand how genetic diversity is
distributed within a species to adequately protect and manage
The Provincial Genetics Program is involved in several projects that use genetic techniques to describe
diversity. These projects include:
- Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) genetic
stock identification — Genetic
markers are being developed to identify groups of
summer-run and fall-run steelhead trout in the by-catch of commercial, aboriginal and sports fisheries. This allows
us to determine when different populations are passing
through the fishery and recommend changes to fishing plans if these populations are being over-exploited. e.g.
Thompson River, Skeena River.
- Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)
zoogeography and meta-population studies — Using
genetic techniques, the major ancestral lines of bull trout
in B.C. have been identified. The current location of their
descendants indicates post-glacial dispersal
routes. By combining similar information from both plant
and animal species, important glacial refugia can be
described and protected. The meta-population studies
consider how genetic diversity is distributed within
watersheds among mainstem rivers and their tributary
streams. This information is used to determine levels of
isolation and vulnerability of different populations
to facilitate species protection in forests, mines and
other land-use planning processes.
- White sturgeon (Acipencer transmontanus)
genetic diversity project — Similar to the bull trout
studies, different genetic techniques are combined to
identify major ancestral lines and distinct populations.
This information is very important when developing recovery
plans for populations that are no longer self-sustaining.
- Okanagan Lake kokanee stock identification
- Dolly Varden zoogeography
- Coastal and westslope cutthroat trout genetic diversity
- Hatchery rainbow trout broodstock evaluation
Reports and Articles
Taylor, E.B., S. Harvey, S. Pollard, and J. Volpe. 1997.
Postglacial genetic differentiation of reproductive ecotypes of kokanee Oncorhynchus nerka in Okanagan Lake, British
Columbia. Molecular Ecology 6:503-517
Taylor, E.B., S.M. Pollard and D. Louie. 1999.
Zoogeography and evolution of bull trout (Salvelinus
confluentus) in northwestern North America: insights from
mitochondrial DNA. Molecular Ecology 8:1156-1170.
Beacham, T.D., S. Pollard and Kkai D. Le. 1999. Population
structure and stock identification of steelhead in southern
British Columbia, Washington, and the Columbia River based
on microsatellite DNA variation. Transactions of the
American Fisheries Society 128:1068-1084.
University of British Columbia — Dr. Eric Taylor
State of Alaska Dept. of Fish and Wildlife — genetics