Who are you and what do you do?
Scott Hinch. Professor of Fisheries Conservation in the Faculty of Forestry. I study salmon ecology, behaviour and physiology. My work has a strong ‘applied’ aspect to it as much of it aims to provide fisheries management systems with information needed for the conservation and sustainable use of fish resources. I teach three undergraduate courses that deal with aquatic sciences, fish ecology, fisheries management and field methods. I am also the Director for the undergraduate degree program in Natural Resources Conservation, the largest program in the Faculty.
When did you begin working at UBC?
I began in 1992 as a postdoctoral fellow and became a faculty member in 1994.
What motivates you personally to undertake your research?
I have always had a deep passion and fascination for aquatic systems, and have loved being on boats, and working in and around water. Studying the most iconic fish species in BC, Pacific Salmon, was a goal of mine since I was an undergraduate student. Pacific salmon are so important to our society economically, socially, culturally, that I wanted to undertake research that would be impactful and important to conserving this important animal.
When did you know you were going to focus on this area? What was your "aha!" moment?
There have been many ‘aha’ moments during my research career but since I started, I have always tried to use cutting-edge surveillance and tracking technologies that have opened up new understandings of salmon behaviour and their migrations. With each new technological advance, we learn more about the remarkable abilities that salmon have to migrate 1000s of kilometres from freshwater to oceans and back again. Moreover, we learn how human activities and in particular climate change, are affecting salmon’s ability to survive.
What is the ultimate goal of your research program?
I hope to bring new awareness of the issues confronting salmon and limiting their ability to survive in an ever-changing environment and recommend possible solutions to help sustain and conserve populations.
How does your work with animals advance the research you are doing?
We study salmon migrations at the individual fish level, tracking them and relating their behaviour and fate to their physiological state (are they stressed, do they have diseases, are they senescing, are they injured, etc.). These approaches have demonstrated clearly how climate change, warming water temperatures, fisheries interactions, habitat changes, directly affect an individual fish, and by extension, affects population sustainability.
Why is the use of animals necessary in your research?
Because I study behaviour and examine the physiological mechanisms that underlie salmon’s swimming and migration abilities, working directly with these animals is a core part of the research I undertake.
Outside of your research, if I want to engage you in conversation, what should I ask you about?
I am passionate about teaching, mentoring and educating our next generation of conservationists, and am keen to provide advice on how kids of all ages can help be a better environmental citizen. I also enjoy talking about hockey – I have two girls that have played competitive hockey with boys, I coach and bring my mentoring skills to these sorts of non-academic pursuits!
Research involving animals can be an emotive topic. What do you say to people who are unsure how to feel about it?
I agree that using animals in research can be at times controversial. What is most important in my opinion is to maintain the highest regard for animal welfare during any type of animal-based research. In the ‘fishy’ world, these animals are sometimes not given the same level of concern, as might be given to mammals, by those that harvest or otherwise exploit them for food, recreation or commerce. Part of my research focusses on developing better ways for humans to handle fish during harvest so that we can ensure that stress is minimized and that the welfare of these iconic animals is held to the highest standards.