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Special Sessions

SS1: A river runs through it: the state of the St. Lawrence system from inland waters to the sea

Organizers: François Guillemette (UQTR), Zofia Taranu (ECCC), Gesche Winkler (UQAR), Tony Ricciardi


This session will bring together researchers working in the St. Lawrence ecosystem from its freshwater source in Lake Ontario to its marine coastal outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. We invite talks on all aspects touching the ecology of this ecosystem from microbes to fish, behaviour through to ecosystem services and contaminants. By bringing together research focused on the St. Lawrence ecosystem, we hope to stimulate further cross-cutting collaboration between aquatic scientists (freshwater, estuarine and marine) as well as to highlight the main challenges currently facing one of the most important aquatic ecosystems in Canada and globally.

SS2: Socio-ecology: Including the human dimension in fisheries and aquatic ecosystems management

Organizers: Katrine Turgeon (UQO) and Vivian Nguyen (Carleton).

Fisheries, conservation, and the management of aquatic ecosystems have traditionally been dominated by knowledge informed by natural sciences. However, social and ecological systems are interdependent and constantly evolving. We do not manage fish nor aquatic resources; we manage the human that use them. The implementation of solutions thus requires a socio-ecological approach, and the human dimensions of fisheries and aquatic management are critical for ensuring that conservation strategy and policies are effective. This special session will bring together researchers from both natural and social sciences to propose solutions and resolve challenges that can only be achieved by considering these two dimensions together. Presentations describing and/or synthesizing new tools and approaches to examine socio-ecological systems are also welcome.

SS3: Aquatic invasive species: Risks to biodiversity and fisheries under rapid global change

Organizer: Olivier Morissette (UQAC) and Tony Ricciardi (McGill).

Invasive species in freshwater and coastal marine systems pose potentially large risks to biodiversity and fisheries. Their propensity to interact with other forms of global change, most notably land use and climate warming, challenges risk assessment and resource management. This session features research from across a range of aquatic ecosystems and regions, involving diverse taxa (fishes, invertebrates, plants, microbes) and environmental contexts. Collectively, these studies will increase our understanding of factors affecting the colonization success and impacts of nonnative species, as well as emerging trends that could predict how invasion risks are changing.

SS4: From molecules to organismal communities: Northern aquatic ecosystems in a warming climate

Organizer: Jerome Comte (INRS-ETE)

Northern aquatic ecosystems are experiencing important changes in their structure. As climate continues to warm, the connectivity between these ecosystems and their surrounding landscape is being modified. For example, thawing permafrost represent a source of nutrients, carbon and microbes to lakes and rivers, whereas the reduction of lake ice cover allows exchange of materials including contaminants and microbes with the atmosphere, often for the first time in millennia. Yet, the implications of these changes that occur at different spatial, temporal, trophic and biological scales on aquatic ecosystem functioning (e.g., biogeochemical cycles), biodiversity (e.g., from microbes to fish and other vertebrates) and services (e.g., food and water security) remain poorly understood. The session invites contributions on biogeochemistry as well as plankton (Bacteria, Archaea, viruses, fungi and other microbial eukaryotes, phyto- and zooplankton), fish and aquatic communities from Arctic and sub-Arctic environments. The aim of this session is to encourage broad (from molecules to genes to taxa and communities) and comparative research across spatial and environmental gradients, as well as connectivity between aquatic ecosystems and other habitats (terrestrial, atmosphere). By bringing together scientists with diverse expertise, this session will contribute to our understanding of the processes that underlie the response of northern ecosystems to global warming.

SS5: Abrupt change and range shifts in aquatic ecosystems: evidence, models, and consequences

Organizers: Eric Pedersen (Concordia), Zofia Taranu (ECCC).

As multiple anthropogenic stressors increasingly perturb aquatic ecosystems, more cases of abrupt changes in community composition are expected across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This includes the rapid decline or increase of specific species or groups of species, or the arrival of novel species into an ecosystem. Individual cases of abrupt change tend to be studied as system- and species- specific events, with a focus on finding single causes of the change. However, there is increasing evidence that abrupt change can occur as a result of multiple interacting drivers and lagged environmental responses, and that connections between different ecosystems can strongly affect the resilience of communities to abrupt change.

The goal of this session is to bring together experts studying rapid ecological change across different aquatic ecosystems to discuss cases of abrupt change and range shifts in Canadian waters. We invite contributions presenting observations on ongoing or prior cases of abrupt ecological change or range shifts. We also seek contributions from studies examining the causes of different periods of abrupt ecological change, and statistical, computational, and mathematical work into how to model or detect abrupt change and range shifts.

SS6: Darkening waters: effects on ecosystem functions, services and biodiversity

Organizers: Allison Roth (McGill), Maude Lachapelle (ECCC), Zofia Taranu (ECCC) and Rene Gregory-Eaves (McGill).

Aquatic browning can drastically affect both biological and chemical processes, which may result in changes to ecosystem functions and services. The effects of aquatic browning may span multiple trophic levels (i.e., from bacteria to fish) and multiple biological scales (i.e., from individuals to communities). In this session, scientists working on a variety of questions related to aquatic browning will have the opportunity to come together to discuss the current standing of the field, recent findings, methodological approaches, and future avenues for research.

SS7: Long term records provide key insights into regional and global change processes

Organizers: Marie-Eve Monchamp, David Zilkey and Rene Gregory-Eaves (McGill).

It is well accepted that we are living in an era of rapid change, but there is a heterogeneity in both stressor combinations and ecosystem responses across geographic landscapes. In this session, we will bring together scientists working with diverse time series data (ranging from remote sensing to long-term monitoring and paleolimnology) to discuss recent findings, analytical approaches and synergies among data streams. Our goal is to highlight the importance of time-series data in anchoring our understanding of environmental processes across spatial and temporal scales.

SS8: Approaches for Aquatic Biomonitoring in the Age of the Anthropocene

Organizers: Bob Brua (ECCC), Adam Yates (Waterloo) and Karen Smokorowski (DFO).

The past fifty years of research and application of aquatic biomonitoring has generated foundational research initiating global implementation of monitoring and assessment programs. These programs have generated vast databases describing ecological conditions in ecosystems around the globe. Yet, despite the resounding success and impact of aquatic biomonitoring to date, we continue to see degradation of aquatic ecosystems. This degradation is associated with expanding and intensifying influence of human activities and the growing recognition of how interactive and cumulative impacts of common stressors are leading to “wicked problems”. Consequently, aquatic ecosystems are more threatened than ever. Moreover, there is increasing demand that biomonitoring must be diagnostic to better inform decision- makers as to the consequences and benefits of management action, or inaction. Fortunately, these challenges are arising at a time when there has been an explosion of new technologies and approaches that could transform biomonitoring and position the field to meet the needs of practitioners and managers moving forward. This session will bring together researchers to share ideas on recent developments in aquatic biomonitoring that will help position Canada to address existing and emerging threats to aquatic sustainability in the coming decades. Presentations describing approaches and techniques from all aquatic ecosystems and biological levels are encouraged.

SS9: Regulated aquatic ecosystems: understanding environmental and sociological footprints, and developing solutions

Organizers: Marc Amyot (Université de Montréal), François Bilodeau (Hydro-Québec), Eric Atagotaaluk (Innavik Hydro).

Aquatic ecosystems are increasingly regulated by dams in order to prevent floods, produce hydroelectricity, irrigate agriculture or control water. Such water regulation can result in unintended environmental footprints and sociological impacts on neighboring, often Indigenous communities. For instance, in Canada and elsewhere, an increasing proportion of energy is produced by hydroelectric dams with reservoirs, and by run-of-the-river power plants. Here we propose to report the most recent, cutting-edge research, on the impacts of water regulation on the cycling of elements (such as carbon and mercury), on the production of greenhouse gases, on biodiversity, and on hydrology. We also seek contributions on the sociological impact of such anthropogenic changes on communities and on how communities and industry can help shape solutions. We encourage submissions on research done at different scales, from the molecule to the landscape, and from local case studies to global assessments. Studies co-constructed with communities and integrating traditional knowledge are particularly welcomed.

SS10: Genes, Genetics and Genomics in Aquatic Science: Applications and New Developments

Organizers: Paul Bentzen (Dalhousie), Ian Bradbury (DFO), Daniel Heath (Windsor).

The application of genetic technologies broadly defined in aquatic science has increased rapidly over the last 20 years, driven by unique opportunities to use the technology for pressing issues in fisheries management, aquatic ecosystem characterization/monitoring and aquatic conservation. Additionally, novel genetic technologies are fuelling new applications almost monthly. The purpose of this session is to provide aquatic science researchers, professionals and students a forum to present their cutting-edge work and interact with Canada’s top aquatic geneticists/genomicists. The scope of the session will be broad, encompassing; 1) genomic and gene function analyses in aquatic vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and microorganisms, 2) aquatic meta-genomics and meta-transcriptomics, 3) environmental DNA/RNA, as well as other emerging genetic/genomic technologies in aquatic science. This session will be sponsored by the Genome Canada, Ontario and Quebec network GEN-FISH.

SS11: Canadian Rivers: understanding flowing water ecosystems in a changing world

Organizers: Michelle Gray (CRI, UNB) and André St. Hilaire (INRS-ETE).

Management of rivers is challenged by the interactions and fluxes in physical, chemical, and biological processes, current human impacts, as well as consideration of future changes in hydrological regimes due to climate change. It is critical to manage these waters using best-available science to maintain ecosystem health. However, a key question to maintain the health of river ecosystems is “what makes a river a healthy river?”. This session will highlight collaborative multidisciplinary research projects focused on understanding Canadian riverine ecosystems. This session will bring together researchers using state-of-the-art methods in remote sensing, genomics, hydrological, water quality and environmental flow analysis and modelling, as well as traditional environmental research techniques. It is anticipated that the exchanges during this special session will be a step toward the creation of a holistic framework for monitoring and assessing the health of river ecosystems and understanding the potential future impacts of climate change on these systems. Session contributions will include approaches across a range of scales, from microbiotic interactions to full scale waterscape models, that will reflect the complexity of river ecosystem dynamics and the human impacts on these systems.

SS12: Reflections and Looking Forward: Diverse Insights and Guidance for the Next Generation of Aquatic Science Practitioners (by invitation)

Organizer: Albana Berberi (Carleton)

Conservation and management of aquatic resources require multiple disciplinary approaches and solutions. FishCAST, an NSERC-funded CREATE program, is proposing to support an early-career researcher-led session panel featuring panelists with diverse backgrounds and experiences working in the aquatic-science field. The panel will be an opportunity to learn about what each panelist does within their field of practice, how they have seen their field changing, and where they see their discipline heading in terms of new issues/opportunities. Panel discussions will also draw attention to the importance of co-production and collaboration in the aquatic-sciences by highlighting successful examples of such approaches. We will also learn what aspects of the aquatic sciences the panelists wished they knew more about to provide added value to their careers, and areas they feel would benefit from greater co-engagement.

SS13: New Insights into Ecosystem Dynamics from Size Spectra

Organizer: Kyle Krumsick (Concordia)

Size represents a key aspect of an organisms’ biology and will influence how it interacts with its environment. Sometimes termed the “master trait,” it has been shown to influence life history characteristic, metabolic rate, movement capabilities, and trophic interactions which contribute to the creation of size-structured communities. As such, body size distributions and size spectra have been suggested as potential universal indicators of ecological status. The distribution of sizes for an individual species can provide insights into, for example, recruitment potential and the interplay between productivity and mortality (natural and fishing). When analyzing size spectra from the viewpoint of community ecology, size has been proposed as a means of simplifying otherwise complex community and food-web structure as well as trends in productivity. Whether we are studying at a single species or on the community level, human activities such as fishing activities have been shown to have measurable impacts on the distributions of observed sizes. This session was therefore designed explore the diverse ways in which size-based indicators have been used to measure ecosystem structure and resilience within fisheries and conservation biology within Canadian aquatic ecosystems as well as explore the various directions the field of size-based ecosystem modelling may take in the future.

SS14: Indigenous Fisheries – Knowledge, Science, and Futures

Organizers: Andrea Reid (UBC), Myrle Ballard (ECCC) and Sue Chiblow (Guelph).

To address contemporary ecological and social crises in fisheries, this session seeks to build up and celebrate a community of Indigenous scholars, knowledge keepers, fishers, artists, activists, as well as allies working with and for Indigenous fishing communities and cultures. For this symposium, we plan to centre ceremony, practice, legal systems, languages, stories, and science that work towards engaging in and restoring just and healthy relations between fish, people, and place. We endeavour to deliver a hybrid event to encourage widespread and free access to our session, and we welcome contributions from all geographies while committing to working closely with those whose territories we will be on during this conference.

SS15: Collaboration in action: partnerships with Indigenous communities in fisheries and aquatic sciences

Organizers: Dylan Fraser (Concordia), Kathleen Church (McGill), Raphael Bouchard (Université Laval), Thais Bernos (Concordia), Katrine Turgeon (UQO).

The co-development of knowledge and complementarity of different ways of knowing is imperative for sound natural resource stewardship in Canada. As a result, the number of research partnerships between Indigenous communities/organizations and natural science researchers is growing rapidly. This session will provide a forum for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants to share the benefits, challenges and experiences associated with such partnerships, as well as to identify future needs to support Indigenous-led or Indigenized aquatic conservation and fisheries stewardship. The session intends to represent a range of perspectives, such as celebrating Indigenous cultural and ecological values, Indigenous community differences in natural resource stewardship, and applying multi- disciplinary approaches to resource stewardship. We welcome presentations or panelists on a variety of different issues in fisheries and aquatic sciences (e.g. harvesting, hydro, water quality, climate change etc).

SS16: Progress and Priorities for the Recovery of Aquatic Species at Risk

Organizers: Christine Madliger (Windsor), Steven Cooke (Carleton), Trevor Pitcher (Windsor), Marco Rodriguez (UQTR)

The federal Species at Risk Act was enacted in 2003 as a legal mechanism to identify, protect, and drive the recovery of wildlife species listed as at-risk in Canada. While the Species at Risk Act has received criticism that it fails to protect Canadian biodiversity due to listing process delays and biases, there are clear examples of progress in recovery planning and management actions. We propose a session to showcase the diverse research and practice contributing to the recovery of species at risk across Canada, with an emphasis on aquatic species, both freshwater and marine. Session topics will span taxonomic groups to include fishes, mussels, marine mammals, turtles, and plants. Attendees will also be exposed to a wide toolbox of approaches used in species at risk recovery strategies and their recent advances, including population monitoring, habitat restoration, delineation of habitat requirements and tolerances, reintroduction, and strategies for threat monitoring and mitigation. We aim to illustrate the multidisciplinary approaches that come into play during species at risk recovery, and how to increase interconnectedness and transferability across the aquatic sciences. To appeal to a wide audience, we will further emphasize the links between science, policy, and practice. In addition to research focused on federally-listed species, we will integrate provincial and territorial case studies and appreciate the value of a local to national perspective. Finally, the session will be forward-thinking by highlighting research priorities for the future of species at risk protection and recovery in Canadian aquatic systems.

SS17: A Framework for Inclusive Science Communication in Canada (by invitation)

Organizers: Diane Orihel and Shelley Arnott (Queens U.)

The aim of the proposed session is to inspire a conversation on how we develop a framework for ‘inclusive science communication’ in Canada. Primary literature on science and society has shifted away from the concept of the singular ‘public’ to that of ‘publics’, reflecting the plurality of society. Yet, science communication practices continue to be shaped by structural inequities and social inequalities. Marginalized individuals and communities have historically been overlooked and undervalued in the process of public engagement with science, reflecting the cultural narrowness and often racist subtexts of mainstream science communication. It is misguided to invite people from minority ethnic or disadvantaged backgrounds into science communication without fundamentally reimagining its practice. An overhaul that adopts diverse models of science communication is long overdue. More specifically, we need a new paradigm for science communication — one that expands a sense of belonging in the sciences, embraces different knowledge systems, and weaves cross-cultural connections. The term “inclusive science communication” has recently been coined to refer to any effort to engage people in the sciences that is grounded in equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigenization, and is characterized by intentionality, reciprocity, and reflexivity. Reimagining science communication through an equity lens requires communicators to frame science in ways that are salient to diverse audiences while acknowledging and mitigating discriminatory practices that have marginalized communities historically. Importantly, an inclusive approach to science communication is empowering to communicators and audiences alike, as it recognizes and celebrates their diverse identities, experiences, and ways of knowing.

Interactivity: We will invite a panel of guest speakers to initiate a broader discussion around inclusive science communication. After the panel, we will use World Café discussions and a final report-back to enhance interactivity. We will work with the panel to establish a list of questions for discussion.

SS18: Fish Production in Aquatic Ecosystems

Organizers: Marc Trudel (DFO), Pascal Sirois (UQAC), Eva Enders (INRS-ETE)

This special session honours the career contributions of Dr. Daniel Boisclair (2000 J.C. Stevenson Award recipient) toward understanding fish production in aquatic ecosystems.  For nearly four decades, Dr. Boisclair’s work has advanced our understanding of the processes regulating fish production and community structure that have management implications for maintaining healthy fish populations.  This session will feature a series of research presentations focusing on factors affecting fish production and community structures in aquatic ecosystems including bioenergetics, growth, habitat quality, flow regimes, and climate change.

Regular Session Topics

 Regular Session (RS)Session Chair 
 RS1: Watersheds & BiogeochemistryJean-François Lapierre, U de Montréal
 RS2: Aquatic Food WebsGesche Winkler, UQAR
 RS3: Behavioural EcologyMarco Rodriquez, UQTR
 RS4: Climate ChangeYves Prairie, UQAM
 RS5: Cumulative Effects & StressorsZofia Taranu, ECCC
 RS6: FishKaren Smokorowski and Cindy Chu, DFO
 RS7: Fisheries Management & Stock AssessmentEric Pedersen, Concordia
 RS8: Plastics in Inland and Coastal WatersKathleen Church, McGill
 RS9: Water Quality & PhytoplanktonBeatrix Beisner, UQAM

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