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Stickleback Summer

by Tristan Kosciuch

This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver Island under the supervision of Andrew Hendry. With support from the QCBS Biodiversity Science Discovery Award, I was able to spend three months assisting with a population estimate for an endangered population of stickleback while simultaneously collecting data for my own project. I’ll talk about my project shortly, but first, Vancouver Island! I spent the majority of the time camping in a little logging town called Port McNeill on the northern end of the island. While there I got to meet fishing guides, loggers, and other locals who I would never have interacted with otherwise. I spent almost every day hiking, and nights were spent at camp under the stars (clouds actually, it rained a ton).


Setting traps along the stream. Photo by Andrew Hendry


Measuring stream width. Photo by Andrew Hendry

In the field I was collecting data for my ongoing project, which is looking for morphological variations in Gasterosteus aculeatus within the Misty lake, inlet, and outlet stream populations. G. aculeatus, or threespine stickleback, are known to show quite dramatic variations based on the environment. Strong morphological differences can be seen in the Misty lake system by comparing fish from the inlet and lake, and these morphological variations have a genetic basis (1). Outlet fish resemble lake fish, but are typically larger. Most work on the variation of stickleback in lake-stream systems has either focused on variation between the lake, inlet, and outlet streams or looking for variation in the inlet/outlet streams as the distance from the lake increases. My project, however, is looking for variations correlated to environmental factors within the each habitat.

The QCBS BSD award has given me more than just my own project, it’s given me my first taste of research. This experience has helped me clarify my desire to continue on to graduate studies and the lessons that I have learned from this project will help me with my future ones. I am extremely grateful to the QCBS for allowing this experience to happen and for their overall encouragement of undergraduate research. 

To learn more about the work in British Colombia and other projects in the Hendry lab, please visit their website.


Dusk in Port McNeill.

  1. Lavin, P. A., and McPhail, J. D. 1993. Parapatric lake and stream sticklebacks on northern Vancouver Island: disjunct distribution or parallel evolution? Can. J. Zool. 71: 11-17
Post date: March 01, 2017


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