Ryan Power

MSc Candidate (January 2012 - present) 


Ryan PowerHometown: Saint John, NB
Education: BSc, Environmental Biology, 2006, UNB Saint John
Contact: r.power@unb.ca, 648-5843

Research: "Determining differences in life history characteristics in sentinel fish species using dredged vs undredged areas in the Saint John Harbour." (Co-supervised by Dr. Simon Courtenay)

My current research focuses on determining if there are life history characteristic differences in finfish that use dredged versus undredged sites in the Saint John Harbour. This will help in developing a site specific regional monitoring framework for the Saint John Harbour Environmental Monitoring Partnership (SJH-EMP).

This is the first time cumulative effects assessment (CEA) is being used in the Saint John Harbour or any marine environment for that matter, looking at natural variability. The hope is to provide baseline data and allow for adaptive management if specified measurement endpoints go outside natural variability and to be able to reassess conditions over time.

The objective of this thesis is to determine if there are differences in life history characteristics in finfish in dredged vs. undredged sites. I want to select several sentinel species and measure hard endpoints to determine the extent of natural variability using cumulative effects assessment (CEA) methods. These hard endpoints were first developed for the Canadian Pulp and Paper Environmental Effects Monitoring (EEM) program: indices of survival (age structure), reproduction (gonad size relative to body weight; number and size of eggs), growth (size-at-age), and energy stores (liver size relative to body weight, weight at length). 

EROD levels (certain liver enzymes) which respond to presence of certain contaminants like dioxins, furans and PCBs will also be measured. Abundance and species richness in the harbour for CEA analysis will also be part of the study to determine natural variability in the harbour. Looking at fish populations to determine ecological health of a marine system gives us the sensitivity of a biochemical response with the ecological relevance of community responses.

I am also interested in comparing responses of sentinel finfish populations with invertebrate populations. One challenge of sampling fish in an estuarine environment is the paucity of fish in marine and estuarine environments, with this comes the need to have alternatives to fish population monitoring.

A potential alternative to finfish population endpoint, benthic community, caged bivalve, or mesocosm studies could be to look at invertebrate populations such as the European Green Crab (Carcinus maenus). Comparing hard endpoints of an invertebrate sentinel to the finfish sentinel will allow us to determine if the green crab is a viable option for environmental monitoring.

The sentinel finfish species I am focusing on are Longhorn Sculpin (Myoxocephalus octodecemspinosus), Tomcod (Microgadus tomcod), and Winter Flounder (americanus). These species we are interested in are (relatively) sedentary, sexually mature adults, which are sensitive to the discharges and exposed to those discharges for a long period of time. I hope to use these species to determine the ecological health of the Saint John Harbour.