Rachel’s PhD research focuses on the meta-population structure and population dynamics of fluvial bull trout within the Upper Fraser Watershed (UFW), British Columbia. Bull trout, a species endemic to the northwest United States and western Canada, have designated conservation status in both nations. This is the result of the species’ expiration from portions of its historic range and observed reductions in population size and population persistence across the species’ range.

Rachel’s thesis research is being conducted in close collaboration with the British Columbia Provincial Government. The thesis first explores the compensation potential for bull trout as a species, and then uses a radio-telemetry study to explore bull trout migration patterns within the UFW. This information is incorporated into a computer model of the UFW meta-population, using risk analysis to access the potential impacts of various management actions (specifically, to explore if harvest of bull trout within the UFW could be biologically sustainable).

The goal of this research is to expand our understanding biological limits to sustainable harvest based on meta-population structure, seasonal movements and juvenile compensatory survival. The outcomes of Rachel’s thesis research will be used to help inform provincial managers in their decision making for the management of this species, both within the UFW and beyond.

View of helicopter from sampling location

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Prior to starting her PhD at UBC’s IOF, Rachel completed her MSc. with Dr. Villy Christensen at UBC as part of Canada’s CFRN network ( In this research, she investigated lessons learned from historic management and policy used in commercial crustacean fisheries within Canada and internationally. This thesis also explored the implications of the Larocque Decision on Canadian fisheries, with particular attention on the BC Dungeness crab fishery in Area A.

Prior to her MSc. research, Rachel completed her BSc. Honours at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she carried out honours research with Dr. Boris Worm exploring the potential causes of jellyfish biomass increases in the world’s oceans. Following her undergrad, Rachel worked on juvenile lobster settlement and lobster maturity with both Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Fishermen Scientists Research Society in Bedford, NS.

Thesis Topic

Evaluating harvest potential for a fluvial bull trout population

Supervisor(s) Name(s)
Murdoch McAllister and Brett van Poorten
Research Funding and Partners

Funding though the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation:

In collaboration with the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations

Harper, S., Bevacqua, D., Chudnow, R. Giorgi, S. Guillonneau, V. Le Manach, F., Sutor, T. and Sumaila, U. 2012. Fuelling the fisheries subsidy debate: Agreements, loopholes and implications. Fisheries Research. 113(1). Pg. 143-146.