OFAH Student Research Grants
The OFAH Student Research Grant process is complete for 2021. Thank you to all of the students that applied. Please check back in fall 2021 for the next application process.
Winners of the 2021 OFAH Student Research Grants
OFAH Zone H Fisheries Research Grant
Christian Therrien, University of Waterloo
“Prevalence of thiamine deficiency and differences in dietary niche among lake trout strains stocked in Lake Ontario”
The re-establishment of native salmonids is a top priority for management agencies. One major factor hypothesized to obstruct these efforts is the abundance of exotic prey fishes—rainbow smelt and alewife—in the Great Lakes. Unlike native prey, these species contain high levels of the enzyme thiaminase, and their consumption has been associated with thiamine deficiency in many Great Lakes salmonids. It is hypothesized thiamine deficiency is a major factor hindering salmonid reintroduction success. Previous work on Atlantic salmon identified differences between strains to the effects of diet-derived thiaminase, indicating selecting strains with a tolerance to thiaminase could help increase the effectiveness of reintroduction efforts. In contrast, the effects of diet-derived thiaminase have not been compared among strains of lake trout, despite strains potentially possessing local adaptations to dietary thiaminase levels (Seneca Lake = high alewife; Lake Superior = low alewife) and different dietary niches. I propose to compare the prevalence of thiamine deficiency among two lake trout strains stocked into Lake Ontario, compare dietary niche between strains, and determine if differences in dietary niche influence the prevalence of thiamine deficiency between these two strains. In May 2021, adult
lake trout will be collected from Lake Ontario during routine gill net index sampling and identified to strain. Dietary niches of lake trout will be determined through stomach content analyses and performance traits including condition and tissue thiamine levels will be quantified and compared between strains. Results from this study will contribute to lake trout restoration and strain selection best practices.
OFAH Zone G Wildlife Research Grant
Shannon Simpkins, Trent University
“Quantifying White-Tailed Deer Trait Variation In Ontario; Connecting GPS and Genomics”
Environmental impacts including climate change, invasive species and disease, have an impact on white-tailed deer in Ontario. Deer are at risk for contracting chronic wasting disease (CWD) which is rapidly expanding. There is transmission risk between wild and farmed populations and risk to agriculture through zoonotic transmission. CWD monitoring and risk management are imperative strategies keeping Ontario free of CWD, however strategies are limited without establishing fundamental data like deer range. This study is the first of its kind to monitor deer movement in the Thousand Island National Park area, a key wildlife corridor to neighboring jurisdictions and a potential CWD source to neighboring borders. Wild deer will be fitted with GPS collars used to identify population range and proximity to CWD cases. Population structure will be estimated using DNA biopsies from live animals compared to harvested deer collected from WMUs across North, Central, and Southern Ontario. A model of environmental and genetic factors can describe deer population characteristics including population size and genetic diversity. Genetic factors include genes for fitness, like antlers important to hunters. Physical trait measurements including body size, condition, and antler size and symmetry will be used to estimate heritability (physical traits inherited from genes). By understanding deer spatial movements, we can better predict factors that limit or enhance deer movement and CWD risk. By quantifying the genetic and environmental factors that affect deer we can improve conservation management decisions to protect deer, agriculture, economy, and human health interests, as all of these factors are interdependent.
OFAH Dave Ankney/Sandi Johnson Award for Avian Ecology
Dariusz Wojtaszek, University of Western Ontario
“Using intrinsic markers to improve existing northern pintail management”
Northern pintail (Anas acuta) is an important game bird in North America but the population has consistently been below long-term management goals. In 2010, the US Fish and Wildlife Service established an adaptive harvest management protocol using population estimates from aerial-ground surveys. The survey effort is biased to southern prairie regions, leaving northern boreal areas less surveyed. While the management plan compensates for this bias, I propose that the use of intrinsic markers that provide information on origins of pintails will improve continental management of this species. Stable hydrogen isotope ratios (δ2H) in feathers can be used to infer moult/breeding origins of waterfowl on a continental scale, by linking feather δ2H to naturally occurring δ2H in precipitation. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N) also can be used to infer use of marine or agricultural habitats. Corticosterone is a stress hormone that has been used as a retrospective indicator of stress. Thus, key information connecting regions of pintail production and harvest independent of banding effort will be available for the first time. Individual northern pintail feathers will be collected from the annual wingbee survey, representing birds harvested by Canadian hunters. I will use intrinsic markers to determine the derivation of harvest, and to infer information of habitat and former stress levels of hunted birds. My data will demonstrate the utility of these techniques to waterfowl managers and inform the current management strategy of northern pintails.
Examples of research awarded in the past (view student research grant videos from OFAH conferences)
The OFAH and partners award three different grants worth $4000 each to university students researching fish and wildlife topics that are helping to improve resource management. The OFAH uses a science-based approach to our advocacy in fish and wildlife management.
Who can apply?
Any graduate or post-graduate university student currently researching a fish and wildlife topic, and whose findings would benefit Ontario’s fish and/or wildlife management.
What is being offered?
There are three separate research grants of $4,000 each to be awarded:
- The OFAH/ Dave Ankney/ Sandi Johnson Award for Avian Ecology – $4,000
- The OFAH Zone G Wildlife Research Grant – $4,000
- The OFAH Zone H Fisheries Research Grant – $4,000
When is the application deadline?
When and where will the grants be awarded?
Successful applicants will be notified through email
Submissions will be evaluated for scientific merit, relevance to OFAH Fish and Wildlife management, budget and overall quality of application
Why does the OFAH and its partners offer research grants?
The OFAH is committed to supporting students and their research, which provides the science needed to inform and support sound fish and wildlife conservation management in Ontario. Preference will be given to projects utilizing the funds for equipment and field support.
How do I apply?
In addition to the grants above, we also offer the following opportunities.
The OFAH/Fitzsimons Financial Fish & Wildlife Conservation Internship and the OFAH/BrokerLink Fish and Wildlife Conservation Internship is an exciting early-career opportunity to work with the OFAH’s fish and wildlife professionals on a range of policy and conservation program projects. Previous OFAH interns have gone on to undertake graduate degrees and/or work with provincial agencies and the OFAH.