Cooperative Research Units
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Temperature, phenology, and embryo survival in Western Alaska sockeye salmon populations: the potential for adaptation to a warming world?


July 2014 - May 2016


A fundamental ecological challenge is to understand and predict population responses to rapid environmental change. Viable sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) populations are critical to the economy, culture, and freshwater ecosystems of Bristol Bay in Western Alaska, and it is unclear how populations might respond to warming temperatures during the critical life history stages of spawning and embryo incubation. Despite the importance of environmental factors in driving the evolution of locally-adapted populations, and the subsequent role of evolution in fishery sustainability, the patterns of population-specific responses to changes in the environment are largely unknown. The specific objectives of this study are 1) to use information on spawning timing and long-term water temperature records from the Kvichak watershed to predict the timing of juvenile hatching and emergence under the range of conditions observed in the past decades, 2) predict changes in water temperatures likely to be experienced by salmon populations in Iliamna Lake using a processed based one-dimensional hydrodynamics model, 3) conduct a controlled laboratory experiment to quantify Iliamna Lake population-specific functional responses between timing of hatching, emergence, and embryo survival under scenarios of freshwater warming determined in objective three, and 4) assess probabilities of persistence and likelihood for adaptation to warming temperatures for populations in the Kvichak watershed using individual-based eco-evolutionary models. This work will directly benefit resource managers as well as local communities that depend on sustainable sockeye salmon runs for their livelihoods and subsistence through an improved understanding of how salmon are likely to respond to a warming world. This project is funded by the Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

Research Products and Activities


  • Sparks, M., Westley, P., Falke, J., and M. Adkison. 2015. Predicting Sockeye Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) hatch timing by incorporating natural variability into an existing model. Alaska Chapter American Fisheries Society Annual Meeting, Homer, Alaska, 4-6 November, 2015.

Current Staff

Federal Staff: 101

Masters Students: 236

Phd Students: 160

Post Docs: 58

University Staff: 268

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 676

Scientific Publications: 1886

Presentations: 4311



Funding Agencies

  • FWS Anchorage AK


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey