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High profile scientist signs on to Labrador Institute

By Naomi Osborne | July 17, 2012

Labrador’s fishery has enormous potential and Memorial University’s Marine Institute is helping communities advance and sustain their fisheries ecosystems.

Memorial has combined the resources of its Labrador Institute and the Marine Institute’s Centre for Fisheries and Ecosystems Research (CFER) to attract new researchers, improve the region’s resource and development capacity and enhance its research collaboration with stakeholders.

Dr. Marie Clément is one of five researchers recently recruited by CFER to focus on fisheries ecosystems needs in Newfoundland and Labrador. Her appointment to conduct fundamental and applied research within Labrador is a result of the recent $4.4 million investment from the federal and provincial governments in Memorial’s Labrador Institute.

Dr. Clément obtained her PhD in zoology from the University of Guelph, her M.Sc in biology from the University of New Brunswick and her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Moncton. She was employed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) as a river ecologist in the Gulf region and as a salmon stock assessment biologist.

When offered the aquatic ecologist position by CFER at the Labrador Institute, Dr. Clément was more than pleased with the prospect of conducting research in an area with an identified need.

“I took this position because it is a unique opportunity to conduct research in a northern area,” said Dr. Clément. “I’m fortunate to be working with a very dynamic group and am thrilled to be part of Memorial’s larger plan of expanding its presence and services to the people of Labrador.”

Dr. Clément’s focus will be on the freshwater environment while her CFER counterparts will be focusing on the marine environment. Dr. Clément is currently exploring the needs of aboriginal groups, communities, industry, governmental agencies and researchers at Memorial to better understand the research needs and priorities in the region and develop collaborative projects.

“Our goal is to provide a service to the community and work in collaboration with different stakeholders to generate scientific knowledge for sustainable management of the fisheries,” said Dr. Clément.

Given the proposed future hydroelectric developments on the Lower Churchill River, baseline biological information will be key in determining effects, if any, on the long term health of this ecosystem.

“Right now there is little baseline information on fish population structure and life-history traits, particularly in the Lower Churchill River and Lake Melville. We need to generate this knowledge to quantify any potential cumulative effects related to the proposed hydroelectric developments,” said Dr. Clément.

One of Dr. Clément’s research interests is to document the mercury bioaccumulation through the food chain; including fish, birds, seals and humans. This research project will link the freshwater and estuarine ecosystems and establish collaboration with other researchers within Memorial University.

“Fish are very important in Labrador, both culturally and as an industry,” she said. “We need to generate scientific information so we can better manage and protect those resources.”

Another part of Dr. Clément’s role is to develop a research program in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for graduate students.

“This is a great opportunity for graduate students to conduct research in subarctic and arctic environments. The Labrador Institute and CFER have combined their resources to offer great services to graduate students, including a newly renovated laboratory, office spaces, boats and other logistics necessary to conduct research in remote locations,” she said. “The research program will be based on the students’ expertise and interest.”

The Labrador Institute is built on facilitating the educational aspirations, research requirements and the socio-cultural well-being of the people of Labrador. CFER is focused on fisheries ecosystem science with the goal of ensuring that fisheries be sustainable for future generations.

This research collaboration will build on existing strengths, activities and accomplishments of the Labrador Institute while providing CFER and Memorial an even stronger presence in the region coupled with the ability to engage communities more effectively.