Researching the impact of climate change on Atlantic salmon aquaculture

Building research skills
| Atlantic Veterinary College
A student and researcher stand at a large fish tank
Veterinary student Alyson Brown and Dr. Mark Fast in AVC's aquatic animal facility

Alyson Brown, a student at the Atlantic Veterinary College, will spend the summer working on a research project investigating the impact of accelerated climate change on Atlantic salmon aquaculture in Atlantic Canada.

The project, developed by Dr. Mark Fast, associate professor of fish health at AVC, and collaborators at Memorial University and the University of Waterloo, is part of the College’s veterinary student research awards (VetSRA) program, which is designed to give students a solid foundation in research.

“Accelerated climate change is predicted to result in rapidly changing water conditions, like increasing water temperatures and low oxygen levels,” says Fast. “In some areas, water temperatures are forecasted to increase by 2-4 degrees C over the next 20 to 30 years. These changes may push the Atlantic salmon outside its optimal physiological range during the summer, negatively impacting fish health and production—and ultimately the sustainability of the industry.”

Fast wants to develop a “road map” for the adaptation of salmon aquaculture production to climate change, and for the better management of fish health and diseases. To do this, he wants to identify Atlantic salmon families that have enhanced capacity to adapt to environmental challenges and mount strong pathogen-specific immune responses, and he wants to evaluate the effectiveness of current ISA vaccines at elevated temperatures, and how pathogens will respond to climate change.

Brown will work with Fast at AVC’s aquatic animal facility and with industry collaborator MOWI at Huntsman Marine Science Centre, New Brunswick, to test the impact of high temperatures and low oxygen on disease resistance in salmon.

Brown, who earned her Master of Science degree under Fast’s supervision, wants to work in aquaculture after she graduates in 2022. She enjoys the diversity of the aquatic animal health aspect of veterinary medicine.

“As an aquaculture vet, I could play a key role in making sure our fish and shellfish are healthy and sustainable. This would involve disease surveillance and prevention, sampling fish and water, and providing treatment when necessary. I love that this discipline allows for a balance between hands-on animal care and diagnostics.”


Anna MacDonald
AVC External Relations Officer
Atlantic Veterinary College