SFU prof John Reynolds named chair of COSEWIC

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada advises Ottawa on listings for species at risk

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      Simon Fraser University professor John Reynolds has been named the new chair of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

      Reynolds, who holds the Tom Buell B.C. Leadership Chair in Aquatic Conservation at SFU, replaces UBC's Prof. Eric Taylor, director of that university's Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

      According to a September 6 news release, "Reynolds is an internationally renowned expert in both fish and bird biology, and has been a key assessor of the status of marine fishes for...[COSEWIC] since 2011".

      Reynolds, speaking to the Georgia Straight by phone from his office in SFU's department of biological sciences, said he has been at SFU for 13 years and spent the previous 15 years studying fish at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

      He said he sees his new two-year appointment as an opportunity to "raise the profile of threatened species" in Canada.

      Reynolds said he is about to take a trip to Bella Bella, on B.C.'s central coast, to count salmon in area streams, ongoing work he has been conducting with a team of graduate students and members of the local Heiltsuk First Nation.

      "We're going to be starting our salmon-counting season," he explained. "We count fish in streams, which is just a lot of fun. It's also a good chance to charge my batteries....We've been working with the Heiltsuk community for about 12 years now."

      He said team members count both live and dead, spawned-out fish. "By this, we figure out the total number of fish coming back to the streams."

      About "25 to 30 streams" are inspected each year, he said, including many smaller ones that the federal Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FOC) never used to survey in its official counts. This has resulted in an increase in the streams included by FOC: "It has effectively doubled the number of streams counted," Reynolds  related.

      He said he also researches "salmon and their wider ecosystem" in terms of the significant addition of nutrients to rainforest valleys provided by the decomposing bodies of post-spawning fish. "We've looked at the impact of those nutrients on everything from plants to insects to birds."

      Reynolds added that he is looking forward to chairing the twice-a-year COSEWIC meetings where specialists present detailed reports on the status of various species of plants and animals for conservation consideration.

      He said the examination of research information is exhaustive. "If anything is shaky, we tend to find out rather quickly."