The Slimy Sculpin- An Important Environmental Indicator

by steinr on October 6, 2017 - 7:29pm

In this article by Gail Harding on the CBC News website, researchers at the University of New Brunswick are using a certain species of fish- the slimy sculpin- in order to monitor the health of ecosystems in New Brunswick’s waterways. Michelle Gray- the professor in charge of the project- says that the slimy sculpin is an excellent organism to use for monitoring the environment, as it is fairly stationary and therefore will provide an appropriate temporal scale to the data collected in the study. The fish can be used as an indicator of how other species in the environment are faring, such as brook trout and salmon. Gray’s ultimate goal is to create a database of information collected on the slimy sculpin in order to determine if there are any important patterns appearing that may be able to predict changes in the overall ecosystem.

Monitoring the health of an ecosystem can have implications in areas other than the original environmental context. For example, if there are trends found in the data that indicate chemical runoff from nearby plants and factories is having a lasting negative impact on aquatic life, it becomes necessary to make changes. One possible solution to the problem of waterway pollution is to use substantive policy instruments. In this scenario, several tools used in combination would be beneficial to reducing runoff, and by extension, impact on aquatic life. Regulatory tools have historically proven to be effective in controlling pollution and managing natural resources by using legislation to prohibit certain behaviour (eg. Releasing chemical runoff). Informational policy tools are also useful here, as they provide public access to annual corporation outputs. This means that corporate emissions and disposal practices are on display, and public backlash is usually the reaction once they learn that it directly effects the health of their environment, which can lead companies to change their behaviour in order to maintain a healthy client base. Finally, public outreach tools can be applied in order to encourage the population to make changes to how they view and interact with the environment. In the case of aquatic life health, this can be as simple as raising awareness of consumers that the fish they eat are in need of environmental protection, and that there are choices that can directly influence this.