Riding the high of a successful NoWPaS workshop in Laugarvatn, Iceland, in March 2020, the 2021 NoWPaS committee eagerly dug in to planning this year’s workshop. Of course, the years 2020 and 2021 had different plans, and although much preparation was underway to organise the 2021 workshop in the Basque Country, France, by autumn 2020 it was clear to the committee we would need to consider planning a virtual workshop instead.
After quickly shifting gears, we altered course and began to plan the first-ever virtual meeting for NoWPaS. While at times we felt like we were navigating unchartered territory, we are pleased to say that NoWPaS 2021 was a great success!
On Tuesday, 2 March, we kicked things off with a virtual mixer for NoWPaS attendees. We gathered together with the aid of webcams and microphones to greet each other and learn a little about each other’s research.
We then had the first official session of NoWPaS 2021 on Wednesday, 3 March. Our first keynote speaker, Dr Marie Nevoux, gave a fantastic address about how salmonid population dynamics models, driven by ecological knowledge, can feed expertise for salmonids management, and how models developed for management purposes can eventually inform ecology. This was followed by a session about salmonid conservation and management with talks ranging from stock assessment models to in-river conservation practices. We then had a session on tracking and telemetry, with talks about telemetry ranging from Scotland to Nova Scotia, followed by a session of presentations about salmonid microbiomes. To unwind after the first day of presentations, we hosted a virtual quiz night, during which we puzzled over questions varying from the number of volcanoes in France (7 volcanoes!) to identifying various salmonid species by photograph.
The next day saw two more plenary addresses from Dr Tom Reed and Dr Peter Westley, devoted to the evolutionary and ecological processes underlying alternative migratory strategies of brown trout and the impact of hatchery pink and chum salmon released each year into Alaska’s marine waters on the productivity and fitness of wild salmon populations, respectively. Our delegates then presented their research in the first salmonid genetics session and the evolution, behaviour, and physiology session. Delegate presentations in these sessions covered diverse topics including eDNA, the diversity of charrs in the Canadian Arctic, and tracking salmon swimming behaviours near turbines.
Our final day of presentations started with our final keynote speaker, Dr Eva Thorstad, who presented an overview of results from studies of migrations, growth, and survival of Atlantic salmon at sea. Following Eva’s talk, we had a session on salmonids at sea, followed by a second session devoted to salmonid genetics. These research talks included topics such as marine growth and survival, and genomic consistency in the loss of anadromy.
Over the course of the three days, we had presentations from 32 delegates, including Master’s students, PhD students, and early career Postdoctoral Fellows, as well as our four keynote speakers. Our workshop attendees spanned eleven time zones and nine countries. We heard presentations about a wide assortment of salmonid species, including Atlantic salmon, sea trout, Arctic charr, Dolly Varden charr, coho salmon, pink salmon, and chum salmon. What a well-rounded list of anadromous species to have to opportunity to learn about!
The NoWPaS 2021 committee would like to extend a sincere thank-you to the keynote speakers and delegates who attended NoWPaS with such enthusiasm. Thanks to you all, we can consider the first virtual NoWPaS a success! Of course, we would be remiss not to thank our sponsors, whose generous contributions allow NoWPaS to maintain one of its guiding principals – that it remains free and accessible to early career salmonid researchers from around the globe.
The NoWPaS 2022 committee has now turned its sight to planning next year’s workshop. With any luck, we will resume our live workshops, and look forward to greeting each other in person once again.
Until then, best fishes for another excellent year of salmonid research!