Understanding the interactions between shellfish aquaculture activities and the ecosystem in which they occur is vital to the development of an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable industry.
The Ecological Interactions Research Program (EIRP) focuses on interactions in both benthic and pelagic habitats, taking an ecosystem-based approach in the context of a working coastal ecosystem that includes human activities. This research takes advantage of the alteration of the ecosystem by shellfish aquaculture activities as an ‘experiment-of-opportunity’ to advance our understanding of top-down and bottom-up interactions in near shore coastal ecosystems.
Research program objectives are to determine how wild and cultured shellfish populations are affected by:
- Bottom-up (e.g. ocean currents, nutrients)
- Top-down drivers (e.g. predators) and how aquaculture activities feedback on these drivers
- To synthesize these interactions within an ecosystem model to investigate the cumulative impacts of aquaculture activities
Invasion biology and conservation are also integral parts of this research - several species in wild and cultured shellfish communities are non-indigenous to British Columbia and many shellfish aquaculture activities occur in ecologically important areas (e.g. Baynes Sound).