Laboratory technician Keta Patel welcomes registrants to the GEN-FISH annual general meeting.Laboratory technician Keta Patel welcomes registrants to the GEN-FISH annual general meeting.

Meeting brings together network of fish researchers

Scientists from across Canada got the chance to meet in person for the first time in nearly three years at the Genomic Network for Fish Identification, Stress, and Health (GEN-FISH) annual general meeting on Nov. 3 and 4.

The University of Windsor hosted the researchers, professionals, and community members associated with GEN-FISH, a Canada-wide Genome Canada project designed to ensure that freshwater fish resources stay sustainable for generations to come.

“It was particularly exciting because the project members as a whole had not met in-person since the launch in December 2019,” says Paige W. Breault, the network’s research and communications co-ordinator.

“The AGM was a big hybrid meeting where we assessed where we are in the project, what are the updates and next steps, what we were excited to report to both our research oversite committee as well as our partners.”

The two-day event included presentations by students and researchers, an economics game, and a focus group lead by Amy Fitzgerald, a professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology and a researcher with the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER).

“Attending these sessions at the AGM will go directly towards the progress of the project as a whole,” she said.

Breault says a standout at the AGM was the student research. Undergraduates, graduate students, and post-doctorates participated with in-person and remote presentations.

Aaryan Patel, a third-year student majoring in biochemistry and biomedical sciences, was one of five students to win $150 cash prizes and the opportunity to give a 15-minute presentation covering their related research.

“Oftentimes, especially as an undergraduate student, it’s hard to consider the big picture when doing research work but turning large amounts of experimental data into a meaningful cohesive message has shown me a different side of scientific research,” says Patel.

“The AGM was an excellent experience as I was able to learn from the knowledge and experience of some of the top scientists across Canada.”

Patel discussed how circadian rhythms are internal mechanisms present in nearly all animals that time behaviour and physiology to occur in 24-hour oscillation periods.

“In Dr. Phillip Karpowicz’s lab we work with GEN-FISH to design universal gene chips to efficiently measure the expression of many genes that drive circadian rhythms in freshwater fish,” Patel says.

“There are several environmental factors that can affect these rhythms as well, light being an important one. We are also investigating how exposing freshwater fish to different amounts of light influences their circadian rhythms and importantly, how this impacts their health.”

GEN-FISH is a collaboration of 13 universities, 25 researchers, and their students. The goal is to help delay the invisible collapse of Canadian freshwater fisheries caused by cascading anthropogenic effects. For more information, visit the GEN-FISH website or see this previous DailyNews article.

—Sara Elliott