Conservation or controversy? – The hidden world of Norwegian salmon hatcheries
Salmon swim in my blood. I grew up in a fishing family in Alaska, and have pursued the study of salmon culture throughout my academic career.
To me, salmon are a species that capture the heart and mind of anyone who tastes their tasty meat or is lucky enough to see them leaping upstream on their long migration to spawn. People who love salmon build a culture around this important fish, and dedicate themselves to conservation of salmon ecosystems around the upper latitudes of the world. I love to study the special relationships between humans and salmon because I think it represents some of the best humanity has to offer in terms of human-environmental relations.
In my PhD, I focus on how people in rural parts of Norway use hatcheries to grow salmon as a way to improve wild salmon stocks. This practice is controversial, so my research gives me the opportunity to understand local traditions within the context of best conservation practices, and study what should be done to support Norway’s special wild salmon populations.
My dream career would be to start and end each day by the water, waiting to glimpse a wild salmon, otter, or elk visiting for a drink. But, my job includes lots of writing too, and I have developed a strong interest in writing reports and publications aimed not only at other scientists, but also at the general public and natural resource managers. Because of this, dissemination of science and working with local people to co-produce knowledge is important to me. I think everyone deserves access to good scientific information, and I see my career as working in the space between academics, science, and salmon lovers around the world.
I conduct my research using qualitative methods, meaning that I spend most of my time conducting interviews with the people involved in my research. I also review public documents, read literature written by the people I study, and spend time in the field doing activities with my research participants so I can better understand their lives.
My research is important because it addresses the needs and concerns of everyday people AND scientists. My studies on salmon help managers understand how to manage local salmon resources more effectively, as well as help local salmon fishermen understand best management practices for their local salmon populations.