Date of Award

9-2010

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation

First Advisor

Benjamin H. Letcher

Second Advisor

Richard A. Cunjak

Third Advisor

Paul K. Barten

Subject Categories

Aquaculture and Fisheries

Abstract

Growth plays a key role in regulating ecological and population dynamics. Life history characteristics such as age at maturity, fecundity and age and size at migration are tightly linked to growth rate. In addition, size can often determine survival and individual breeding success. To fully understand the process of growth it is important to understand the mechanisms that drive growth rates. In Atlantic salmon, growth is critical in determining life history pathways. Models to estimate growth could be useful in the broader context of predicting population dynamics. In this dissertation I investigate the growth process in juvenile Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). I first used basic modeling approaches and data on individually tagged salmon to investigate the assumptions of different growth metrics. I demonstrate the size-dependency in certain growth metrics when assumptions are violated. Next, I assessed the efficacy of linear mixed effects models in modeling length-weight relationships from longitudinal data. I show that combining a random effects approach with third order polynomials can be an effective way to model length-weight relationships with mark-recapture data. I extend this hierarchical modeling approach to develop a Bayesian growth model. With limited assumptions, I derive a relatively simple discrete time model from von Bertalanffy growth that includes a nonparametric seasonal growth function. The linear dynamics of this model allow for efficient estimation of parameters in a Bayesian framework. Finally, I investigated the role of life history in driving compensatory growth patterns in immature Atlantic salmon. This analysis demonstrates the importance of considering life history as a mechanism in compensatory growth. Information provided in this dissertation will help provide ecologists with statistical tools to estimate growth rates, estimate length-weight relationships, and forecast growth from mark-recapture data. In addition, comparisons of seasonal growth within and among life history groups and within and among tributaries should make a valuable contribution to the important literature on growth in Atlantic salmon.

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