Inspired by her First Nations Heritage and love of nature, Connaught Public Impact Fellow Jaime Grimm researches salmon conservation

By Chris Sasaki

This story originally appeared on U of T News.

PhD student Jaime Grimm’s research into fish pathogens and salmon conservation – and how she conducts that research – is the culmination of growing up amidst the rich ecosystems of Canada’s West Coast, parents who nurtured a love of nature in her, and her Salteaux First Nations heritage.

“Growing up in British Columbia, I spent a lot of time in nature,” she says, “which was a hugely privileged position to be in. We went camping every summer and my mother and I would spend all day looking for frogs and toads and salamanders – it was like a treasure hunt. She inspired that interest in me.”

Today, Grimm is a PhD student in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), supervised by Associate Professor Martin Krkosek and Adjunct Professor Andrew Bateman of the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

She was also recently named a Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellow by the School of Graduate Studies. The fellowship will enable her to engage the public in her work through training in science communication and public policy, and project-specific funding.

Grimm’s research with Krkosek and Bateman is centred around the enormous salmon farms located in the coastal waters of B.C. The farms are giant pens made of nets so that ocean water circulates through them. Because of the high population density – some hold as many as a million fish – the pens are ripe breeding grounds for pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and fungi which can then threaten wild salmon populations.

Like Krkosek, Grimm is committed to finding socially and ecologically just wildlife conservation solutions that recognize Indigenous rights and sovereignty. Her work, she points out, takes place in partnership with and on the unceded lands of coastal First Nations, including the Ahousaht First Nation, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation.

She also recognizes that salmon conservation is intimately tied to Indigenous rights because of the importance First Nations place on salmon. “Of course, they’re a source of livelihood and sustenance,” says Grimm, “but they’re also essential components of culture. These salmon have spawned and lived in these rivers since time immemorial and, during that time, have been stewarded well by the people who live there.”

Read the full story by Chris Sasaki on U of T News.

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