Louis Bernatchez Evolution and Ecology

Top Canadian molecular biologist studying the genetics of fish populations

The Story

Dr. Bernatchez uses DNA analysis to study genetic change and evolution in fish. His work addresses important questions such as

  • What are the genetic impacts of stocking programs on wild populations?
  • How do we measure the reproductive success of wild salmon?
  • What are the characteristics within fish populations which make each lineage unique?

Bernatchez's early work concentrated on the fine genetic differences within whitefish populations. He studied groups within a species which were separated geographically during the last ice age, and then subsequently reunited. Some of these groups may live in the same lakes, but occupy different ecological niches and do not interbreed. He was able to demonstrate differences between each population's genomes and the specialized niche in which each lives.



Image by: Freelance Illustration


Bernatchez's studies have practical applications. He is working to establish new blood-lines and breeding techniques for the Copper redhorse, an endangered fish species, and for Atlantic salmon and Quebec brook trout. With more than 62 species of Canadian freshwater fish species classified as threatened or endangered, his work continues to provide crucial genetic information to those managing fish populations.

A prolific writer, Bernatchez has authored or co-authored more than 80 papers and a guidebook (Guide des poissons d'eau douce du Québec et leur distribution dans l'Est du Canada, La Prairie, Éditions Broquet, 1991, L. Bernatchez and M. Giroux), soon to be released in English. He is associate editor of two major scientific journals: Evolution and Molecular Ecology.

Sources: Canada Research Chairs; NSERC News Release, March 5, 2002. Photo: ACFAS.

Career ideas:

  • Government paleontologist
  • University professor
  • Laboratory scientist
  • Chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, and pulp/paper industries staff scientist
  • Petroleum/mining consultant
  • Private consulting scientist

The Person

Professor, Canada Research Chair in Genetic Management of Freshwater Species
Dept. of Biology, Université Laval
  • PhD Laval University, 1990
  • Steacie Prize (NSERC), 2002
  • Michel-Jurdant Prize for environmental science (ACFAS - <i>Assn. francophone pour le savoir</i>), 2001
Last Updated
June 17, 2015

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