Changing fish nutrition focus of new Discovery Grant

June 23, 2022

The nutritional value of the fish that we eat will be examined by Brandon University (BU) researcher Dr. Barry Madison with support from the federal Discovery Research Programs.

Dr. Madison has been awarded a $145,000 Discovery Grant, plus a $12,500 Discovery Launch Supplement by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). He is studying how the effects of aquatic contaminants and environmental stressors affect the health of fish.

A man smiles with trees in the background

Dr. Barry Madison

“Fish are an essential source of nutrition in both global and regional diets,” said Dr. Madison, an Assistant Professor in BU’s Department of Biology. “However, they face rapidly changing conditions, including global fishing pressures, climate change and other environmental conditions that affect how they live and grow. The question I am asking in this research is will the wild fish we eat in the future be as nutritious as they are now?”

Dr. Madison points out that the benefits of eating fish, including Omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and micronutrients, must be weighed against the detrimental intake of contaminants such as mercury, oil-derived chemicals, industrial chemicals and pesticides.

The project will include the testing of local fish populations, such as walleye, perch, and goldeye from the Assiniboine River and its tributaries, along with lab observation of a model fish species such as zebrafish to assess how environmental factors affect the proportions of nutritionally beneficial fatty acids like Omega-3s. By combining lab results and real-world conditions, he will be able to ascertain which species of fish are most resilient and could play an important role as a food source in the future.

“Dr. Madison is answering important questions about the environment where we live and play and the food that we eat,” said Dr. Bernadette Ardelli, Dean of Science at BU. “With his focus on local fish species, his work is of great importance here in Manitoba, but the results will also have much wider-reaching applications in helping us understand the impact of environmental change.”

In addition to Dr. Madison’s new Discovery Grant, several BU researchers were granted one-year funding extensions due to COVID-19. Receiving extensions were: Dr. Margaret Carrington (Physics and Astronomy, Discovery Grant, $40,000), Dr. Bryan Cassone (Biology, Discovery Grant, $31,000); Dr. Michael Charette (Chemistry, Discovery Grant, $31,000); Dr. Christophe LeMoine (Biology, Discovery Grant, $28,000); Dr. Mousumi Majumder (Biology, Discovery Grant, $26,000); and Dr. Bernadette Ardelli (Biology, Discovery Development Grant, $15,000).

“Our researchers continue to produce exciting and innovative work,” said Dr. Heather Duncan, BU’s Associate Vice-President (Research). “Funding from agencies such as NSERC allows us to continue to produce meaningful research and also provides opportunities for our faculty and our students to develop their skills. I’m delighted to see the number of BU initiatives gaining federal support, and I’m looking forward to learning more about these projects as the results become available.”