Ocean acidification effects on fish smell

Effects of Ocean Acidification on Salmon and Sablefish Neurobehavioral Function

Research tests impacts of high ocean carbon dioxide levels on the sense of smell of coho salmon and sablefish including its effects on feeding and ability to avoid predators.

Principal Investigator

Evan Gallagher, UW Department of Occupational and Health Sciences

Co-Principal Investigators

Shallin Busch, NOAA Ocean Acidification Program and NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Meg Chadsey, Washington Sea Grant

Andy Dittman, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Paul McElhany, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Chase Williams, University of Washington, Seattle


Studies elsewhere show that anticipated marine carbon dioxide concentrations can alter vital smell-mediated behaviors in fish—even repelling fish from prey and drawing them to predators. But no such studies have examined fish in Washington, where dissolved CO 2 already reaches elevated levels and waterborne chemicals cause neurobehavioral impairment in juvenile salmon. This project will expose coho salmon and sablefish (a.k.a. black cod, another important native species) to actual and anticipated CO 2 levels and to odorant signals for food, predators and schooling. It will gauge their responses via behavioral analysis, electro-olfactograms and electro-encephalograms. Understanding the neurobehavioral impairments caused by such exposures and their underlying mechanisms is the first step toward mitigating them.