Whitehorse, YT –  Scientists are filtering DNA from Yukon waterways to map Chinook salmon habitat use. This eDNA technology could provide the most accurate, and cost effective information to date on where salmon spawn. This new technology is a great benefit to management agencies, industry, environmental assessors, and the overall health of the species.

This innovative technique will be applied by Yukon Research Centre (YRC) scientists in partnership with Hemmera, a local environmental consulting company. Researchers will apply lab-tested techniques to rivers in Southern Yukon by extracting DNA from water samples. These samples will provide valuable information on the presence or absence of Chinook salmon using this low cost and non-invasive data collection method.

Environmental DNA from salmon is genetic material (feces, urine, mucus, skin cells) that is left in the river system as they migrate.  eDNA is unique in that the Salmon do not need to be present at the time of sampling; a water sample within 21 days of Salmon presence is enough to indicate that Chinook were present in the river upstream from the sample site.

“We anticipate that this technology could change the way aquatic species inventories are conducted, providing economic and environmental benefits in the Yukon with transferability to other regions”, said Kirstin Damude, Project Coordinator, Technology Innovation, Yukon Research Centre. “We will seek input from residents in the southern Yukon as well as involve Yukon College faculty and students who will participate in this promising research”.

This technology has been applied successfully to aquatic, amphibian and fish species-at-risk throughout British Columbia, and Yukon. This Yukon project will be the first time eDNA technology is applied to salmon in the North. The technology will be compared to previous salmon spawning studies and if successful, this proof of concept can be used to develop eDNA-based maps of Chinook salmon for groups that require this information for conservation and resource extraction purposes. If this proof of concept is successful for Chinook in southern Yukon, we expect to expand eDNA analysis throughout the Territory. There is potential for the transferability of this technology to other key fish species in Yukon, and throughout the North.

“Hemmera is pleased to be partnering with the Yukon Research Centre to demonstrate the value of this exciting new technology for Yukon.  Hemmera is pioneering the commercial use of eDNA in western Canada and currently writing the technical specifications for its use in British Columbia.  Chinook salmon are so important to us in Yukon. I look forward to information from eDNA studies supporting the management of this species and others in the future.” said Michael Muller, Project Director from Hemmera.

Researchers collected water samples from streams in the Upper Teslin, Nisutlin and Kusuwa Lake drainages and will spend the winter analyzing the data. There will be a public event on Wednesday, November 18th to introduce details of this technology. The event will take place from 1:00 to 3:00pm in room A2206 at Yukon College Ayamdigut (Whitehorse) campus. Input from the public is encouraged as it will add great value and support to this project. Results will be made available to the public upon project completion.

This research has been funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Government of Yukon’s Economic Development.

Technology Innovation is one of a number of thematic areas at the Yukon Research Centre. The others include biodiversity monitoring, climate change, cold climate innovation, environmental remediation, and social science.



Tanis Davey
Marketing and Communications Coordinator, College Relations
Yukon College
T: 867.456.8625
C: 867.332.8625

Kirstin Damude
Project Coordinator, Cold Climate Innovation
Yukon Research Centre
Yukon College
T: 867.456.6823

Rhoni Whyard
Director, Marketing & Communications
T: 604.669.0424 ext. 264