Funded by LBAYS: Starting from scratch - A journey of a man and his salmon

Researcher Andrew House worked in a two-year project focused on rearing thousands of Atlantic salmon. The primary objective was to investigate the impact of the vgll3 gene, as identified in Barson et al. 2015, on lipid content in both juvenile and mature parr stages of Atlantic salmon.

I first arrived at the Lammi Biological Station during the summer of 2017. At the time, the Evolution, Conservation and Genomics Research group led by Craig Primmer was beginning to rear juvenile Atlantic salmon at the station. This all started in the greenhouse down by the lake. Thousands of alevins (embryonic salmon still containing a yolk sac) made their way from a LUKE hatchery to begin a pilot study using water from Pääjärvi. As this was success with only a few setbacks, construction then started to make a larger and more high-tech facility on the main grounds of the Lammi Biological Station.

For my PhD project, I have two main experiments. The greenhouse experiment completed in 2017 and a larger experiment running in the new facility ending in autumn 2019. For this first experiment, I looked at lipid class concentrations in 49 individuals. We found that there was a difference in the concentration of several classes between female and male individuals. I have published an article with the main results of the pilot study and you can find the article here:

The main project consisted of rearing thousands of Atlantic salmon for 2 years. The main goal of this experiment is to see how a gene of interest, vgll3, found in Barson et al. 2015 effects the lipid content in the juvenile and mature parr stage of Atlantic salmon. The duration of this experiment was determined to allow for the occurrence of mature parr during the final sampling period in September and October 2019. 

I have then taken the collected samples to the Viikki campus in Helsinki to do laboratory analysis consisting of DNA/RNA extraction, lipid extraction and mass spectrometry runs to be able to look at the connection between vgll3 genotype and lipid content. Mass Spectrometry runs will start very soon on these samples.

I have been working hard in Helsinki trying to get as much lab work done and lots of collaboration with Lipidomics unit. However, the original plan was delayed many times due to the pandemic but finally; there has been lots of progress during this past year. I am now in the final stage of my PhD and hope to be done by spring 2022. I have completed the first part of laboratory work and am now waiting to run the samples on the mass spectrometry. This will allow me to get the lipid lasses and species for the individual salmon used in the final data set.

Working and living at the station for period throughout my PhD have been some of the best moments of my PhD. Life goes by more slowly and calmly when focusing on the task at hand. The location has always been a much-needed break from Helsinki and the sauna just adds to this. To do this day, the station sauna is one of my favorites and always brings a smile to my face.

The Lammi Biological Station was an ideal place to run this experiment and truly was a home away from home. I feel very lucky to have been able to visit as much as I could during the experiment and get the fish rearing facility up and running. It was always amazing to see the fish grow over time and see them used for other researchers and projects happening in our group. It’s now been over 2 years since I have been back but I hope I can change that soon and breathe in the crisp autumn air at the Lammi Biologcal Station!

Andrew House is a LBAYS grant recipient