Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Environmental Physiology Research Areas


Dr. Adam Luckenbach
Program Manager
Staff Directory

Fish and Olfaction Homing

Fish have an acute sense of smell and every aspect of their lives is influenced by olfaction (e.g., feeding, reproduction, migration, and predator avoidance). Using an integrative approach that includes molecular biology, electrophysiology, and field-based behavior, we are studying the critical role of olfaction in the life history and ecology of different fish species. A major focus of our work is olfactory imprinting and homing in Pacific salmon.

Pacific salmon are famous for their homing migrations from oceanic feeding grounds back to their river of origin to spawn. Prior to their seaward migration, juvenile salmon learn (imprint to) specific odors associated with their natal stream. Maturing adults use retained odor memories to guide their homing migration. Salmon that do not experience their natal water during appropriate juvenile stages are more likely to stray to non-natal sites. Hatchery or wild salmon that stray from their natal site can impact conservation and recovery efforts due to negative genetic and ecological interactions.

Our research in the Environmental Physiology Program aims to:


Evaluation of methods to reduce straying rates of barged juvenile salmonids
Development of imprinting paradigms for salmon supplementation programs
Molecular assays for olfactory imprinting