Cathryn Abbott

Research Scientist
Aquatic Animal Health Section
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Pacific Biological Station Nanaimo, British Columbia
Canada V9T 6N7

Phone: 250-756-3364

Fax: 250-756-7053


Research area(s):

  • Aquatic animal health
  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Genetic research

Area of Expertise:

Dr. Cathryn Abbott’s academic training was in evolutionary genetics with a focus on vertebrate population genetics and phylogeography. She is interested in: understanding how genetic diversity is apportioned at the within species level in natural populations; deciphering the mechanisms driving its distribution; and using this information to answer a wide variety of applied environmental and ecological questions including to facilitate resource and conservation management. Current projects include:

  • research into the taxonomy and evolution of Mikrocytos mackini, a parasite of Pacific oysters;
  • molecular phylogeny of Gyrodactylus spp. native in Canada;
  • stock delineation of migratory and resident Pacific Hake in Canadian waters;
  • population and conservation genetics of Rhinoceros Auklets, a species caught as fisheries bycatch in large numbers;
  • testing the efficacy of using DNA barcoding to identify fisheries bycatch birds to species level;
  • application of genetic markers to species identification and population genetics of the invasive tunicate, Didemnum vexillum.

Dr. Abbott was a member of the Project Management team for the federal interdepartmental Genomics Research and Development Initiative project on Quarantine and Invasive Species (2011-2016), which was awarded a Public Service Award of Excellence for outstanding scientific contribution. The project focused on DNA barcoding and metabarcoding to develop and implement faster, more accurate ways to identify and trace the origin of invasive species. The success of the project validated the collaborative model of research in government and demonstrated that stronger results can be achieved for Canadians by sharing knowledge and resources.

Cathryn is also head of a molecular biology laboratory within DFO’s National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory System (NAAHLS) that supports Canada’s National Aquatic Animal Health Program (NAAHP). The NAAHP is led by the CFIA and is co-delivered by DFO; in her lab they conduct research, provide scientific advice, and perform diagnostic testing for aquatic animal diseases that are regulated due to their potential impact on trade and/or the Canadian economy.

She also co-supervises graduate students through collaborations with academic scientists; for example, as a PI on the Canadian Aquatic Invasive Species Network.

Select Presentation(s) / Publication(s):

He, Xiaoping & Sutherland, Terri & Pawlowski, Jan & Abbott, Cathryn. (2019). Responses of foraminifera communities to aquaculture-derived organic enrichment as revealed by environmental DNA metabarcoding. Molecular Ecology. 10.1111/mec.15007.

K Zhang, Guang & J J Chain, Frédéric & Abbott, Cathryn & Cristescu, Melania. (2018). Metabarcoding using multiplexed markers increases species detection in complex zooplankton communities. Evolutionary Applications. 11. 10.1111/eva.12694.

Polinski, Mark & Meyer, Gary & J Lowe, Geoffrey & Abbott, Cathryn. (2017). Seawater detection and biological assessments regarding transmission of the oyster parasite Mikrocytos mackini using qPCR. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. 126. 10.3354/dao03167.

Gurney-Smith, Helen & Joy Wade, A & Abbott, Cathryn. (2016). Species composition and genetic diversity of farmed mussels in British Columbia, Canada. Aquaculture. 466. 10.1016/j.aquaculture.2016.08.038.

Castelin, Magalie & Van Steenkiste, Niels & Pante, Eric & Harbo, R & Lowe, G & Gilmore, Scott & Therriault, Thomas & Abbott, Cathryn. (2016). A new integrative framework for large-scale assessments of biodiversity and community dynamics, using littoral gastropods and crabs of British Columbia, Canada. Molecular Ecology Resources. 16. 10.1111/1755-0998.12534

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