PULLMAN, Wash. — Representatives from the Washington State University Center for Reproductive Biology and the National Marine Fisheries Service have signed a collaborative agreement that formalizes efforts among WSU, the University of Idaho and NMFS researchers on salmon restoration.

James Petersen, vice provost for research at WSU, said collaboration is extremely important in order to solve science problems. “With this collaborative effort, the impact of ongoing research at WSU, the UI and NMFS will be multiplied many times over, and new projects will developed which will allow many of the fundamental questions underlying salmon recovery to be addressed,” he said.

Michael Skinner, director of the CRB, said the interagency agreement emphasizes a common interest in Pacific salmon resources and biological research and provides a framework for present and future cooperative interdisciplinary research and education efforts.

“We have been working together for many years,” Skinner said. “With this formal effort, we now have a vehicle — the Institute for Salmon Research and Science — to seek funding.

“It is difficult for a single institution to have all the expertise needed to address the spectrum of scientific questions which need to be answered. However, this collaboration between WSU and UI, now enhanced by formalized interactions, will serve us well,” Skinner said.

Usha Varansi, Northwest Fisheries Science Center director of science and research, said the research her unit of the NMFS is looking forward to working with researchers in eastern Washington and Idaho on how to recover from depleting salmon stocks.

“Salmon is an economic icon of the Pacific Northwest,” she said. “The challenge is to study the species in its entirely, to understand its biology and interaction.”

Science will go beyond salmon in helping other species, Varansi said. “(However) Salmon is our ‘problem child’ right now.”

Researchers will be involved in projects of salmonid biology and ecology and land use effects on freshwater life stages of Pacific salmon, and other Pacific salmon-related fields. The institute, too, will provide the training of scientists in the disciplines associated with broadly based biological and ecological studies. The central theme of the proposed projects is an integrated approach to a basic understanding of the mechanisms controlling salmon biology and reproduction.

“It seems we should know a lot about salmon with all the studies that have taken place,” said Penny Swanson of the fisheries science center. “It strikes one odd how little we actually know about salmon.”

The agreement also will offer an atmosphere that will facilitate collaborative research and the exchange of ideas among scientists associated with the cooperating institutions and scientists visiting from other organizations to increase their collective productivity and the application of their research findings, Skinner said.

Petersen emphasized the benefits the researchers’ collective work would have to students. “Undergraduate and graduate students will be able to spend time in a government lab, which will enhance their face-to-face interaction with university faculty and government scientists.”

“There will be a number of research areas involved in the institute to bring a focused effort to address salmon recovery,” said Jim Nagler, a center member from UI.

The institute is seeking an $18 million, five-year operations grant. Individual researchers are applying for funding from other major sources, including the National Science Foundation.

The Center for Reproductive Biology is an organized research unit between WSU and the UI. The center is internationally recognized as a center of excellence in the area of reproductive biology research. The primary goals of the center are to foster the highest quality research, promote research collaborations, enhance multi-investigator grants, and enhance the training and education programs in the area of reproductive biology.