FishGen: Revolutionizing Fisheries Research in the Western US
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FishGen: Revolutionizing Fisheries Research in the Western US

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In Brief

The Genetic Repository Streamlining Research and Conservation Efforts

In the fast-paced world of fisheries management, having timely access to accurate genetic data is crucial—but sharing this data across laboratories was a costly and complex challenge.

Then came FishGen. Built by Resource Data, in partnership with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), FishGen is the first-of-its-kind shared data repository for fish genetics research in the western United States. FishGen is a robust and versatile tool, saving participating labs time and money—and it’s ready for expansion to a wider breadth of projects and species.

Key Takeaways

Fostering collaboration, enhancing accuracy, and reducing costs with shared data.

  1. FishGen: An Innovative, Shared Data Repository

    FishGen, a web-based software with GIS interface, is the western United States’ first shared fish genetics data repository.

  2. Enhanced Reporting Quality and Collaboration

    FishGen boosts collaboration between labs and reduces errors by eliminating the need for manual transfers of the substantial sample data collected annually.

  3. Better Informed Research and Monitoring Programs

    FishGen’s stored baselines are vital for research and monitoring programs in the Columbia River Basin. The data aids in developing effective population management strategies.

  4. Future Potential: A Comprehensive Genetic Repository

    With its potential to become a comprehensive genetic repository, FishGen aims to expand its scope to cover a wider range of projects and species in the Pacific Northwest.

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The Challenges

Cumbersome & error-prone data sharing

Sharing genetic data among laboratories has traditionally been a cumbersome and error-prone process. Fisheries scientists in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska have diligently collected genetic information on fish species over the years. However, the exchange of this valuable data between labs has proven to be a challenging task, requiring substantial data transfers and incurring significant costs.

Although most fish genetics labs have their own databases to store and manage genetic data, these databases are not designed to serve as long-term, shared repositories. They lack web-based and GIS-enabled capabilities, making it difficult for multiple organizations to access and utilize the data effectively. The current method of sharing data relies on manual copying and pasting, inevitably leading to errors, especially when dealing with large amounts of data.

While there have been successful international, multi-laboratory projects, they have been limited in scope, often focusing on a single type of genetic marker and lacking proper marker validation procedures. Additionally, these projects did not incorporate GIS interfaces, further hindering collaboration.


The Solution

First shared, fish genetics data repository in the western United States

To address the challenges of merging regional data sets from multiple laboratories and enhance conservation and management efforts, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, in collaboration with Resource Data, created FishGen.

FishGen is a web-based, GIS-integrated software that serves as a dynamic and shared data repository for fish genetics data. Collaborating labs at agencies such as NOAA Fisheries and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife can easily submit, search, and download genetic data, promoting collaboration and supporting monitoring projects.

The software, designed to handle tens of thousands of samples annually, was built with inputs from genetic laboratories for field requirements, validation, and marker standardization. The result is an industry-friendly interface and standardized protocols. Robust and versatile, FishGen was built to evolve and accept new types of genetic data, ensuring long-term accessibility and adaptability.


Dynamic and evolving. Designed for long-term accessibility and security.

  1. Save Data Set: Capture and share information easily

    The “save data set” feature simplifies data sharing between laboratories and referencing data sets found in literature and publications.

  2. User-friendly search: Find what you need quickly

    Search results are displayed on a map or in a table with options to filter and refine further.

  3. Easy Data Export: Fast reporting made simple

    Export data in industry-standard formats for fast reporting to funding, fisheries management, and regulatory agencies.

  4. Tailored Search Results: Customize your view

    Choose from eight map base layers including satellite, topographic, USGS, and HUC.

  5. Error Free Data Entry: Ensure accuracy effortlessly

    Consistent input parameters and validation rules ensure uniform data entry and minimize errors such as uploading the same data under different names.

  6. Nightly Backups: Protect your data

    Redundant backups with Amazon S3 guarantee data preservation and archival.

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“[Fishgen is] an excellent tool for supporting genetic research and monitoring projects throughout the region.”

- Fisheries Magazine, Vol. 43, No. 7


Unleashing Potential: FishGen’s Impact on Fish Conservation

FishGen is far more than just a data repository. It’s a platform for collaboration, bringing together laboratories from research institutes, universities, tribal, and government agencies in a way that wasn’t possible before in the Pacific Coast region. This easy access to baseline data is not just facilitating collaboration but also improving the management of commercial, recreational, and tribal harvest allocations.

The tool’s impact extends beyond its immediate users, contributing to research and monitoring programs across the Columbia River Basin and Pacific Coast of the United States and Canada. These programs play a vital role in developing strategies for population management.

With FishGen, we can now delineate mixed-stock fisheries more accurately, better assess the status of salmon and steelhead listed in the US Endangered Species Act, and gain a deeper understanding of population genetic structure. Furthermore, FishGen aids in estimating abundance, productivity, genetic diversity, and individual stock’s life history characteristics more accurately.

In essence, FishGen is unlocking new potentials in fish genetic research, paving the way for more informed decision-making and effective conservation strategies.

“[Resource Data was] an appealing choice for this project as they have experience working on many other fisheries-related projects.”

~ Jesse McCane, Data Coordinator
Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game's Eagle Fish Genetics Laboratory
FishGen Whats Next

What's Next

The Path Ahead: Expanding Horizons

The creation of FishGen marks a significant milestone in the sphere of fish genetics research and fisheries management in the western United States. This innovative tool has already proved its worth by saving participating laboratories both time and money. Its potential, however, is far from being fully tapped – with scope for expansion to accommodate a wider range of projects, species, and genetic marker types and subtypes in the future.

As FishGen continues to evolve and expand, there are high hopes that biologists, geneticists, and fisheries managers will see it as a one-stop genetic repository for Pacific Coast projects, recognizing its immense value as a tool for information sharing and collaboration across agencies.