Kerry Naish

  • Professor, SAFS
  • Curriculum Director, SAFS

Research areas

My research program includes studying the evolutionary responses of populations to natural and anthropogenic influences, using a combination of molecular, genomic and quantitative genetic approaches to characterize changes in fitness-related traits. Our work has implications for the conservation and management of aquatic populations because we need to understand how these populations will respond to a changing environment. Specifically, we need to be able to identify natural environmental influences on the evolution of fitness traits and then to anticipate how populations might respond to activities such as harvest, environmental changes, and conservation actions such as reintroductions and supportive breeding. This knowledge will assist us in taking proactive strategies to reduce human impacts on natural populations.

Work in my lab is best described by four major areas:

  1. Studying the evolution of the Pacific salmon genome following an ancient whole-genome duplication event. This work also establishes the framework for applying genomic-based approaches to evolutionary studies.
  2. Understanding the genetic basis of local adaptation in wild populations. Recently, we have been investigating approaches to studying the evolution of fitness-related traits that have been measured in wild populations.
  3. Examining the fitness consequences of population structure. Mating within populations is relevant to the evolution of small populations and might explain innovation or extinction through inbreeding, whereas mating between populations is relevant for understanding increases or decreases in fitness due to outbreeding.
  4. Researching alternative strategies for reducing the impacts of human-induced evolutionary changes in populations. Our group is particularly interested in using proactive investigation in this area so that well-informed measures can be implemented.

The ultimate goal of my research program is to develop predictive models in evolutionary genetics, with direct relevance to conservation and management.


Community Engagement and Awards

University Service

  • College of the Environment, Curriculum Committee
  • Marine Biology Degree, Advisory Committee
  • Friday Harbor Laboratory, Advisory Committee
  • University Honors Program, Advisory Committee

Editorial and Advisory Boards

  • Evolutionary Applications, Associate Editor
  • Science Advisory Panel, SeaDoc Society


  • 2014 College of the Environment Outstanding Teaching Faculty
  • 2008 College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award

Selected publications