About Me

ZuercherI am a Post-doctoral Researcher in the Tropical Fish Ecology Lab (Dr. Alastair Harborne) at Florida International University.  I’m interested in the ecology and management of nearshore fisheries, and combine interdisciplinary, experimental and observational approaches to answer my research questions. My current work focuses on mapping fishing impact in the Florida Keys, then using the map to better understand the spatial patterns in fish biomass. 

My PhD work (“Social and Ecological Connectivity in Kelp Forest Ecosystems”) focused on nearshore rockfishes of central CA, the connectivity between kelp forest fishes and pelagic ocean ecosystems, and social-ecological connectivity in the nearshore fishery. Prior to starting a graduate program, I spent five years working in marine and coastal management in the Pacific Islands region – first in Vanua Levu, Fiji with the U.S. Peace Corps, then with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Coastal Resources Management program.  It was during this time that I began to truly understand human-nature interactions and the challenges of marine resource management.

I completed my B.S. in Biology at Valparaiso University (VU) in Indiana where I received a broad education in the biological sciences.  While at VU, I was active in a collaboration between VU biologists, students and local fishermen to restore trout habitat in local streams.  Mentorship from individuals in this group and my research advisor, Dr. Laurie Eberhardt, shaped my interests in field ecology and fisheries.  During my undergraduate studies, I spent research time in Dominica, West Indies (Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology) and La Selva, Costa Rica (NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates).

I was born and raised in South Dakota and retain a love for freshwater ecosystems and the great plains of central North America.  Though my career is focused on marine ecology and management, I find the roots of my scientific passion in the prairie.

In my spare time I am happiest underwater, in the forest, on the beach or climbing a mountain.  I enjoy camping, gardening, outrigger paddling, beach-combing and birding.  To relax I cook, I read, and I spend time with my wonderful husband and dog.