Research

I am an interdisciplinary scientist using empirical approaches in coastal marine ecosystems to improve our understanding of ecological communities while contributing knowledge to solve pressing challenges facing our nearshore fisheries.  I use methods from both the natural and social sciences for primary data collection, and also rely on long-term social and ecological observations. I use both quantitative and qualitative methods for data analysis and synthesis.

 

MODELING AND MAPPING FISHING IMPACT AND BIOMASS

Goal: to develop models and high-resolution maps of fishing impact and reef fish standing stock to support coral reef management and marine spatial planning initiatives

florida_keys_space

Mapping and modeling fishing impact in the Florida Keys
In collaboration with Dr. Alastair Harborne and The Nature Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth Initiative, I am compiling biophysical and socioeconomic data relevant to South Florida’s coral reef fisheries and generating spatial data layers in ArcGIS. I am developing a model using a boosted regression tree statistical approach to estimate fishing impact and fish biomass on the coral reefs of the Florida reef tract at a fine spatial scale (1 ha resolution). I’m also using these models to predict fish biomass under a range of management scenarios to inform ongoing decision-making by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Park Service. Models and maps will be completed and available on the Ocean Wealth data portal by August 2019. 

A short project description is available here

 

mapping modeling graphicMapping and modeling fishing impact in the Eastern Caribbean
Similar to the work detailed above for Florida, I am developing models and maps to describe the spatial distribution of fishing impact on coral reefs across the Eastern Caribbean, and create current and predictive potential maps of fish biomass. This work is being done in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy’s Mapping Ocean Wealth Initiative and is designed to directly inform the upcoming Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ marine spatial planning process which includes St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  

 

 

ECOSYSTEM CONNECTIVITY

Goal: to understand mechanisms and ecological consequences of ecosystem connectivity in the marine environment

Ecosystem subsidies in central California kelp forests

I used traditional diet content analysis and stable isotopes to understand how trophic interactions in the kelp forest fish assemblage respond to resource pulses from adjacent pelagic ecosystems. These projects shed light on the factors that influence nearshore fishery productivity, especially those related to kelp forest connectivity with the open ocean. 

Our Ecosphere open access publication on ocean subsidies to kelp forests can be found here

 

Use of drift vegetation as an ecological subsidy by a deep sea fish (and notes on this eelpout’s life history)

I investigated trophic and habitat subsidies from the nearshore kelp forest environment to adjacent deeep-sea canyons using the persimmon eelpout (Eucryphycus californicus) as a case study. This work was conducted using data collected by Richard Kliever, Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. 

Our Env Biol of Fishes paper on the persimmon eelpout can be found here

 

COUPLED NATURAL AND HUMAN SYSTEMS

Goal: to integrate an understanding of human dimensions into our approach to fisheries management

Social-ecological coupling in the nearshore fishery of central California
Scientists, managers and resource users are increasingly aware of the importance of social-ecological coupling in determining fishery sustainability. In this project, I use qualitative (information from semi-structured interviews) and quantitative (landings and ecological monitoring data) data to characterize the nearshore fishery as a coupled social-ecological system. I employ market, governance, ecological and environmental data to explore relationships linking biophysical, economic and management components of the fishery, ultimately providing information for its adaptive management. This work is being done in collaboration with Sea Grant’s Dr. Carrie Pomeroy and with assistance from members of central California’s nearshore fishing fleet and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Find the results in my dissertation here

 

sardines_montereybayManaging small-scale commercial fisheries for adaptive capacity

Focusing on the wetfish fishery (anchovy, sardine and squid) in California, we explored factors that lead to shifts in fishery dynamics, and ways that fishermen adapt in the face of economic and environmental disturbances. Our findings indicate that fisheries management would benefit by promoting regulations that allow fishery participants to shift effort between and among fisheries to encourage adaptive capacity in the fishery’s social-ecological system. These flexible, interconnected fishery systems can ensure that fishermen and fish stocks are resilient to continuing climatic, market and governance changes. This work was coordinated by Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions. 

Our PloS One open access publication can be found here

 

CLIMATE AND FISHERIES

Goal: to combine fisheries and dendrochronology methods to quantify the influence of climate on fisheries in a way that furthers adaptive fisheries management in the face of a changing ocean

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClimate-growth relationships for rockfish in the genus Sebastes 

Climate is a major driver of species productivity, community structure and ecosystem functioning in the nearshore marine environment. However, as we gain a clearer understanding of oceanographic shifts that will occur as our climate changes, the lack of information on species’ biological responses to climate variability becomes apparent. This work relies on growth information stored in the otoliths of nearshore rockfish to improve our understanding of how environmental drivers impact individual fish growth. Results can inform managers working to forecast fishery dynamics to ensure sustainable management of our California nearshore stocks. 

Data and results from this project will be available soon. 

 

otolith

Impacts of decadal-scale climate variability on an economically important fishery

The productivity and functioning of marine ecosystems are tightly coupled to climatic variability, To explore the impact of decadal regime shifts (such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation) on higher trophic levels, we applied dendrochronology (tree-ring science) techniques to the otolith growth-increment widths of Pacific ocean perch (Sebastes alutus) collected from the continental slope of the eastern Bering Sea. Our results show that S. alutus exhibits the highest observed growth values immediately followed regime shifts, suggesting that these event have a critical and lasting impact on fish stocks. The biochronologies that we generated for this project provide a long-term perspective and underscore the susceptibility of fish growth to extreme low-frequency climatic events. This work was led by Dr. Bryan Black with support from the North American Dendroecological Fieldweek

Find our published results here

 

 

 

 

I respectfully reserve the right to be smarter today than I was yesterday. – Konrad Adenauer (former German Chancellor)