Growing up in land locked San Antonio, Texas, trips to the Gulf of Mexico were the highlight of my childhood. I spent countless hours catching pinfish, red drum, hardhead catfish, spotted trout and an occasional stingray from any dock, pier or jetty I could find.
Before entering the BS/MS program at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS), I obtained my BA at NYU in Spanish and business. Even at that time, my best grades were in the biology classes liberal art students were mandated to take. After NYU, I worked as a site safety director in the NYC construction industry for a few years building luxury high-rise residential buildings. Ultimately, I found that line of work to be unfulfilling, and decided to return to school to pursue a degree in marine biology.
As an avid fisherman, I am acutely aware of the overfishing occurring around the world. Added together with the increased demand for sources of protein and the ever increasing human population, sustainable farm raised alternatives are key to supplementing and ideally reducing pressure on wild stocks. With a career in aquaculture or fisheries management as my goal based on those needs, I entered the SOMAS program to learn about the ecology, physiology and management of marine species.
As an undergraduate and graduate student, I have been fortunate enough to work on a number of projects that have aided my ability to reach my career goals. I have grown oysters in Shinnecock Bay, NY as a pilot project for oyster restoration; conducted an ecology survey in Mill Neck Creek, NY as the lead scientist; and I am currently focusing on the early life history of black sea bass, Centropristis striata. Specifically, my current research focuses on how temperature variability affect the distribution and abundance of young-of-the-year (YOY) black sea bass. As one of the fastest warming regions on earth, the NW Atlantic has experienced numerous fisheries distribution shifts to higher latitudes and deeper waters to escape undesirable thermal conditions. As one of the most vulnerable periods in the life history of a fish, it is important to understand how the early life stages are affected by temperature. The ability of black sea bass to shift its distribution further north and establish a significant population where one did not exist previously is partially dependent upon the survivorship of YOY during winter. My research involves examining this ability by developing an accelerated failure model using data collected from a series of overwintering laboratory experiments that I conduced at Flax Pond Laboratory. Using these results in conjunction with hindcasts of environmental data (temperature and salinity) produced by the regional ocean monitoring system (ROMS), I will estimate the survivorship of YOY black sea bass, which will aid our understanding of how recruitment may be affected by winter conditions. My ultimate hope is that the information gathered during these experiments will be applied to help with stock assessment analysis as well as aid in resource management strategies. In the meantime, I am taking full advantage of the opportunity to conduct research and learn fish husbandry.
I will be graduating in May 2015, and am very excited about using all that I have learned so far in my career in the aquaculture industry or fisheries management.