Easton White, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences
University of New Hampshire

Socio-ecological dynamics of fisheries in the face of extreme events

[Zoom recording]

Extreme events are, by definition, rare, but they can have significant consequences for systems. This is especially the case in socio-ecological systems that involve linkages between several-subsystems, allowing to the effects of an extreme event to propagate. In this talk, I’ll highlight studies focused on how extreme events affect the socio-ecological dynamics of fisheries. The talk will contain case studies on coral reef fisheries, COVID-19 and seafood, and recreational fisheries. I’ll show that shock events can dramatically alter the course of the socio-ecological system and change management recommendations. I identify counter-intuitive situations where the degradation of habitat via a shock event can help the system persist in a healthy state as a result of feedback from the social dynamics.

Dr. Easton White is a quantitative marine ecologist who uses mathematical and statistical tools, coupled with experiments and field observations, to answer questions in ecology, conservation science, sustainability, and ecosystem management. Most of his work is focused on marine systems, especially fisheries and spatial planning. Easton currently conducts research on assessing the effectiveness of protected area networks, improving species monitoring programs, and modeling socio-ecological systems in the context of fisheries. His work centers on how environmental variability, in particular rare events (e.g., hurricanes, COVID-19 pandemic), affects ecosystems and those that depend on them. He is currently recruiting for graduate students within the Quantitative Marine Ecology Lab at the University of New Hampshire working with Professor Easton White. Please see here (https://quantmarineecolab.github.io/join/) for more information on how to apply.


Michelle Bachman
Fishery Analyst, Habitat Plan Coordinator
New England Fishery Management Council

Area-Based Management at the Regional Fishery Management Councils

[Zoom recording]

Conservation areas are one of many tools to manage fisheries and conserve ecosystems and associated biodiversity in U.S. marine waters. Working under the direction of the Council Coordination Committee, the Area-Based Management Subcommittee developed a project-specific definition of ‘conservation’ and identified 648 areas in three categories, ecosystem conservation, year-round fishery management, and seasonal / other areas. In total, these areas currently cover 72% of the total U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

A substantial proportion of the U.S. EEZ is conserved relative to environmentally adverse fishing activities. Year-round, bottom trawling is prohibited in 56% of the EEZ, and all bottom tending gear (including trawls, dredges, bottom longlines, and pots) in 37%. These area-based gear restrictions complement other management tools used by the Councils to ensure sustainable fisheries and ecosystems, such as conservative catch limits, bycatch limits on non-target species, and limitations on legal gears. Collectively, these measures meet objectives and national standards that ensure the maintenance of biological productivity and biodiversity, while affording access to nature through recreational opportunities and healthy, sustainable seafood for consumers.

Our conservation areas database has been shared with NOAA Fisheries to support the Administration’s efforts to compile an America the Beautiful (ATB) Conservation Atlas. The Administration’s area-based conservation goal of 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030 is framed as an important part of our nation’s solution to the climate crisis. Many authors have discussed the contribution that area-based management makes to promoting climate resilience in marine ecosystems. The answer to whether fisheries management areas are similarly effective to fully protected marine reserves, or if they promote ecosystem resilience to climate change, appears to be ‘it depends’. By contributing our detailed accounting of fisheries conservation areas to the broader ATB inventory, the Councils endeavor to support development of a robust conservation atlas that fully reflects the contribution of fishery management areas to 30/30 objectives.

Michelle Bachman has worked as an analyst with the New England Fishery Management Council since December 2008. She supports the Council’s habitat-related initiatives, chairing the Habitat Plan Development Team since 2009. She served as the staff lead for the Council’s Essential Fish Habitat Amendment 2, Deep-Sea Coral Amendment, Clam Dredge Exemption Framework, Atlantic Salmon Aquaculture Framework, Southern New England Habitat Area of Particular Concern Framework, and currently, is co-lead on the Northern Edge Habitat-Scallop Framework. Broadly, these actions relate to minimization of fishing effects on marine habitats. She helps the Council stay connected to and comment on offshore wind, habitat mapping, and marine spatial planning issues, with a particular focus on non-fishing activities that might affect fishery species and their habitats. Ms. Bachman represents the Council on numerous external committees, including the Council Coordination Committee Area-Based Management Sub-Committee and Habitat Work Group, the East Coast Climate Change Scenario Planning Core Team, the Hudson Canyon National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, the Atlantic States Marine

Fisheries Commission Habitat Committee, and the Responsible Offshore Science Alliance Advisory Council. Ms. Bachman studied biology and environmental studies at Tufts University and received her M.S. degree in Living Marine Resource Science and Management from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology in 2009.


Katherine Kahl, Ph.D.
Extension Assistant Professor, Coastal Resilience & Sustainable Fisheries
University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst Gloucester Marine Station: Our vision forward

[Zoom recording]

Of the 6.7 million Massachusetts residents, 5.1 million (75%) of those live in coastal areas, representing $206 billion in annual wages. Coastal areas face a suite of complex challenges. Rising seas and ocean temperatures, more frequent and intense storms, and flooding all represent significant threats to coastal ecosystems, coastal communities, and infrastructure through land loss, altered habitats and increased vulnerability to storm and flood damage. Marine ecosystems, fishing stocks, seafood processors, and dependable sources of local seafood to markets and restaurants provide a cascading network of challenge to address up and down the seafood supply chain. The negative impacts on fishermen and livelihoods, and the skillsets needed to sustain the industry’s institutional knowledge and culture (on the North Shore and across New England), are many. Gaining and translating scientific understanding of fisheries stocks and marine habitat under a changing ocean climate is foundational to bringing innovative solutions to these challenges.

To address complex coastal challenges at local and regional scales, the UMass Amherst Gloucester Marine Station (GMS) has engaged North Shore communities, stakeholders, and coastal industry leaders to inform a strategic re-envisioning of GMS’s research and engagement focal areas: blue economy, coastal resilience, marine ecology, and sustainable fisheries & seafood. Infrastructure investments by the Commonwealth and University are enabling new opportunities to grow research partnerships and immersive student learning. This presentation will share an overview of GMS programming, progress to date and our vision forward.


Joseph Caracappa, Ph.D.
Ecosystem Modeler
NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Building a Climate-Ready Northeast U.S. Atlantis Ecosystem Model

[Zoom recording]

With increased concern on the impacts of climate change on the northeast U.S., there is a growing need for modelling products that can relate large-scale environmental change to regional and local processes. End-to-end ecosystem models, like Atlantis, simulate ecosystem-wide processes from physics and biogeochemistry, to ecological processes and population dynamics, all through socioeconomic impacts. The Northeast U.S. Atlantis ecosystem model (NEUSv2) is such a model, and while much of its development has focused on its ability to reproduce critical ecosystem processes and validated against data, it’s not yet “climate-ready”. This talk will discuss the development workflow and modeling efforts of NEUSv2, some broader observations on the tradeoffs between model skill, complexity, and resources, as well as some current work to improve NEUSv2’s ability to relate global climate change to regional/local impacts.

Dr. Joe Caracappa is a life-long resident of the northeast U.S. After growing up in rural NH, he received his undergraduate at Boston College. Later he received his PhD at Rutgers University studying the effects of larval morphology and behavior on population connectivity and dispersal. Joe then worked as a post-doctoral researcher with the National Research Council at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center to work on the development of its regional Atlantis ecosystem model. He has now continued as a contractor at the NEFSC working towards the operationalization of the NEUSv2 Atlantis model.


Tara Dolan, Ph.D.
Research fisheries biologist
Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

Exploring population connectivity in winter flounder

[Zoom recording]

The expression of alternative life-history strategies can be advantageous for a species that experiences fluctuating environmental conditions. Intra-species differences in migration propensity and the timing of spawning create diverse population components which can respond plastically to environmental variability, promoting long-term stability within the population. However, such intra-specific diversity can also lead to challenges for the assessment and management of harvested species when we can no longer assume that stocks with such diverse subcomponents have homogeneous population dynamics. A concern for the assessment and management of Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) is whether diversity in migration propensity and the timing and location of spawning results in persistent stock structure. We characterized intra-specific behavioral diversity in migration propensity for winter flounder across multiple spatial scales. The migration propensity and natal origin for individual flounder were cross-referenced with their genotype, allowing us to compare genetic signatures of population structure with migration and spawning behavior. Including the role of behavior in mediating population connectivity will lead to more accurate interpretation of the causes and consequences of changes in fisheries productivity, and thus help us design more accurate assessment and effective management strategies.


CINAR Fellows in Quantitative Fishery and Ecosystem Science

Gavin Fay, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Fisheries Oceanography, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Genevieve Nesslage, Ph.D.
Associate Research Professor, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Joshua Stoll, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, University of Maine

John Wiedenmann, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers University

Enhancing Linkages between Ecosystem Research, Stock Assessment, and Management: Presentations by CINAR Fellows in Quantitative Fisheries and Ecosystem Science

[Youtube recording]

The goal of the CINAR fellowship program in Quantitative Fisheries and Ecosystem Science is to engage early-career scientists in research that supports the training and education of the next generation of stock assessment scientists, ecosystem scientists, and economists, and that improves the assessment and management of vital living marine resources in the Northeast U.S. This program supported two-year fellowships for four early career faculty from CINAR partner institutions who partnered with a scientist at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center to further strengthen links among research, assessments, and management. Join us for this seminar as our four CINAR fellows present an overview of their research and educational activities and its impact.

Speaker Bios:

Dr. Gavin Fay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Fisheries Oceanography at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST). Gavin’s work focuses on using statistical and mathematical models for better ecosystem-based decision making for fisheries and our oceans. He is also interested in how open data science tools can empower communication of scientific results for application to management and policy.

Geneviève (Genny) Nesslage is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. Her research focuses on stock assessment as well as fish, wildlife, and invasive species population dynamics.

Joshua Stoll is an Assistant Professor of Marine Policy in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine. He is an applied social scientist who uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study questions about ocean governance, coastal community resilience, and seafood systems. 

John Wiedenmann is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University.  His research focuses on the population dynamics of marine fish, stock assessment, and fisheries management, with a particular focus on the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions.


Robert DeConto, Ph.D.
Provost Professor; Director, School of Earth & Sustainability; Dept. of Earth, Geographic, & Climate Sciences
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Unprecedented Vulnerability of the Antarctic Ice Sheet: Implications for Global Climate, Sea Level, and Coastlines

[Zoom recording]

Rob DeConto is a Provost Professor of Earth, Geographic, and Climate Sciences and Director of the School of Earth & Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His research on the dynamic behavior of ice sheets, sea level rise, and the impacts of sea level rise on coastlines and people has been featured in Rolling Stone, on the cover of Nature, and the front page of the New York Times. Rob is a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and a recipient of the Tinker-Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica.


Kelsey Leonard, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environment
University of Waterloo

Sustaining Tribal Fisheries

In this presentation, we explore the complex landscape of preserving and sustaining Tribal fisheries for the benefit of future generations. Together, we will examine the intricate balance required between ecological sustainability, cultural preservation, and economic viability within the context of Tribal fisheries. This discussion aims to provide scholarly insights into the multifaceted challenges and opportunities inherent in the preservation and sustainable management of Tribal fisheries and recommendations for acknowledging and upholding the rights and sovereignty of Tribal Nations in the management of fisheries.

Dr. Kelsey Leonard holds a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Waters, Climate and Sustainability and is an Assistant Professor in the School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, where her research focuses on Indigenous water justice and its climatic, territorial, and governance underpinnings. As a water scientist and legal scholar, Dr. Leonard seeks to establish Indigenous traditions of water conservation as the foundation for international water policymaking. She represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation on the Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean, which is charged with protecting America’s ocean ecosystems and coastlines. She also serves as a member of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board of the International Joint Commission. She is an enrolled citizen of Shinnecock Indian Nation.


Katherine Mills, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Gulf of Maine Research Institute

Climate Impacts and Resilience in Marine Fisheries

Climate change is altering oceans and marine ecosystems around the world, pushing physical conditions beyond recent analogues, driving biological changes, and creating impacts that cascade through social-ecological systems. The Northeast U.S. Shelf has experienced rapid warming of ocean temperatures, recurring marine heatwaves, and an exceptionally warm temperature regime over the past decade. Fish and invertebrate populations across the region are being affected in a variety of ways, including changes in distribution, growth, phenology, and productivity. Moreover, changing ocean uses that can support climate adaptation and mitigation are also affecting marine ecosystems and fisheries. The nature of these impacts and ability of fishery stakeholders to respond to them are mediated by the ecological, socio-economic, and governance context within which fisheries operate. This presentation will examine attributes of and pathways to climate resilience in marine fisheries in the Northeast US and relate experiences here to those in fisheries around the world. It will also highlight bidirectional global-local perspectives to identify multifaceted strategies to support climate adaptation and resilience in marine fisheries, including measures directed towards enhancing fish stocks and ecosystem health, reinforcing or building social capacities, expanding economic opportunities, and enhancing governance responsiveness and effectiveness.

Dr. Katherine Mills is a senior research scientist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine. She earned her Ph.D. in Natural Resources at Cornell University. As a quantitative fisheries ecologist, Kathy studies marine ecosystem changes and fish-ecosystem-fishery relationships with a focus on the Gulf of Maine and Northeast US Shelf regions. Specifically, her research investigates (1) how physical and ecosystem conditions are changing; (2) how these changes affect fish populations, biological communities, and marine fisheries; and (3) how fisheries and fishing communities can effectively respond. Much of her work is interdisciplinary and collaborative, working with scientists and stakeholders to understand and inform management of fisheries as coupled social-ecological systems and to support climate adaptation and resilience in marine fisheries. She leads a UN Ocean Decade program—Fisheries Strategies for Changing Oceans and Resilient Ecosystems by 2030 (FishSCORE), is lead author for the ‘Ocean Ecosystems and Marine Resources’ chapter of the US 5th National Climate Assessment, and serves as a chair of the ICES-PICES Strategic Initiative on Climate Change Impacts on Marine Ecosystems (SICCME).


Meghna Marjadi, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth


Sarah Donelan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biology
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Legacies of stress: eco-evolutionary consequences of transgenerational and carryover effects in coastal systems

Phenotypic plasticity is a critical component of organismal responses to environmental change. My seminar will focus on a central theme of my research program – “legacy effects,” or how past environmental experiences shape organism phenotypes, the mechanisms of these changes, and the consequences of these changes for communities and ecosystems. We will explore how parental experience with predators influences fitness and physiology in intertidal snails and how early life exposure to climate change stressors impacts oyster growth and nitrogen storage, a critical ecosystem service.

Dr. Sarah Donelan’s research focuses on how marine organisms respond to stress across generations and life stages. She works primarily with marine invertebrates like snails and oysters found along the coast of Massachusetts and explores stressors that affect many coastal organisms, including those associated with climate change, predation, and species invasions. She began as an Assistant Professor at UMass Dartmouth in Fall 2023. Prior to UMassD, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland. She received her Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology from Northeastern University and her B.A. in Biology from Wesleyan University. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and infant daughter, cycling, watching Survivor, and tending to her many houseplants.


Jason Cope, Ph.D.
Research Fish Biologist
NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center

Tools and principles to support science-based fisheries management across the world

The world is full of fisheries and people who rely on them, but there remain major challenges to managing those fisheries. We therefore need creative solutions that are shareable and flexible enough to meet case-specific challenges, but also accessible to practitioners. We also need to build a philosophy and common language to practice fisheries science. I hope to share with you a variety of tools that exemplify the intent to empower users to identify and confront challenges in fisheries management. I will emphasize the power of ongoing basic biological research and highlight an analytical framework for stock assessment that forms a continuum,, rather than just a discretized inventory, of methods. The intent of these accessible tools and principles is to clarify process and possibility, valuing transparency, replicability and ingenuity while encouraging action no matter the challenge.

Jason received his B.A. in Integrative Biology with an emphasis in animal behavior and evolution from the University of California at Berkeley, his M.S. in 2002 from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and his Ph.D. from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington in 2008. Jason is a Research Fish Biologist with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center’s Population Ecology Program and currently serves on the Scientific and Statistical Committee for the Caribbean Fishery Management Council.

Jason has contributed to numerous groundfish stock assessments for the NWFSC since 2004 and is a member of the NWFSCs Integrated Fisheries Stock Assessment Team. In addition to supporting fisheries management through stock assessments, Jason is involved in a variety of research topics that include a) the development, application, and teaching of methods for resource-limited fisheries (including the development of Shiny-based apps), b) improving estimates of basic life history characteristics (e.g. age and growth, mortality) of fishes, c) developing reference points, control rules and management strategies for use in fisheries management, and d) provide capacity building trainings to support science-based fisheries management. He is a member of the FishPath development team, a web-based decision support tool for developing harvest strategies. Jason also regularly serves as a reviewer for a variety of stock assessments around the world, as well as an editor for the journal Fisheries Research.