Striped Bass on a NJ Barrier Island

Our small group of 12 comprised of students and professors from UMASS and Monmouth University was invited to join the Berkeley Striper Club for a day of surfcasting for striped bass at Island Beach State Park in New Jersey. We were all impressed by the vast ecological knowledge of the anglers and with their commitment to striped bass conservation. In hopes to determine best catch-and-release handling practices, we with the aid of the anglers took non-lethal blood samples and performed behavior assessments on caught fish. It was a chilly but beautiful November day to spend on this picturesque barrier island with its sprawling grass covered dunes.


Project Permit

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s “Project Permit” is the first extensive overview of Permit spatial ecology. Habitat connectivity must be considered to ensure effective management plans at the correct geographic scale. I spent a week in the lower Florida Keys working with fellow colleagues, Jake Brownscombe from Carleton University and Aaron Adams from BTT, and alongside local fishing guides in hopes to capture Permit. Once Permit have acoustic transmitters surgically implanted, 60 receivers will detect the locations of these fish. Unfortunately, conditions weren’t perfect for us to hook into any; the difficult fishing is telling why little information has been collected on these elusive fish.  Visit Bonefish & Tarpon Trust’s site to read more about Permit research. 

Culebra Conch

Queen conch (Lobatus gigas), a valuable fishery, have suffered region-wide stock depletion and are now considered a species of concern throughout South Florida, The Caribbean, and South America. While numerous factors may be at play in the depletion of conch stocks, over harvest has been recognized to have a significant role. Over the last two years on Culebra, PR, our UMASS team has noticed a multitude of harvesters wading the flats and edges of mangroves collecting piles of conch atop kayaks. Although at a distance, we are often unable to gauge if the gathered conch are deemed legal harvestable size, it is typically assumed these are juvenile conch because adults are seldom found in such shallow water. Only when a conch approaches sexually maturity (~ 3 years), they migrate from shallow developmental habitats to deeper and safer waters. A conch’s life history makes them extremely susceptible to poaching.

For two weeks this August, I accompanied Jennifer Doerr, Dr. Ron Hill, and their team, from the NOAA Galveston Laboratory Fishery Ecology Branch, on conch density and habitat surveys around Culebra, PR. Rarely finding adult conch, our randomly selected surveys around Culebra validated our UMASS team’s original hypothesis about this depleted stock.

We deployed 14 acoustic receivers across two bays; based on the density surveys and degree of “human impact”. We tagged 10 conch in each bay (20 in total) to elucidate the in-season and seasonal movements (i.e., spring into summer), and habitat use differences in impacted and non-impacted areas.

To investigate additional potential contributing factors, we collected benthic core samples that may cue researchers on conch grain size preferences. Considering conch spend a substantial part of their life history in these neritic zones, they may be susceptible to increasing anthropogenic disturbances concentrated along the shoreline and in coastal areas (e.g., sedimentation from mangrove clearing, road construction, etc.). 

Bald Eagles and Wind Energy

I joined Blake Massey (PhD student-UMASS) and Chris DeSorbo (Biodiversity Research Institute) on Lake Onawa, Maine to observe and assist in Blake's research on Bald Eagles. Blake's study focuses on using GPS telemetry to model Bald Eagle movements in order to minimize potential future negative impacts associated with wind energy. We attached a floating yellow perch with monofilament line to an anchor and carefully positioned the rig 200 m away from a perched eagle. Once the eagle took the fish, a noose tightened around the eagle's talons, bringing the bird of prey to the water for immediate capture. Morphometrics, blood sampling, and GPS backpack attachments were completed after a "hood" was placed over the eagle's head, minimizing stress due to capture and handling.  Click here for Blake's project abstract.