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Science Center for Marine Fisheries Recognizes Its Women Scientists in Celebration of Women's History Month

Wednesday, 31 March 2021 05:24 PM

Science Center for Marine Fisheries

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS / ACCESSWIRE / March 31, 2021 / As Women's History Month comes to a close, the Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCEMFIS) is celebrating the contributions of the women students and staffers who are a driving force behind the Center's current success, and who are essential to our important fisheries science research.

Science Center for Marine Fisheries, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, Press release picture
Clockwise from top left: Laura Solinger, Alexandria Marquardt, Alyssa LeClaire, Alexis Hollander, Jillian Sower, and Kathleen Hemeon

SCEMFIS operates two main research centers, the Gulf Coast Research Lab at the University of Southern Mississippi and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary. This year, we have an amazing team of PhD and Master's degree students working at both sites, contributing to our work on finish and shellfish.

Here are the stories of the students and scientists that are part of the SCEMFIS team, who will make up the next generation of leaders in marine science.

Kathleen Hemeon is a third year PhD candidate at the Gulf Coast Research Lab at the University of Southern Mississippi. In her second year as a PhD student, she participated in a National Science Foundation non-academic internship, which funded a six-month collaborative research study at the Population Biology Branch of the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA. As an intern, she worked to develop age-error estimations and protocols that arise when aging the commercially harvested ocean quahog (Arctica islandica), the longest-lived bivalve on Earth. These data will help researchers identify age-reader bias and precision to report with age estimations, in addition to standardizing aging procedures for an animal that is notoriously difficult to age.

Kathleen will continue her work on ocean quahog with her dissertation, which will better explain the population dynamics of two, Mid-Atlantic quahog populations. This dissertation follows Kathleen's previous work with green sturgeon, inland fisheries, and natural resource management, in addition to an earned B.S. from Western Washington University and M.S. from James Madison University.

Jill Sower is a second-year Master's student at the Gulf Coast Research Lab. Her work at GCRL focuses on examining population dynamics for ocean quahogs off the coast of New Jersey in comparison to different quahog populations from along the coast of New England.

Jill received a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation and a B.A. in Spanish from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. She hopes to graduate in Spring 2022, and after finishing her degree, she would like to continue working in a research position at a coastal university along the East Coast.

Alyssa LeClaire is a Master's student at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. Working in collaboration with Virginia Institute of Marine Science, her work includes collecting samples from archived ocean quahog shells found offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula. Carbon dates will be used to determine the time scale of the ocean quahog's range shift across the continental shelf in Mid-Atlantic Bight, coinciding with fluctuation of the Cold Pool and historical climate events. She has sampled shells that are over 4000 years old.

She is applying for an NSF nonacademic internship to work with NOAA's Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL). This five-month internship would be to determine if the Cold Pool has significantly changed, in terms of size and location, and if this change is impacting the available habitat of ocean quahog. Alyssa received her BS in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina.

Laura Solinger is a PhD student in the Gulf Coast Research Lab. Her work focuses on developing a risk-based approach to assess the effectiveness of different management strategies on fisheries resources, including summer flounder and Atlantic surfclam. Laura was awarded an NSF non-academic internship to collaborate with the stock assessment lead for Atlantic surfclam, Dr. Daniel Hennen, at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and she has also collaborated on projects for management of gulf oysters, abalone disease transmission, and forecasts of clam fisheries given projected offshore windmill construction.

Laura received her BS in Biology with a focus on Marine Science from the University of South Florida, and is currently finishing her MS in Fisheries Biology with Humboldt State University. After her PhD, Laura hopes to work with private and public fisheries organizations to develop stock assessment models, assess their effectiveness and continue advancements to incorporate new data sources and environmental variables into models.

Alexis Hollander is a Master's Student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Dr. Roger Mann's Molluscan Ecology Lab. For her Master's research, Alexis is investigating the impacts of climate change on the growth and distribution of Atlantic surfclams (Spisula solidissima). The moving footprint of the range of exploited surfclams in these regions over the past four decades is now well documented in both Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) stock assessment surveys and the gradual northeasterly movement of harvest activity. This project is developing a 33-year retrospective, spatially explicit time series of growth rates in surfclams collected over the surveyed range to both document the moving footprint in terms of population productivity and provide an explicit forward projection of future productivity.

Alexis has a career goal of serving as an educator and mentor to college students.

Alexandria Marquardt is an ecologist and PhD student in the Department of Fisheries Science at Virginia Institute of Marine Science studying Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) biology and population dynamics in the Chesapeake Bay. Her work focuses primarily on marine invertebrates and addresses applied questions that directly inform management and restoration of harvested species. Alex's PhD research investigates post-settlement growth and mortality in oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and compares existing and fossil oyster reefs. Alex is collaborating with SCEMFIS this spring, assisting with ocean quahog and surf clam research, while searching for fossilized oysters.

Her career goals are to work on research and monitoring programs that engage local communities and stakeholders to share knowledge, build relationships, and facilitate participation in scientific research. Alex completed her BS in Fisheries and Wildlife Science at Oregon State University and MS in Biological Sciences working with Dr. Ben Ruttenberg at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

SCEMFIS utilizes academic and fisheries resources to address urgent scientific problems limiting sustainable fisheries. SCEMFIS develops methods, analytical and survey tools, datasets, and analytical approaches to improve sustainability of fisheries and reduce uncertainty in biomass estimates. SCEMFIS university partners, University of Southern Mississippi (lead institution), and Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, are the academic sites. Collaborating scientists who provide specific expertise in finfish, shellfish, and marine mammal research, come from a wide range of academic institutions including Old Dominion University, Rutgers University, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, University of Maryland, and University of Rhode Island.

The need for the diverse services that SCEMFIS can provide to industry continues to grow, which has prompted a steady increase in the number of fishing industry partners. These services include immediate access to science expertise for stock assessment issues, rapid response to research priorities, and representation on stock assessment working groups. Targeted research leads to improvements in data collection, survey design, analytical tools, assessment models, and other needs to reduce uncertainty in stock status and improve reference point goals.

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SOURCE: Science Center for Marine Fisheries

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