Flying Fish

Real World Fisheries: A jump from the classroom
by Nicole Carlozo -- March 10th, 2012

My newfound Fisheries Ecology knowledge was put to the test this weekend at the AFS Tidewater Chapter meeting.

Blue crab tagging field work, fall 2008

Blue crab tagging field work, fall 2008

Within an interdisciplinary program, sometimes the science gets lost, muddled, pushed aside, or brushed over in favor of discussions about management, policy, economics, and social dynamics. The science is always there, serving as the baseline or foundation for environmental discussions. It’s just not always fully explored by interdisciplinary students.

Where is the Science?

Fisheries Ecology and Management stems from the “best available science.” However, as students of environmental management, we often skip straight to the economics of catch shares or the social implications of quotas. What about in-depth knowledge of fish distributions, behavior, and ecosystem interactions? What about fish biology, taxonomy, and predator-prey dynamics?

I embraced the Nicholas School’s interdisciplinary focus when I joined the MEM class of 2012, but after almost 2 years of natural resource economics, spatial analysis, and social science, I yearned
for something more. I yearned for my science roots – the Biology
classes and blue crab population studies that first piqued my interest in this field.

Fisheries Ecology fishing field trip

Fisheries Ecology fishing field trip

Back to the Science, or Forward to the Policy?

In an attempt to re-inject science into my daily academic load, I recently took a Fisheries Ecology class. We discussed population modeling, stock assessments, life histories, migration patterns, fisheries dependent and independent surveys, and a variety of other fisheries topics. While we covered a breadth of material, I couldn’t fully connect that material with real world applications. We talked generally about the importance of natural mortality estimates, spawning stock biomass, and other modeling parameters.

But how did those topics translate in the science? How were they used when testing a hypothesis or conducting a study?

As I pondered the possible applications of this material, an opportunity arose. In stepped the American Fisheries Society Tidewater Chapter Annual Meeting and an affiliated continuing education class on length-weight species modeling.

I definitely had my “Aha moment” this week while listening to professionals and graduate students talk about fisheries science in action.

But was I truly returning to my science roots?

I think not.

I was surprised, but pleased, by the amount of science-policy overlap throughout the meeting. In fact, aquaculture concerns, stock status and management, catch per unit effort, and sampling standardization were all covered. Predator-prey interactions and other components of ecosystem-based fisheries management were also highlighted.

I guess you can say that I’ve traveled a full circle since my immersion in this field. I sought out the science this semester, and it led me right back to policy.

1 Comment

  1. don snethen
    Mar 11, 2012


    Without some grounding in science many policy wonks would try to repeal the law of gravity.

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