Alaska Pacific University, M.Sc. Environmental Science
University of Wisconsin – River Falls, B.Sc. Conservation; and Communication Studies
I come from the landlocked state of Wisconsin but have always been pulled toward the ocean. My undergraduate degree was broad in nature, with classes in most natural and physical science fields, and culminating with a senior project focusing on published case studies of gear impacts on coral reef communities. I had the opportunity to spend one summer teaching English at summer camps in Japan, serve two summers as a park ranger for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and to develop several types of management plans. After graduation, I spent five years working for the U.S. Geological Survey as a hydrologic technician, measuring streamflow, modeling these measurements, teaching some professional courses, as well as publishing an article in LakeLine magazine.
The working title of my thesis is “Exploring stress hormones as a quantitative assessment for post-release survival.” The endocrine responses of fishes captured by commercial fishing gear can provide insight into their ultimate survival. During the capture process, a suite of physical and sensory interactions between the gear, the environment, and the fish can produce increased levels of circulating stress hormones (e.g. epinephrine, cortisol). Mortality from asphyxiation is expected when fish are retained on the vessel. Non-retained fish are often discarded alive, but have experienced the same stimuli and physical interactions as retained individuals and can experience delayed mortality. Currently, the probability of a fish surviving after handling (i.e. the discard mortality rate) is determined by visual assessments.
This approach lacks a quantifiable physiological metric that would allow for the creation of predictive modeling. Our research aims to understand the stress physiology and its relationship with mortality in Pacific halibut, focusing on three objectives: (1) developing best practices for an inexpensive and non-invasive mucus sampling method, (2) measuring the magnitude and rate of cortisol absorption and elimination in mucus as compared to blood in a controlled environment, and (3) using this gained knowledge in a field setting. The project is a partnership between the FAST Lab at APU and the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC). Part of this collaboration will include the setup of wet lab facilities to synthetically stimulate and measure blood and mucus cortisol levels. We expect that mucus cortisol levels measured immediately after capture will provide insight into the complex interactions fish experience in the catch-and-discard process.
Current Position: Research Associate – Physiologist with the FAST Lab, Anchorage, AK
Funding for this work is provided by the Groundfish Forum via the Alaska Education Tax Credit Program.