B. A., Florida Atlantic University Honors College
My masters research focuses on the juvenile stage of summer flounder, I am interested this stage because of the complex interactions that occur between the fish and the environment (e.g., predator abundance, prey availability). Understanding the juvenile stage is critical to the management and conservation of a species because juvenile abundance relates to adult abundance in subsequent years. The current population model used for the management of summer flounder poorly predicts the abundance of juveniles recruiting to the adult population. This indicates the need for better understanding of summer flounder recruitment dynamics, particularly growth and survival of the juvenile stage. My research focuses on factors that influence recruitment of juvenile summer flounder, including habitat preference, growth rate, and timing of settlement. Like other flatfish, summer flounder begin life as pelagic larvae and settle on the bottom in nursery areas after completing metamorphosis. Chesapeake Bay and the estuaries of coastal Virginia are important nursery areas for summer flounder, but they have not been characterized to date. Due to factors such as prey availability, predator abundance, and environmental conditions, some nursery areas are more productive, resulting in a higher contribution of juveniles to the adult stage. The results of my research will improve estimates of recruitment for management and conservation of this species.