Academic Programs

Our research informs society and is often the technical basis for resource policy. This combination of research and advice provides a rich environment for graduate education. Our students integrate into department research, actively participating in our advisory function. The program attracts students with diverse backgrounds and research interests. Graduates find employment as teachers, researchers, and resource managers at universities, in local, state, national and international agencies, and in private corporations.

Graduate students in the Department of Fisheries Science at VIMS have a unique opportunity to integrate cutting-edge research with advisory service to citizens and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Faculty, students, and staff conduct research in the following areas and programs. 

Anadromous Fishes

Studies of relative abundance, reproductive ecology, life history and exploitation of highly migratory marine species such as striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, river herrings and American shad that spawn in fresh water.  Studies include monitoring commercial and recreational landings, monitoring stock status with fishery-independent surveys, developing novel approaches to stock assessment, conducting surveys of juvenile abundance, mark/recapture and telemetry methods for estimation of fishing rates and description of migratory behavior.

Aquaculture Genetics and Breeding Technology Center

Development of brood stocks of shellfish; selective breeding (especially for disease resistance), chromosome set manipulation, and evaluation of non-native species.

Chondrichthyan Biology

Studies of relative abundance, population dynamics, reproduction, feeding strategies and energetics of coastal and deep-sea sharks; management of shark fisheries.

Crustacean Ecology

Investigations of the ecology, population dynamics, and conservation of the blue crab in Chesapeake Bay and spiny lobster in the Caribbean. Emphasis on predator-prey interactions, with additional concentration on population and fisheries modeling and the ecology of natural and artificial reef systems.

Deep-Sea Ecology

Research on oceanic ecosystems with emphasis on community structure, trophic dynamics, biophysical coupling, and ecosystem functioning, with emphasis on deep-sea fishes and their prey.

Fisheries Genetics

The application of molecular genetic techniques to address problems in fisheries science. Studies of stock structure, use of molecular characters to identify early life history stages of marine organisms, and the evaluation of taxonomic and biogeographic hypotheses with molecular genetic information.

Invasive Species Biology

History and pathways of invasions. Investigations of the characteristics of invasive species,  ecosystem impacts, and mechanisms of control.

Marine Conservation Biology

Ecology and conservation of the blue crab, sea turtles (loggerhead and Kemp’s Ridley).  Caribbean spiny lobster, queen conch, Nassau grouper, and marine bivalves. Emphasis on metapopulation and source-sink dynamics, marine reserves and dispersal corridors, habitat fragmentation, degradation and loss effects on marine invertebrates, recruitment processes, and predator-prey interactions.

Marine Finfish Dynamics

Recruitment dynamics of finfish in coastal ecosystems based on long-term bottom-trawl and beach seine surveys in Chesapeake Bay.  A primary goal of these studies is to calculate recruitment indices to gauge the strength of the current year class and permit informed management of coastal fisheries.

Marine Resource Policy and Fisheries Management

Research to support determination of socially optimal rates of exploitation and optimum allocation of marine resources among competing user groups.  Studies emphasize assessment and estimation of net social benefits to society and the economic impacts of proposed management and regulatory options.

Molluscan Ecology

Ecology and stock assessment of estuarine and continental shelf  molluscs. Studies of behavior of molluscan larvae, life history, population dynamics and molluscs as indicators of climate and environmental change.

Multispecies Fisheries Research

Multispecies fisheries research includes studies of age, sex, and maturity; predator-prey interactions; seasonal variations in species distributions, and water-quality effects. Development of multispecies stock assessments to inform ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management.

Stock Assessment Methodology

Systematic evaluation of stock assessment procedures and the development of new mathematical models and statistical methods for studying populations and their responses to exploitation.

Systematics and Taxonomy

Taxonomically diverse studies that focus on the taxonomy, morphology, phylogenetic systematics, zoogeography, and evolutionary biology of various vertebrate and invertebrate groups. The program promotes a total evidence approach to phylogenetic research, including molecular techniques and morphological studies of larval, juvenile and adult forms.