Research

The AEL works across a broad range of topics in aquatic ecology. The four research areas listed below are not mutually exclusive and much overlap exists, with good intention. For more information on any of these research areas, check out the researchers who specialize in them or contact us - we'd be happy to talk more about our work.

  1. Recruitment mechanisms of fish

  2. Human impacts on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity (Global Change Ecology)

  3. Food web and fish community dynamics

  4. Population dynamics and life history


Recruitment mechanisms of fish

 
Understanding recruitment is essential to the effective management of culturally, economically, and ecologically important species, especially in light of rapid environmental change caused by humans (e.g., habitat modification, climate change, species invasions).  With knowledge of the mechanisms that influence recruitment (i.e., the number of individuals that survive to the first life stage at which natural mortality stabilizes near adult levels), agencies will be in a better position to forecast future fluctuations in population size, identify management plans that can protect or rehabilitate stocks, and set user- group (e.g., recreational anglers, commercial fishers) expectations at a level commensurate with ability of the ecosystem to support the desired species. 
 
At the AEL, our main focus regarding recruitment is to determine when and how recruitment is set, and in turn, use this knowledge to recommend appropriate management or conservation strategies.
For more information on our work involving recruitment, visit the following researchers’ sites:
 

Human impacts on aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity

(Global Change Ecology)

 
Aquatic ecosystems are undergoing rapid change, particularly due to human activities both on land in the water. Anthropogenic perturbations, such as habitat modification, climate change, overharvesting, invasive species, pollution, and eutrophication, are changing the biotic and abiotic components of our aquatic ecosystems, which threaten precious ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity. 
At the AEL, we try to understand and predict how anthropogenic stressors might impact aquatic ecosystems, including their vital ecosystem services (e.g., fisheries production; clean, safe water for recreation and drinking). Oftentimes we employ integrative, multidisciplinary approaches in our research, including the combined use of field investigations, natural and controlled experiments, and modeling.  Such approaches are necessary as most ecosystems are simultaneously affected my multiple human-driver stressors, which can independently, interactively, or synergistically to alter ecosystem structure and function.  
 
For more information on our research in the realm of Global Change Ecology, visit the following researchers’ sites:
 

Food web and fish community dynamics 

 
Success of a population can heavily depend on interactions with other components of the food web and broader community, including both predator-prey and competitive interactions. In turn, factors that cause one member of the food web or community change in its behavior or abundance may indirectly affect other members of the food web/community. Many of the researchers at the AEL are interested in understanding the role of food-web and broader community interactions in driving fish population dynamics (and recruitment), using field observational, experimental, and modeling approaches to do so. 
 
For more information about our work with fish community dynamics and food webs, visit the following researchers’ sites:
 

Population dynamics and life history

 
Many fish populations in large aquatic ecosystems are structured, with individual breeding subpopulations (stocks) demonstrating unique behavioral adaptations (e.g., spawning location) and possibly a unique genetic makeup.  At the AEL, we have been seeking to use such differences among stocks as a means to determine which stocks are supporting the broader adult (or fishable) population, to identify connectivity among populations (both within and between lakes), to understand life-history phenomena (e.g., philopatry, spawning frequency). Towards these ends, we have been seeking to develop “natural tagging” techniques that can reliably discriminate among stocks, focusing in particular on the use of genetics (microsatellites, single nucleotide polymorphisms) and the microchemical composition of fish otoliths (ear stones).   
 
For more information on population dynamics, life history adaptations, and stock discrimination, check out the following researchers:
 
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