University of Alaska Fairbanks  
three photos of: a sea nettle by Stephen Jewett; student Jessica Johnson holding a salmon and urchins, clams, crabs by Bluhm/Gradinger

Personnel | Faculty | Students

MESAS Fellows

Rachael Blevins is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Rachael Blevins: PhD, Fisheries

B.S. Marine Science/Biology, University of Alabama 2009

Advisor: Shannon Atkinson

Research Interests: My interests include marine mammal conservation, bioacoustics, underwater noise pollution, population dynamics, and bycatch. I feel that sustainability is a crucial issue for marine ecosystems and that a shift towards ecosystem-based fishery management is necessary to ensure continued use of marine resources. For my PhD research, I will be conducting acoustic monitoring of beluga whales in the Cook Inlet.

Maggie Chan is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Maggie Chan: PhD, Fisheries

B.A. Environmental Biology, Barnard College, Columbia University 2008

Advisor: Anne Beaudreau

Research Interests: My research project will examine the effects of federal regulations of subsistence halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis) fisheries in Southeast Alaskan communities. Specifically, I will examine both the biological and social consequences of regulation, including changes in fishing grounds, gear use, species/size preferences and resource use. Furthermore, I aim to incorporate historical trends in sport and commercial fisheries to increase understanding of halibut stocks, perceptions of marine management and regulations amongst different stakeholder communities. Understanding the social and community changes stemming from fishing regulations will be integral for supporting resilient communities, ecosystems and marine management. My additional interests include science education, spiritual ecology and human dimensions of conservation.

Catherine Chambers is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Catherine "Cat" Chambers: PhD, Fisheries
B.A. Environmental Science, Drake University 2004,
M.S. Zoology, Southern Illinois University 2008

Advisor: Courtney Carothers

Research Interests: My research uses an interdisciplinary approach to explore Icelandic small scale fisheries; they provide an ideal case study for an examination of the social and environmental dimensions important in sustainable fisheries management. In particular, two small boat fisheries, the lumpfish fishery and the strandveiðar, or "coastal fishing," jig fishery, represent fisheries with complex inter‑related environmental and social aspects. The strandveiðar summer season is a newly instituted open-access fishery meant to increase regional employment, and the lumpfish fishery is the last remaining common pool fishery not managed by the privatized individual transferable fishing (ITQ) quota system in Iceland.

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Therefore, these two small boat fisheries offer a unique opportunity for social scientists to understand the opportunities and constraints that varying management schemes have on the cultural dimensions of fisheries at a time when enclosure of fisheries is increasing worldwide. Additionally, the lumpfish fishery is particularly appealing to natural scientists who would like to better understand how to collect and analyze population data to better inform managers and participants because it is a relatively new commercial fishery with poor historical catch records. Part one of my dissertation pairs an ethnographic and historical description of small boat fisheries in Northwest Iceland with an analysis of motivations for participation in the small boat fisheries (limited‑license lumpfish fishery, open access strandveiðar fishery, and small boat ITQ fishery). Part two explores a case study of the lumpfish fishery from the side of fisheries management by compiling and analyzing historic catch records through old logbooks to better understand historical catch trends and to estimate historical lumpfish population biomass. Part one is grounded in a political ecology theoretical framework and will add to current scholarly literature on natural resource commons, marine livelihood strategies, and human‑nature relationships. Results from part one will also make an applied contribution and aid in bringing a new perspective to fisheries management in Iceland. Part two recognizes the value of epistemological pluralism in interdisciplinary research by combining the experiential knowledge of fishermen and their historical catch records with current scientific estimations of population data, and will make an applied contribution to lumpfish management in Iceland. The natural and social science components of part one and two complement each other throughout my research by allowing for reflection on the multiple goals of sustainable fisheries management.

Comment on this video: Fishing livelihoods & fisheries management in North Iceland and others from IGERT Resources on

Ellen Chenoweth is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Ellen Chenoweth: PhD, Fisheries

BA Biology, Kalamazoo College 2008

Advisors: Megan McPhee, Shannon Atkinson

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Research Interests: I am interested in energetics and foraging behavior of marine predators with a focus on humpback whales. Currently, I am collaborating with salmon hatcheries and release sites in Southeast Alaska to understand targeted humpback whale predation on fry and smolts released from these facilities. I will use acoustics, tissue sampling, photographic identification, and tagging to develop a release strategy that mitigates humpback whale predation in the first few days after a release. I am also interested in science education at all levels.

Lauren Divine is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Lauren Divine: PhD, Marine Biology

B.S. Wildlife & Fisheries, Texas A&M University 2007
M.S. Biology, Georgia Southern University 2010
Advisor: Katrin Iken

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Research Interests: My research is focused on the energy flow and food web structure of Arctic benthic communities on the Alaskan Beaufort Sea shelf (~10-200 m). Recent evidence suggests Arctic benthic communities will be invaded by subarctic and temperate species as global sea surface temperatures continue to increase. The expected quantitative and nutritional changes in the food sources (ice algae, phytoplankton) due to environmental changes in the Arctic will influence important epi- and infauna species, which in turn are food for higher trophic levels. I use stable δ13C and δ15N isotopes and C:N ratios to explore how food webs and energy flow are affected by these climatic changes. I am also investigating the dietary preferences of snow crab, Chionocetes opilio, which show increased abundances on the Pacific Arctic shelves and may become a species of interest for subsistence or commercial harvest in high Arctic waters in the near future. Finally, I am synthesizing data collected in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from 2008- present that will aid in the re-assessment of total and exploitable biomass of snow crab in these currently unfished waters.

Thomas Farrugia is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Thomas Farrugia: PhD, Fisheries
B.S. Biology, McGill University 2005,
M.S. Marine Biology, California State University Long Beach 2010
Advisor: Andy Seitz

Research Interests: Fisheries management is usually trying to play catch-up and understand a stock after it has undergone heavy fishing pressures. As these 'traditional' stocks decline, other less impacted stocks may become the focus of the fishing fleet. Skates (family Rajidae) are a relatively underfished stock in the Gulf of Alaska, but because of historical catches in Europe and Asia, there is a healthy global market for them. I am working on an interdisciplinary project to gather information on the ecology, biology, stock assessment and economics of a skate fishery in the Gulf of Alaska, all of which will be integrated into a bioeconomic model of the fishery. This model will be shared with management agencies to help them decide the best harvest and management strategies for these slow-growing and low-fecundity species.

Elizabeth Figus is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Elizabeth Figus: PhD, Fisheries

B.A. Sociology/International Relations, Mount Holyoke College 2009
M.A. Central and Eastern European Studies, Jagiellonian University 2012

Advisor: Keith Criddle

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Research Interests: Humans play a dual role in fisheries. In some contexts they are a natural part of the ecosystem, while in others they are an aggressive external actor. This division--and determining where one becomes the other--is one of the greatest contemporary challenges for fisheries management worldwide. Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) and Individual Transferrable Quota (ITQ) fisheries management systems are examples of attempts to treat humans as viable players in a healthy marine ecosystem. At MESAS, I will research how IFQ and ITQ-based management schemes are compatible, or not, with ecosystem-based management plans in fisheries.

Jessica Glass is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Jessica Glass: MS, Fisheries

B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Yale University 2010
Advisor: Gordon Kruse

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Research Interests: My interests incorporate the effects of climate change on marine fishes, the genetic and evolutionary foundations behind variations in fish population structure, as well as ecosystem-based management. I am also interested in community outreach and finding ways to effectively communicate scientific results on global fisheries to the public. My research will focus on quantifying the spatio-temporal variability and species composition of benthic communities living on Alaskan weathervane scallop beds. Using observer bycatch data from scallop fishing vessels, I will relate variability to climatic, sedimentary, oceanographic and anthropogenic variables. My findings will be useful to scientists, fishermen and environmental organizations, and will help facilitate ecosystem-based management by providing valuable data on benthic community structure in Alaska and how these ecosystems react to change (e.g. climate change and fishing effort).

Alexis Hall is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Alexis Hall: PhD, Fisheries

B.S. Environmental Science, Technology and Policy, California State University Monterey Bay 2009

Advisor: Gordon Kruse

Research Interests: I am interested in ecosystem-based management with special attention to interactions with groundfish species and their habitats. I use tools, such as GIS, multivariate statistics, and EcoSim, which will allow for both quantitative estimation and visualization of relationships among biotic, abiotic, and human interactions, thereby fostering an ecosystem-based approach to management. My research project focuses on the relationship among groundfish, different crab species and trawling in the eastern Bering Sea; more specifically, whether trawling favors groundfish feeding success on prey items shared with crab species. Other research interests would be anthropogenic influences in marine communities, resource management, and time series analysis.

Brandon Hassett is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Brandon Hassett: PhD, Marine Biology

B.S. Biology, LaRoche College 2007
M.S. Plant Pathology & Microbiology, Texas A&M University 2012

Advisor: Rolf Gradinger

Research Interests: From cross-kingdom gene transfers, to ice nucleating bacteria in the atmosphere, to being the most abundant organisms on earth, it is clear that microbes are the predominant theme to many natural processes, especially biogeochemical processes in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Given the ubiquity and profoundness of microbes, as well as the significance of arctic research in such a dynamic time, it seems imperative to examine the roles microbes play in arctic ecosystems and their linkages to managed species. Specifically, I am interested in the role that algal parasites, like members of the fungal phylum Chytridomycota, play in the regulation of sea ice algal blooms. In this system, parasitism of algae would suggest that fractions of the primary production would not be available for higher trophic levels and thus would be channeled into the microbial food web. Parasitism of algae could also potentially increase zooplankton productivity by changing the phytoplankton species composition to more edible taxa. This work is not only important in arctic ecology but could have implications in industrial algal biofuel farming and even for biological control of unwanted algal blooms.

Sonia Ibarra is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Sonia Ibarra: PhD, Fisheries

B.S. Marine Biology and Zoology, Humboldt State University 2008

Advisor: Ginny Eckert

Research Interests: My research focuses on the impacts of sea otter recolonization on kelp communities throughout southern Southeast Alaska using an interdisciplinary approach. Sea otters were exterminated during the 19th century fur trade, and their populations are now rebounding, as a result of reintroductions in the 1960’s. This result suggests that there is hope that apex consumers can recover, yet new resource conflicts between humans and sea otters makes their future uncertain once again. Can humans and apex consumers coexist? Finding sustainable solutions to the otter impact on commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries is in its infancy and by integrating an interdisciplinary ecosystem-based approach, holistic solutions will better serve humans and otters alike. In addition to conducting biological surveys my work will integrate traditional knowledge of local communities to identify ecosystem services derived from the marine environment and tradeoffs with otter presence and absence. By using a tool similar to InVEST, data derived from field observations, local knowledge, analytical information from statistical analyses and conceptual models, we will be able to valuate ecosystem services and tradeoffs across various spatial scales. These results will have direct application to commercial, sport and subsistence fishing industries. With the future of commercially valuable marine invertebrates stocks uncertain, our project will provide valuable information on the potential future outcome of these stocks in respect to southeast Alaska’s expanding sea otter population.

Courtney Lyons is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Courtney Lyons: PhD, Fisheries

B.S. Biology, Seattle Pacific University 2002,
M.S. Environmental Science, Alaska Pacific University 2006

Advisors: Ginny Eckert & Courtney Carothers

Research Interests: My research focuses on social-ecological systems and how they respond to proposed management scenarios. Currently, I am using Bering Sea crab fisheries as a case study and analyzing the rebuilding options for Pribilof Island blue king crab. I use an interdisciplinary approach, collecting social, cultural and historical data through interviews and archival research, as well as, data on ecological, habitat, and predator-prey interactions through field or laboratory experiments. The results of these studies allow me to map relationships in a social-ecological system and, using qualitative modeling (loop analysis), to make predictions based on changes in different aspects of the system.

Liza Mack is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Liza Mack: PhD, Indigenous Studies

BA Anthropology, Idaho State University 2005
MS Anthropology, Idaho State University 2009
Advisor:  Courtney Carothers

Research Interests: I would like to study land claim and fisheries rights issues in Native communities with people ages 25-40. I would like to understand the amount of knowledge that is being passed on from one generation to the next and the possible affect these policies may have on future generations of Native people.

Melissa Meiner-Johnson is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Fairbanks.

Melissa Meiner-Johnson: PhD, Oceanography

B.S. Geology, University of Hawaii at Hilo 2008,
B.A. Marine Science, University of Hawaii at Hilo 2008

Advisor: Jennifer Reynolds

Research Interests: I am very interested in helping find a balance between the human dependence on the ocean and conservation of marine communities through the creation of benthic habitat maps.  In order to get a comprehensive knowledge base of the groundfish communities, my project will incorporate geological, physical, and biological oceanographic data, as well as information collected by interacting with the local fisherman and native people.  I have learned from living in Hawai‘i that the indigenous people have an understanding of the ecology and the local marine communities that is invaluable; therefore, the social aspect of my project is key to understanding what the groundfish community is like on a local level.  The finished maps will provide detailed information for fisheries management to make more informed decisions based on population size and distribution of fish communities.  Habitat maps may also provide a means to manage invasive species and/or help see changes in community structure due to climate change, geologic forces, or anthropogenic impacts such as bottom trawling.

Amanda Meyer: PhD, Natural Resources and Sustainability

B.A Environmental Studies, University of Florida 2005
M.S. Environmental Communication & Participatory Processes, State University of New York 2008

Major Professors: Chanda Meek and Susan Todd

Research Interests: I will be conducting a vulnerability and resilience analysis in North Slope communities. I am interested in the role stakeholders play in the governance of ocean resources. I plan to explore whether management systems that actively engage stakeholders demonstrate more adaptive management qualities, and thus, are more resilient. I will also be looking at ecological indicators and determining whether there are ones that have both ecological and social value that might be employed in the management of ocean resources.

Megan Peterson is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Megan Peterson: PhD, Fisheries
B.A. International Relations, University of California Davis 2002,
M.S. Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Institute of Oceanography 2007

Advisors: Franz Mueter, Courtney Carothers

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Research Interests: Killer whale and sperm whale depredation occurs when whales damage or remove fish caught on longline fishing gear. Primary fisheries impacted by toothed whale depredation in Alaska include sablefish, Greenland turbot and Pacific halibut longline operations. The goal of my interdisciplinary research is to use a mixed methods approach incorporating Generalized Linear and Additive Modeling techniques and social research methods, such as semi-directed interviews and written questionnaires to evaluate: 1) spatio-temporal trends in whale depredation, 2) depredation effects on groundfish catch rates, and 3) socio-economic implications of depredation avoidance and changing fishing practices due to whale interactions. Results from this study will provide insight into the potential impacts of toothed whale depredation on fish stock abundance indices and commercially important fisheries in Alaska and will inform future research on apex predator-fisheries interactions. Additional research interests include bycatch reduction, developing practical applications in ecosystem-based management, integrating social and natural sciences and marine policy.

Leah Sloan is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Leah Sloan: PhD, Marine Biology

B.S. Biology, California State University Long Beach 2009
M.S. Biology, Humboldt State University 2012

Advisor: Sarah Hardy

Research Interests: I am a generalist by nature, thus my research interests are broad and varied across aquatic and terrestrial systems, but typically revolve around questions in ecology, conservation biology, and ecosystem sustainability. For my PhD I am currently pursuing interests in marine ecology, parasitology, larval biology, and fisheries sustainability. I am studying the parasitic barnacle, Briarosaccus callosus, which infects all three commercially-harvested king crab species in Alaska. Once a king crab is infected with B. callosus it essentially becomes a “zombie”, for the parasite can control the crab’s behavior and prevent it from reproducing. Effects of B. callosus on Alaskan crab stocks are unknown and not considered in king crab management plans. Given the current warming trends in the arctic and subarctic, it is important to understand how temperature changes will affect the prevalence and distribution of this parasite and its effects on the king crab fishery. To this end I will be studying the relationship between temperature and B. callosus survival and infection success. In addition, I will investigate how B. callosus controls its host, including the physiological responses of crabs to infection. Lastly, I am interested in how local knowledge of king crab fishermen can be used to help sustainably manage crab populations.

Suzie Teerlink is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Suzie Teerlink: PhD, Marine Biology

B.S. Marine Biology, University of Alaska, Southeast 2007
M.S. Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks 2011
Advisor:Lara Horstmann-Dehn

Research Interests: My research will work to develop a comprehensive Juneau-area humpback whale study that looks at the effect of increasing whales on ecologic, economic, and social levels. This study would work to 1) collect important baseline data on this population, 2) serve as a platform for more directed research on species and ecosystem level questions, and 3) bridge the gap of science and public education by developing a strong community outreach, tourist education, and citizen science program.

Ben Williams is a student in the UAF MESAS graduate program in Juneau.

Ben Williams: PhD, Fisheries

BS Natural Resources & Fisheries, Ohio State University 1996
MS Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2003
Advisor:Gordon Kruse

Research Interests: I am interested in fisheries population dynamics and how they are influenced by environmental factors. I will be working on a comparative study of the reproductive biology of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) in the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Basin/Bogoslof Island, and eastern Bering Sea in association with population density (fishing), and climate and oceanographic factors. This work will involve examinations of ovaries and ask questions about fecundity, timing of maturation, size of maturity, etc., and how they vary with population density and environmental factors, and their potential impacts on management strategies. This work will be conducted in collaboration with NMFS Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

MESAS Associates

Students who participate fully in the program with alternate funding are MESAS Associates. Participants in the SELMR (Sustainable ecosystem-Based Management of Living Marine Resources) Science Masters Program at UAF are MESAS Associates.

Matt Catterson, MS Fisheries

BS Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks 2010
Advisor: Megan McPhee

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Research Interests: I am generally interested in research related to the conservation and sustainable management of Pacific salmon and trout. Alaska remains a stronghold for wild salmon and steelhead, but changes to the marine ecosystem related to climatic variability may impact these important species in unpredictable ways. My work utilizes scale pattern analysis to describe trajectories of early marine growth in wild steelhead from Southeast Alaska. I am interested in the utility of these scale-derived growth measurements as they relate to overall growth and survival, the possible influence of particular marine conditions on early marine growth, and how these patterns may vary between demographic groups of steelhead. This work is being completed in collaboration with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to help inform proactive long-term monitoring programs that incorporate marine variability into population assessments of steelhead trout.

Allyson Olds, MS Fisheries

BS Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University 2011
Advisor: Megan McPhee

Research Interests: My research interests include indigenous aspects of natural resources issues, including conservation of culturally-important species. For my graduate research, I am studying eulachon, an anadromous smelt of the Pacific Northwest. I am examining trends in eulachon runs of the Chilkat and Chilkoot rivers of Southeast Alaska, including the roles that eulachon have in the local and Tlingit cultures of the area.

Emily Hutchinson, MS Marine Biology

BS Biology, Florida State University 2010
Advisor: Shannon Atkinson

Research Interests: I am interested in studying marine mammal physiology to gain a better understanding of how and why species succeed or fail to adapt to climate change and anthropogenic disturbances.

Kevin Siwicke, MS Fisheries

BS Oceanography, Humboldt State University 2007
Advisor: Andy Seitz

Research Interests: My research interests include assessing heavily used marine resources and devising management efforts that are sensitive towards individuals that depend upon them for basic needs as well as commercial interests allowing for a comprehensive sustainability plan. I am particularly interested in employing quantitative methods to achieve this end.

Alex Godinez, MS Fisheries

BS Fisheries Biology, Humboldt State University 2008
Advisor: Megan McPhee

Research Interests: My research interests include fish genetics, marine fish ecology, and early life history of marine fishes. I’m looking forward to the ecosystem–based approach to fisheries management of the SELMR program and to getting my grad project fleshed out.

Michael Kohan, MS Fisheries

BS Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Washington 2005
Advisors: Shannon Atkinson and Megan McPhee

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Research Interests: I am interested in developing sustainable fisheries management strategies through community, science and economic perspectives. I am working with NOAA and the Gulf of Alaska Integrative Ecosystem Research Project to understand how marine ecosystem indicators affect Southeast Alaska salmon returns.

Sean Larson, MS Fisheries

Education: BS Fisheries Biology, Humboldt State University 2010
Advisor: Ginny Eckert

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Research Interests: I have lived in Southeast Alaska my entire life and have been surrounded by a rich commercial fishing culture. It is for this reason that I would like to focus my research on the dynamics of marine fisheries in Alaska, specifically the effects of sea otter predation on commercially important invertebrates. This topic has a significant socio-economic component associated with it that I look forward to learning more about.

Alice Smoker, MS Fisheries

Education: BA Biology, Lewis and Clark College 2008
Advisor: Keith Criddle

Research Interests: I think all kinds of fisheries science are pretty cool, but I am particularly interested in research that advances our understanding of fisheries as social and ecological systems. Knowledge of the relationships and tradeoffs between different components of fisheries systems provides a foundation for truly sustainable ecosystem based management. For my own small part, my M.S. thesis research will address how fishermen in the Southeast Alaskan Dungeness crab fishery may be affected by changes in the abundance and accessibility of its target species. Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is one of many prey species consumed by sea otters (Enhydra lutris), which are rapidly repopulating large areas of Southeast Alaska. My objective is to understand how the abundance of Dungeness crab and other variables affect participation in the fishery. I'm also interested in understanding variation among the participants, and learning about how other fishery stakeholders may be affected. I will conduct a survey and use economic modeling techniques to address these questions.

Rachael Wadsworth, MS Fisheries

Education: BS in Biology (Marine Emphasis), Humboldt State University 2005
Advisor: Dr. Keith Criddle

Research Interests: My thesis will explore a variant of a group decision making technique, the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) as a method to categorize stakeholder input and rate research priorities. An Alaska Sea Grant project, the Aleutian Island Regional Marine Research Plan, will be used as a case study to examine the effectiveness of using this technique. The findings from the Aleutian Island project, along with further analysis that will explore the sensitivity and robustness of the results, will be presented in my thesis.

Shelley Woods, MS Fisheries

Education: BS Fisheries, University of Alaska Fairbanks 2010
Advisor: Courtney Carothers

Research Interests: I am interested in traditional knowledge as it relates to fisheries, climate change, and development. I would like to provide community-based studies with research being guided by the needs of community members and also produce an end-product that is user-friendly and of interest to community members. My current focus in on the North Slope of Alaska but I hope to embark on research adventures around the world!

Adam Zaleski, MS Fisheries

Education: BS Marine Vertebrate Biology, Southampton College of Long Island University 2006
Advisor: Shannon Atkinson

Research Interests: My research will focus on the relationship between organochlorine contaminants and the survival of Steller sea lions (SSL). This project will help in determining the possible relationship of contaminants on SSL decline and lack of recovery. This research is of interest to me because of the implications of SSL predation on commercially important groundfish species and its potential to directly affect management.


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