Reneé Reilly, a QFC Post-Doctoral Research Associate since 2013, braved 3 Michigan winters but recently elected to return to Virginia to pursue a marketing position in the private sector. While at the QFC, Reneé worked on a variety of projects, including management strategy evaluation for Lake Erie percids, Minnesota Mille Lacs walleye assessment and management review, movement modeling of Chinook salmon between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and determining natal origins of Chinook salmon in Lake Michigan through otolith microchemistry. Reneé also served as the technical lead for the QFC’s Introduction to R online course and recently co-led the development of an R graphing short course. Reneé also enlivened the QFC’s social element and was always encouraging of a common lunch time, coffee break, or St. Patrick’s Day party. QFC staff and students wish Reneé all their best and hope she enjoys the warmer weather and her new career opportunity!
Dr. Kelly Robinson has joined the QFC and the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife as an Assistant Professor. Kelly is originally from Chesapeake, VA, and attended the University of Virginia as an undergraduate, majoring in Biology and Spanish. She then received her M.S. in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston, where she studied age, growth and reproduction of barrelfish. Kelly received her Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from the University of Georgia. Her doctoral research focused on fish assemblages in managed wetlands in coastal South Carolina. She studied the productivity of fish guilds within these structures, compared resident fish assemblages in managed and unmanaged wetlands, and used structured decision making (SDM) to evaluate impoundment management strategies. This interest in SDM and decision analysis led Kelly to a Post-Doctoral appointment at Cornell University, where she worked with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to use SDM to evaluate harvest management strategies for white-tailed deer and wild turkey. While at Cornell, Kelly had the opportunity to work with other groups to implement SDM, including evaluating the effects of nest exclosures on piping plover populations with managers and biologists in the northeastern U.S. and two projects designed to aid managers and biologists in making the best decisions for mitigating the effects of climate change on the ecosystems of the San Francisco Bay Estuary. Kelly is excited to return to the aquatic environment to study the fisheries of Michigan and the Great Lakes and to use SDM to help the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and other stakeholders to make sound management decisions for fish populations in the Great Lakes and throughout Michigan.
On February 26, the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Graduate Student Organization (GSO) hosted its 11th Annual GSO Research Symposium. This year’s symposium, which consisted of oral presentations by Fisheries and Wildlife graduate students and poster presentations by undergraduate researchers, was financially supported in part by the QFC. At last year’s symposium, Matt Vincent, a QFC Ph.D. student, won the Best Fisheries Presentation Award. At this year’s symposium, 3 M.S. students (Nick Fisch, Alex Jensen, and Alex Maguffee) and 1 Ph.D. student (Lisa Peterson) from the QFC gave oral presentations. The titles of their presentations were the following:
Nick Fisch: “Quantitative Tools for Assessing and Managing Cisco Populations”
Alex Jensen: “Hierarchical Modeling of Larval Sea Lamprey Habitat”
Alex Maguffee: “Quantifying Differences in Otolith Chemistry of Chinook Salmon in Lake Michigan to Determine Natal Origins”
Lisa Peterson: “Evaluating Methods for Estimating Mortality of Great Lakes Walleye Using Acoustic Telemetry”
The Keynote Speaker for the symposium was Dr. Hillary Young, a community ecologist from the University of California-Santa Barbara.
At the beginning of January, the QFC taught a trial version of an R graphing workshop entitled “Unleashing the Power of R as a Graphing Tool”. The workshop was designed as an introduction to creating advanced and publishable graphics for those with a working knowledge of R. The material focused heavily on both basic and more complex features of the base package but also covered the fundamentals of more advanced packages such as ggplot2 and RColorBrewer, as well as an introduction to creating figures with spatial data. Information was shared through both lecture and simultaneous “live” coding in the R environment on a separate screen. Thirteen graduate students and post-doctoral research associates from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at MSU participated in the day-long workshop. Participants were asked to complete exercises to help them master the content, and were provided answer keys along with the sample code used during class at the end of the workshop. The QFC received useful feedback on what parts of the course were effective and how to improve future workshops. The developers of the workshop (Yang Li, Lisa Peterson, Reneé Reilly, Sam Truesdell, and Matt Vincent) will be working to refine the workshop itself and adapt material for an online course during spring 2016.
At their 2016 Annual Convention in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Ontario Commercial Fisheries’ Association (OCFA) presented QFC Co-Director Dr. Michael Jones with the 2016 Robert J. Graham Partnership Award. This award recognizes efforts to promote partnerships and understanding among fishery stakeholders. The OCFA selected Mike for the award in recognition of his engagement with OCFA over his 25+ years as an OMNRF Research Scientist and Michigan State University Professor, and particularly for his leadership of the Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group (LEPMAG) process since 2010. “I am greatly honored to receive this award”, said Jones, “partly because of my fond memories of it’s namesake, Rob Graham, and also because LEPMAG has been among the most rewarding experiences of my professional career”. LEPMAG continues to provide guidance for Lake Erie fishery managers about walleye and yellow perch fisheries based on open discussions of the fishery assessment and harvest policies among a diverse and representative group of fishery stakeholders.
The QFC is heavily involved in this year’s Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, which is being held at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The conference kicks off next week with workshops and a reception on Sunday January 24, followed by technical sessions Monday to Wednesday. The QFC’s Associate Director, Travis Brenden, is one of the program co-chairs for the conference. The QFC (along with MSU’s Quantitative Wildlife Center) is co-sponsoring a symposium on Monday entitled “State-Space Models for Fish and Wildlife Population Dynamics.” The QFC’s Reneé Riley will be moderating the symposium and Reneé and Brian Stevens were part of the team that organized it. The session will be kicked off by a keynote talk by Ken Newman from the USFWS. Both QFC co-Directors will be presenting at the conference. Mike Jones is giving an “IGNITE” talk, which is a relatively novel (for fisheries folk) format of 5 minutes for 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds, with the provocative title of “Why don’t we just admit we have no idea what we’re doing?” Jim Bence will be giving a talk at the State-Space symposium that overviews the status of applications of state space modeling in fishery stock assessments. There will be a number of other QFC presentations including talks by Lori Ivan (Can vaccinated hatchery fish be used to prevent disease spread? A case study of VHS IVb), Rick Clark (Most Chinook salmon stocked into northern Lake Huron have been feeding in Lake Michigan since the collapse of alewives in Lake Huron), Bryan Stevens (Integrated assessment of harvested wild turkey populations in southern Michigan: a state-space approach), Alex Jensen (Hierarchical modeling of larval sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus habitat), Cleyo Harris (Tributary use and large-scale movement of grass carp: patterns to inform control efforts in western Lake Erie), Kelley Smith (Current state of Michigan crayfishes), and Travis Brenden (Indexing recruitment fluctuations for populations contributing to mixtures by simultaneous analysis of age and genetic information). Lisa Peterson will be moderating a session on percid fisheries and other QFC staff will be attending and volunteering in various capacities.
2015 was another successful and busy year for the QFC. The definite highlight of the year was celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the QFC’s opening in late June. A celebratory event was held at the home of Jim Bence where current and former staff members celebrated the 10-year anniversary along with several QFC friends. We closed out 2015 with 23 staff members, including 6 Post-Doctoral Research Associates/Research Scientists, 5 Ph.D. students, 6 M.S. students, and 1 undergraduate researcher. One M.S. student (Heather Porter) and one Ph.D. student (Chris Holbrook) defended their thesis/dissertation research and graduated from MSU. Dr. Iyob Tsehaye, who began as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the QFC in 2009, left the QFC to start a new career as a Quantitative Fisheries Scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. While it is sad to watch familiar faces leave the QFC, it is also exciting to watch former staff move on to new things. In terms of educational opportunities, QFC staff taught 2 short courses on the R statistical computing and graphics software package and an Introduction to Stock Assessment and AD Model Builder course. The QFC also continued to offer two non-credit online courses (Maximum Likelihood Estimation for Natural Resources and Ecology, R Essentials for Natural Resource Professional). QFC staff participated in more than 50 consultation and research projects during the last year. In total, QFC staff authored or co-authored more than 30 manuscripts/completion reports/technical reports that were published or accepted for publication, including 25 peer-reviewed scientific publications. The QFC leadership continues to be very proud of the excellent group of researchers and academic staff assembled at MSU and we thank them for their hard work over the last year.
Over the last several years multiple QFC staff members, including Mike Jones (co-Director), Matt Catalano (former Post-Doc), Aaron Berger (former PhD student), Lisa Peterson (current PhD student), Reneé Reilly (current Post-Doc), and John Syslo (current Post-Doc), have been involved with and facilitated the Lake Eric Percid Management Advisory Group (LEPMAG). The purpose of LEPMAG has been to improve decision making for the management of percid populations in Lake Erie through a structured decision making process involving state and provincial fishery management agencies on Lake Erie and stakeholders. Recently, the Lake Erie walleye management plan was updated to reflect what has been learned from the LEPMAG process and the QFC’s involvement in LEPMAG was acknowledged. Click here to view the press release pertaining to the new walleye management plan.
QFC MS student Alex Maguffee has been engaging in research that will help quantify Chinook salmon natal origins and movement patterns in Lakes Huron and Michigan. From July to September, Alex took to the lab to prepare otoliths from juvenile Chinook salmon for microchemical analysis. With his assistant, Fisheries and Wildlife junior Jeremy Rohdy, he extracted, sectioned, and polished almost 300 ototliths from fish collected in streams throughout the Lake Michigan and Lake Huron basins. This ongoing work is part of an effort to help managers better protect one of the Great Lakes’ most economically important fishes. Alex also headed into the field in late October to collect otoliths of homing adult Chinook; this will be done to test whether or not natal sources can be identified from the juvenile section of the otoliths. With help from volunteers (including Alex Jensen of the QFC), he amassed a collection of 58 otolith pairs from 7 different streams. These otoliths will be prepared in the coming months. Microchemical analysis on both the juvenile and adult otoliths will begin in January of 2016.
As part of its education mission, the QFC taught a short course on stock assessment and AD Model Builder (ADMB) in early September. Jim Bence and Sam Truesdell taught the course, with one week focused on ADMB (http://admb-project.org/) and one week covering a variety of stock assessment methods. In the first week, students were introduced to ADMB through a combination of lectures and in-class exercises. The second week built on those skills and covered a variety of stock assessment methods, again using both lectures and exercises. Prior to the workshop the students were encouraged to enroll in the QFC’s online course on maximum likelihood estimation (http://qfc.fw.msu.edu/courses_mle.asp) and to watch the introductory ADMB videos developed at the QFC (http://www.admb-project.org/courses/videos). Workshop participants included biologists from state and tribal fishery agencies in the Great Lakes region. We hope that the skills the students acquired during the short course will enable them to continue learning ADMB, make changes to existing stock assessment models, and build models of their own.