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.
In September, Reneé Reilly (QFC Research Associate) traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to attend the 2015 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) Annual Science Conference. Reneé participated in one of the meeting’s largest sessions, focused on science and industry partnerships and the value of cooperative research in fisheries management. The session was filled with a diverse array of topics, the common thread of which was understanding how best to involve stakeholders in fisheries research, management, and decision-making processes. Reneé’s talk focused on the work that the QFC has done with the Lake Erie Percid Management Advisory Group (LEPMAG), and she came away with the sense that while this initiative has a local focus, its implications are translatable on a global scale. The conference was an opportunity for the QFC’s work to reach the broad ICES audience, but may also lead to new projects and collaborators. Plus Reneé learned some Danish; Skål!
Nick Fisch recently joined the QFC as an MS graduate research assistant working with Dr. Jim Bence. Although originally from Nova Scotia, Nick grew up in Florida. He attended the University of Florida, studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation with an emphasis on Quantitative Ecology. At University of Florida, he worked as an undergraduate research assistant in the Florida Rivers Lab under the supervision of Dr. Bill Pine where he developed an independent research project assessing the possible relationship between Eastern oyster landings and freshwater discharge in Apalachicola Bay, Florida. During the summers, he worked as a field technician in Glacier National Park, Montana and as a student data analyst in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. Johns, Newfoundland. Nick’s specific area of research has not yet been decided, but it will likely involve simulation work to evaluate assessment methodologies for Great Lakes fish stocks.
This summer the QFC hosted two students from Shanghai Ocean University, Velonica (Cong Lu) and Sunny (Haoliang Wu). These students were members of a larger group of students who were visiting the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife as part of a program between MSU and SHOU. Velonica and Sunny arrived on campus on July 10th and stayed about a month, giving them the opportunity to enjoy campus and get to know the students in their labs and the department as well as the chance to explore a bit of Michigan and end their trip with a quick stay in Chicago. One of the students, Sunny, joined Alex Maguffee and Jeremy Rhody in the exciting world of otolith chemistry. Sunny learned how to extract, clean, section, and polish juvenile Chinook salmon otoliths to prepare them for trace element chemical analysis. She worked closely with Alex and Jeremy, gaining experience in data collection, as well as advancing her microscope skills. By the end of her short stay, Sunny had really perfected the techniques. Both her diligent work and bright personality were a great addition to the lab this summer. The other student, Velonica, worked with Sam Truesdell and Lisa Peterson on a project that consisted of two parts, completing the QFC’s online R class and using R to analyze a data set. Though she had never used R before, Velonica quickly completed the class and moved on to the data. The data set described walleye movement in Lake Erie, and Velonica’s analyses examined patterns in movement linked to where the fish were originally tagged. She also created a time lapse plot that tracked a single fish that had entered Lake Erie from Lake Huron. Her work helps lay the foundation for a more involved analysis of Lake Erie walleye movement.
The QFC’s very own Jim Bence has recently earned two prestigious recognition’s. First, Dr Bence was awarded the Anderson-Everett Award that recognizes contributions to the IAGLR association. Jim has served as IAGLR president and is currently chair of the Publications Committee. You can learn more about the award here.
Second, The Fisheries Division of Michigan Department of Natural Resources named Dr. Bence the “William E. Ricker Professor of Fisheries Management” for his ground breaking interdisciplinary research and outreach that has improved the DNR’s ability to better manage fisheries resources.
Congratulations Dr. Bence!