SoMAS graduate student Skyler Sagarese

SoMAS graduate student Skyler Sagarese has been selected as a recipient of a National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – Sea Grant Joint Fellowship in Population Dynamics. This award resulted from a national competition designed to attract students with quantitative ability to choose a career in fisheries science.

Skyler, who grew up on Long Island, did her undergraduate degree in Marine Biology at the University of Miami. She then came to Stony Brook University to pursue a Master’s degree under the guidance of advisor Dr. Mike Frisk.

“When it came time for grad school, I wanted to learn about a different environment,” said Skyler. “All my experience before coming to SoMAS was in the Caribbean.”

This May Skyler defended her Master’s thesis entitled “Pseudopleuronectes americanus: Inshore Movements, Residency, and Abundance of Adult Winter Flounder and Piscivorous Predation on Young-of-the-Year Winter Flounder within Coastal Bays of Long Island”

For her Ph.D. research, Skyler is shifting her focus to look at spiny dogfish migration and population dynamics in the northwest Atlantic. Under the guidance of Dr. Frisk and Dr. Paul Rago, chief of the Populations Dynamics Branch of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Wood’s Hole, Skyler will look at the life histories of spiny dogfish and their movements. She will analyze 40 years of historical data and spend 10 -20 days each year at sea conducting research trawls in order to examine the geographic distribution of dogfish and their prey.

“Cod and haddock have been fished out,” explained Skyler. “Now fishermen are going after less desirable spiny dogfish and skates. But these species take a long time to reach maturity and don’t have many offspring so they can’t sustain heavy fishing.”

“Not a lot of recent research has been done on the dogfish fishery so part of my research will focus on whether the dogfish life history has changed in 40 years since fishing pressures have been introduced. I’ll be looking to see if there have been changes to growth rate, number of offspring, age to reach maturity, and length of maturity. If dogfish have altered their lifestyles, we might be regulating the fishery based on older parameters,” said Skyler.

“Skyler’s work on dogfish will provide critical information on the temporal and spatial behavior of a very long-lived shark,” said Dr. Frisk. “The research is needed to develop stock assessment models for a species that has a range over 2000 km, is reported to occasionally cross the Atlantic Ocean and displays large-scale seasonal and decadal distributional changes.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – Sea Grant Joint Fellowship provides $38,500 per year over a three year period.

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