Fay Lab attends American Fisheries Society annual meeting in Tampa

Post by Ashley Weston:

A couple of weeks ago Amanda, Gavin, and myself from the Fay lab attended the annual American Fisheries Society (AFS) meeting in Tampa, Florida. While we were there I gave an oral presentation about the first chapter of my master thesis work. Between the feedback, diverse symposia, chances to network, and all around fish-related atmosphere AFS never fails to be a great conference.


AFS was particularly helpful to me at this point in my graduate experience because I have been in the weeds of my analysis and getting results for my first chapter and I had the chance to pick my head up and remember the overall big questions of “why am I doing this work?” and “what does this mean in the grand scheme of things?” through putting together my presentation. In addition, with my hot-off-the-press results, the questions, feedback, and conversations I had at AFS allowed me to better formulate the whole story of my first chapter research and get the most out of my results.

I find it inspiring and helpful to sit in on different symposia at these large conferences. I particularly enjoyed the symposia “Ten Years of Science-Based Management in US Fisheries” and Dr. Michael Sissenwine’s talk about progress in policy with respect to the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the challenges associated with making policy a reality in fisheries. I also enjoyed the “Progress Toward Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management” symposium because it reiterated a lot of what I had learned in Gavin’s EBFM class but gave perspectives from different parts of the world.  Another noteworthy symposium was the “Management Strategy Evaluation” session which ended a little differently than most with a panel discussion from a variety of stakeholders such as fishermen, scientists, council staff, and non-governmental agency members giving their viewpoints on how to advance the use of MSEs. Again, getting out of my little coding bubble and seeing what other people are doing puts things into perspective and I always learn a lot.

While these conferences are always full of talks, they don’t skimp on the chance for you to “network”. They took us to the Lowry Park Zoo for the student networking event and the Aquarium for the grand networking event! It’s true that the fisheries field is a small world and most everyone is eager to meet new people and talk about fish, so your network grows quickly.

Outside of the formal networking experience Amanda and I got to do a bit of exploring around Tampa as well. We ventured out on what we thought would be a short casual walk to lunch, but it turns out walking two miles in the Tampa heat is much more difficult than anticipated! It is so humid there this time of year. But, in seeing most of Tampa’s scenic river walk we got to see a wild manatee! For me this was a first and definitely made the hike worth it!

Ashley’s talk at the AFS meeting was titled “Performance of Alaskan groundfish harvest control rules under climate change given recruitment-environmental linkages in stock assessments”.

Other Fay lab work presented at the meeting included:
Fay, G., G.N. Tuck, M. Haddon. Evaluating monitoring and management strategies for Macquarie Island Patagonian toothfish (Oral presentation by Gavin), &
Hart, A.R., G. Fay. Evaluating an ecosystem-based fishery management model for Georges Bank using ceilings on system removals (Poster presentation by Amanda).

Postdoctoral position in Management Strategy Evaluation

Postdoctoral Fellow
Quantitative fisheries and ecosystem science
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, New Bedford, MA

The Department of Fisheries Oceanography at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) is looking for an outstanding Postdoctoral Fellow (PF) to work under the supervision of Dr. Gavin Fay, assistant professor of Fisheries Oceanography, to develop and evaluate quantitative tools for assessing and managing fisheries in the Northeast U.S. under climate change.

Climate-mediated changes in the Northeast U.S. Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem are unprecedented, and the impacts of these changes on marine fisheries resources are increasing. Once abundant and supporting a profitable fishing industry, some groundfish stocks in the Northeast U.S. have declined to record-low biomass in recent years, whereas others have increased. Shifts in productivity of Northeast U.S. groundfish may reflect individual species responses to recent warming and associated oceanographic changes. It is crucial to understand how fisheries management procedures could consider climate-driven changes and evaluate whether these procedures would result in more adaptive, successful management of groundfish species given forecasted climate change. Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) is a powerful simulation-based framework for structured decision-making that can compare the performance and robustness of management options given uncertainty and quantify tradeoffs among multiple, possibly competing ecological, economic, and societal objectives.

The PF will collaborate with scientists at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center on a 3-year research project to develop and apply a MSE for Northeast US groundfish fisheries that tests the performance of stock assessment methods and harvest control rules under climate change. The PF will develop alternative climate-responsive fisheries management procedures for key species and write code to implement these within an MSE framework, linking modeling efforts with results and activities of other project researchers. The PF will undertake MSE analyses that include technical interactions as part of a mixed fishery analysis, and quantify the expected ecological and economic performance of the alternative management procedures. The PF will interact closely with another postdoc based at GMRI to coordinate application of the project’s modeling framework. The computer programs developed by the PF will provide a general framework that can apply to other species and/or large marine ecosystems. The PF will take a lead role in the writing and publication of reports, peer-reviewed papers, and presentations at scientific meetings on the results of this research.


  • An earned PhD degree in a relevant discipline, such as Fisheries Science, Statistics, Ecology, or other related field, that demonstrates a strong quantitative background. [candidates with nearly-completed PhDs will also be considered]
  • Experience fitting statistical models to data, including demonstrated fluency in statistical/modeling programming languages (e.g. R, AD Model Builder, Template Model Builder).
  • Strong written and oral communication skills, as evidenced through publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature and presentations to a variety of audiences.

Additional knowledge, skills and abilities:

  • Experience fitting population dynamics models to data for fisheries stock assessment and application of simulation testing frameworks like Management Strategy Evaluation is preferred.
  • Knowledge of fisheries management, and understanding of the management process in the U.S.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team to successfully complete project goals.
  • Strong pedagogical skills.

The position has an annual salary of $55K plus benefits. The position is full-time for three years, with the second and third years of funding conditional on the PF making satisfactory progress during the first year. Start date is flexible; the successful candidate could begin as early as October 2017.

The position will be located at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth SMAST’s new marine science building in New Bedford, MA with expectation for travel to scientific meetings and for meetings with regional project partners. The PF will join a dynamic group of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in a growing lab focused on quantitative approaches for fisheries assessment and ecosystem-based management. Opportunities exist for teaching, student mentoring, academic training, and participation in regional scientific advisory working groups dependent on PF interests and career goals. The PF will be encouraged to collaborate with students and staff at all collaborating institutions. In addition to Dr. Fay, project PIs include Dr. Lisa Kerr & Dr. Andrew Pershing (GMRI), Dr. Sarah Gaichas (NOAA NEFSC), and Dr. Steve Cadrin (UMass Dartmouth). Further information on UMass Dartmouth SMAST, GMRI, and the NOAA NEFSC can be found via the institutions’ websites (www.smast.umassd.edu; gmri.org; www.nefsc.noaa.gov). For information on the Fay lab see thefaylab.com

Qualified applicants should submit a cover letter, CV, writing samples (e.g. copies of relevant publications), and contact information for three professional references by clicking here. Questions about the position should be directed via email to Dr. Gavin Fay at gfay@umassd.edu. Review of applications will begin October 1, 2017 and continue until the position is filled.

UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology (SMAST) is a nationally and internationally recognized research institution located in New Bedford, Massachusetts; the nation’s top fishing port. SMAST’s cutting-edge research projects emphasize interdisciplinary basic-to-applied marine sciences and the development of innovative technologies. The SMAST marine science campus, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), creates a major marine science hub in the Northeast US, bringing together more than 150 faculty, students, and staff engaged in education, research and policy related to commercial fishing, coastal preservation, ocean observation, and climate change.

About University of Massachusetts Dartmouth:
The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth distinguishes itself as a vibrant public university actively engaged in personalized teaching and innovative research, and acting as an intellectual catalyst for regional and global economic, social, and cultural development.

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth values excellence, diversity, transparency, student-centeredness, accountability, innovation, engagement, collaboration, collegiality and safety.
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth employees and applicants for employment are protected by federal laws, Presidential Executive Orders, and state and local laws designed to protect employees and job applicants from discrimination on the bases of race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, family medical history or genetic information, military service, veteran status or other non-merit based factors.

The University of Massachusetts reserves the right to conduct background checks on potential employees.

Lab group biographies added, belated welcomes

We have added bios of lab group members to the People page. Click on the People link to learn about graduate students and their research in the Fay lab.

As part of this update, we welcome (to the internet version of the lab) MS student Amanda Hart and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Vanessa Trijoulet.

Amanda joined us early fall 2016 and, in between a full load of coursework, is working currently on evaluating the performance of ecosystem based management procedures for New England.

Vanessa joined us in November 2016 from the University of Strathclyde, where in her PhD she applied bio-economic models to quantify the effect of seal predation on West of Scotland groundfisheries. Vanessa is working jointly with Dr’s Kiersten Curti & Tim Miller at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, and holds a visiting scholar appointment in the Fay lab.

Great to have both Amanda and Vanessa as part of the team!

New paper reports on 1st Atlantis ecosystem model summit

A recently published paper in Ecological Modelling (Weijerman et al. 2016) reports on the first Atlantis Ecosystem Model Summit, held in December 2015 in Honolulu, HI.

The Atlantis Summit brought together developers and users of the Atlantis model worldwide, as well as the larger end to end ecosystem modeling community. The aims of the workshop were “to provide a better understanding of the current modeling work, elicit wider interest, and foster collaboration within the Atlantis community“.

Gavin and Robert attended the meeting, moderating a session on the use of Indicators in Atlantis and participating in a pre-meeting workshop on developing a simulation testing toolbox. In the paper (linked below), the Summit Steering Committee (including Gavin) report on the main outcomes of the conference.

Work continues on preparation of manuscripts describing the results of common scenarios run in multiple Atlantis models, and in the development of R tools to use Atlantis for Management Strategy Evaluation and ecosystem assessment model performance testing.
A collection of R packages for interfacing with Atlantis, many developed during the meeting, can be linked to via the r4atlantis organization on github.

Weijerman, M., J.S. Link, E.A. Fulton, E. Olsen, H. Townsend, S. Gaichas, C. Hansen, M. Skern-Mauritzen, I.C. Kaplan, R. Gamble, G. Fay, M. Savina, C. Ainsworth, I. van Putten, R. Gorton, R. Brainard, K. Larsen, T. Hutton. 2016. Atlantis Ecosystem Model Summit: Report from a workshop. Ecological Modelling 335: 35-38.

Postdoc position available: multispecies fisheries modeling

Tim Miller, Kiersten Curti (NOAA Fisheries) and I are looking for a great fisheries modeling postdoc to work on multispecies state-space stock assessment models in the Northeast US.

The position will be based at the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Work space will also be available in my lab at UMass Dartmouth. The position is for 2 years with salary of $55k. This would be a good position for quantitative types who want to apply and develop their ADMB/TMB skills.

A full position description can be found below and at the following link:

The lab is growing!

Given that it is already week 10 of spring semester, this announcement is long overdue.

Thrilled to welcome new PhD students Megan Winton and Robert Wildermuth, along with MS student Liberty Schilpp, to the lab.

Megan joins us from the Coonamessett Farm Foundation in Falmouth MA. She received her MS at CSUMB’s Moss Landing Marine laboratory, where she worked with David Ebert and Greg Cailliet on modeling age, growth and demography of Bering Sea skates. Megan has also worked for NOAA Fisheries in Woods Hole, with work modeling spatial variation in maturity of winter flounder. Her UMassD dissertation research will focus on developing and testing methods for including different types of tagging information into models used to assess and manage fisheries and protected species.

Robert joins us from Western Ecosystems Inc. where he was analyzing demographic data for marine resource damage assessment following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He received his MS from Arizona State University working in Leah Gerber’s lab on behavioral indicator assessments for marine mammals. Robert’s research at UMassD will focus on comparing among qualitative and quantitative models for evaluating tradeoffs for ecosystem-based management in the Northeast US marine ecosystem.

Liberty is transferring from the Hyun lab here at SMAST. She is collaborating with Dr. Hyun and Dr. Tim Miller at NOAA Fisheries in Woods Hole, conducting empirical analysis and state-space modeling of temporal changes in biological parameters for commercial and non-target fish species in the Northeast US.

All three have been hard at work with classes this semester, but we have also had time for some productive workshop-style lab meetings. It’s exciting to be part of a growing group!