Jennifer Zhao, 2016, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

It is widely acknowledged that fishing efforts affect marine populations, though to what extent is less understood. Analyzing the impact of fishing intensity on marine systems can inform policy on redirecting fishing efforts, but first this diversity must be quantified. This summer, I joined a project on the U.S. West Coast, a forefront of marine research. I modeled patterns of fish diversity using government trawl survey data. Trawl surveys use a large net which trails behind the survey vessel to unselectively catch fish in the trawl area, making it independent of environmental and fishing pressures and thus useful to quantify and predict diversity as a function of those factors. To quantify diversity I used the Shannon-Wiener index, an index that represents the entropy of encountering fish at a location of a trawl survey. Exploratory data analysis indicated structural outliers in the Southern California Bight area, with anomalously low diversity warranting further study. This summer, I built on my knowledge of data analysis and coding, and hope to continue the research by producing a model of fish diversity as a function of fishing effort and environmental factors. My summer experience confirmed my desire to continue pursuing EEB.