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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Old Dominion University Research Foundation
  • Cynthia M Jones
  • (757) 683-4497
  • Jason J Schaffler
Award Date:06/07/2010
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 570,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 570,000
  • FY 2010=$184,453
  • FY 2011=$385,547
Start Date:06/15/2010
End Date:05/31/2014
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: The impact of multiple nursery areas and adult age structure on the population dynamics of marine fishes
Federal Award ID Number:0961421
DUNS ID:077945947

Awardee Location

Street:4111 Monarch Way
Awardee Cong. District:03

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Old Dominion University
Street:5115 Hampton Blvd
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

Many marine populations exhibit complex life histories in which larval and juvenile stages are spatially separated from adults. This is the case for many coastal-spawning, estuarine-dependent fishes which utilize multiple estuaries as nursery grounds to ensure that recruitment failure in any single estuary does not translate to total recruitment failure at the population level. For these species, the location and timing of spawning is believed to regulate the pattern of supply of larvae to potential estuarine nursery areas. Furthermore, many of these species exhibit age-dependent coastal migrations which increase in amplitude with age. Thus, there is the potential that changes in the age structure in the population can affect the pattern of supply of larvae to nursery areas and structure the pattern of recruitment. The investigators will carry out an integrated empirical and simulation approach to study the sources, patterns and consequences of larval supply to estuarine nursery areas for Atlantic menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus) along the East Coast of the US. The first goal will be to quantify the contribution of these nursery areas to coast wide recruitment. Juvenile menhaden from nursery areas from Massachusetts to Georgia will be sampled and the microchemical constituents of their otoliths will be characterized. These chemical signatures will be used to assign the nursery affinities of adult menhaden in the coastwide population. The investigators will test the null hypothesis that the Chesapeake Bay remains the most important source of recruits to the population. By determining the nursery affinities of adults from different year classes in the population they will assess whether the contribution of nurseries varies or has shifted over time. The second goal is use a population model linked to an individual-based coupled physical-biological model of recruitment to evaluate whether the known age-dependent migrations of adult menhaden are sufficient to cause the observed shifts in the distribution of larval menhaden that seed potential nursery areas. The simulation model will assist in evaluating mechanisms behind observed changes in the distribution of juvenile menhaden. This work will contribute to the fundamental understanding of the regulation of spatially-structured marine populations. The last decade has seen the range extension of several estuarine-dependent marine species with dispersive larvae and the long-term recruitment decline of others. This integrated research program seeks to explore the effects of population demography, oceanographic circulation, and nursery site diversity on subsequent population dynamics. Given the documented changes in habitat quality in many estuarine nursery areas, and the anticipated impacts of climate change on oceanographic circulation, distributional changes in individual species are likely to become more common. Moreover, given the pivotal role that many estuarine-dependent species play in many marine ecosystems, understanding distributional changes will have direct consequences for the structure and function of the ecosystems to which they belong. The project will also train young scientists in areas of research (quantitative fisheries ecology, physical oceanography) for which there is current a national need.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Schaffler, J.J., van Montfrans, J., Jones, C.M., and Orth, R.J. "Distribution in Fish communities in seagrass habitats of Chesapeake Bay are structured by abiotic and biotic factors." Marine and Coastal Fisheries Science, v.5, 2013, p.114-124.

Schaffler, J.J., T. Miller, and C.M. Jones "Spatial and temporal variation in otolith chemistry of juvenile Atlantic menhaden in Chesapeake Bay" Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, v.143, 2014, p.1061.

Hannigan, R., E. Dorval, and C.M. Jones. "Rare Earth Element Chemistry of Estuarine Surface Sediments In the Chesapeake Bay" Chemical Geology, v.272, 2010, p.20.

Jones, C.M. "Can we predict the future: juvenile finfish and their seagrass nurseries of Chesapeake Bay" ICES Journal of Marine Science, v., 2013, p.. doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst142 

Link, J. S., B. A. Megrey, T. J. Miller. T. J., T. E. Essington, J. Boldt, A. Bundy, E. Moksness, K. F. Drinkwater and R. I. Perry "Comparative analysis of marine ecosystems: International production modeling workshop" Biological Letters, v., 2010, p.. doi:DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2010.0526. 

Schaffler, J.J., van Montfrans, J., Jones, C.M., and Orth, R.J. "Distribution in Seagrass Habitats of Chesapeake Bay are Structured by Abiotic and Biotic Factors" . Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science, v.5, 2013, p.114.

Hoover, R.R. and C.M. Jones. "Examining the effect of laser ablation depth in otolith life history scans" Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.486, 2013, p.247-256.

Hoover, R.R. and C.M. Jones "Effect of laser ablation depth in otolith life history scans" Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.486, 2013, p.247.

R. Reilly Hoover, C.M. Jones and C. Grosch "Estuarine ingress timing as revealed by spectral analysis of otolith life history scans" Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, v.69, 2012, p.1266.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The Atlantic menhaden, Brevoortia tyrannus, plays a critical role in the marine food web as an important prey item in the diet of many important food fish and supports on of the largest fisheries on the east coast. Along with a decrease in overall numbers and biomass of reproductively-capable adults, recruitment of young to the adult population has remained low since the 1990s. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate the impediments to juvenile survival and recruitment if we are to establish proper management for this prey species.

Menhaden use numerous estuaries along the Atlantic coast for juvenile development before recruiting to the adult population and the contribution of each of these nursery grounds is currently unknown. The Chesapeake Bay is thought to contribute 70% of the total recruits, although this estimate is over twenty years old and predates current low recruitment levels. We used the chemistry in otoliths (earbones) to distinguish between coast-wide nursery grounds of menhaden for 2009-2011. We determined that juvenile mehaden could be classified to their regional nursery grounds accurately and that otolith chemistry provided a natural tag to follow the contribution of each nursery area in subsequent years. This research builds the foundation for a comprehensive estimate on recruiting rates for each of the major nursery areas along the US Atlantic coast for 2009-2011. Analysis of age-1 signatures revealed that the Chesapeake Bay and the Northeast nursery grounds each consistently contributed ~30% of the new recruits over the three years of this study, followed by the Southeast and Delaware Bay with ~20%. Analysis of age-2 and age-3 will show which nursery has the highest survivorship based on classification of the older age classes.

Concomitant with the application of otolith chemistry, our collaborators at CBL and Rutgers University have developed a circulation model that was parameterized with our data and revealed the necessay circulation and timing that provided young fish to the nursery areas from menhaden's offshore spawning grounds. Moreover, the model is also able to show that changes in circulation can alter the delivery of young and, this, affect potential recruitment under climate change impacts.

The project has supported two Post-doctoral Fellows, one a Native American, and one Ph.D. student who has used the project as the foundation for her dissertation. Several papers have been published, with several more in progress. The Post-doctoral Fellows and Ph.D. student have been actively presenting the results of this research in international and national forums. We have made the results of the project available to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and they have asked us to participate in a menhaden ageing workshop which is using our age samples as a reference set.

Last Modified: 09/05/2014
Modified by: Cynthia M Jones

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