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Notes from the Dean

Greetings from SMAST! This winter season has been a mild one compared to last year. Another record warm year in 2015 is part of a growing body of evidence that our planet and society are undergoing dramatic changes. We see these changes becoming more evident in our own observations of the New England coastal region, as well as hearing about it from colleagues across the world.

SMAST faculty, staff, and students are setting their own records as recipients of awards and in innovative research, from advancing novel fisheries survey and stock assessment approaches to cutting-edge research on ocean physics and chemical and biological processes. And we are excited to see real progress on the SMAST Expansion, which will create much-needed space to bring our faculty together in one location and allow for growth of our programs and increased collaboration with our campus colleagues.

-Steven E. Lohrenz, Dean

SMAST research has global impact
Janne B. Haugen (second from left) 
International travel

Janne B. Haugen,  PhD candidate with a concentration in fisheries biology and assessment, attended the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) workshop in Lisbon, Portugal from January 19-21 (along with 15 participants from eight different countries) to participate in the to Compile and Refine Catch and Landings of Elasmobranchs. Currently, ICES provides advice on 55 elasmobranch stocks, and 17 countries report catch data, using a variety of species codes and names. The expert group examined ways to explore the collation of landings data per stock, along with high quality control. ICES faces several challenges when it comes to advice on elasmobranchs in the near future. With the inclusion of discards data following the EU landings obligation and new assessment methods, documentation of decisions on landings data and establishment of a standard operating procedure for ICES elasmobranch landings is an important exercise.  The outcome of the workshop was an ICES report.

Owen Nichols, PhD candidate with a concentration in fisheries biology and assessment,
Owen Nichols (far left)
recently attended the Cephalopod International Advisory Council workshop (
November 6-14 2015) in Hakodate, Japan where he presented several of his research projects, including a project titled " Environmental effects on squid availability to a seasonal inshore fishery: Untangling drivers, mechanisms and scales," and  "Localized depletion of an important forage species (Doryteuthis pealeii): perceptions, processes, and policies." Additionally, Nichols participated in The Role of Cephalopods in Global Seafood Supply Chains workshop, which examined cephalopod supply chains around the world focusing on the links from stocks and fisheries to ports, processors, distributors, marketers and consumers. During the workshop , Nichols gave a presentation on "Doryteuthis pealeii Fisheries in the Northeast USA: Large to Small Scales."

National travel

Last month, Dean Steven Lohrenz, Professors Mark Altabet, Wendell BrownChangsheng Chen, Geoffrey Cowles, Cynthia Pilskaln, Miles Sundermeyer, and Amit Tandon as well as Research Faculty member Annie Bourbonnais, and Post-Doctoral Investigator Sumit Chakraborty journeyed to New Orleans where they presented their research and advanced collaborations at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting. Co-sponsored by the AGU, ASLO, and TOS, the Ocean Sciences Meeting consisted of a diverse program covering all areas of the ocean sciences and disciplines. 

"SMAST leads UMass Dartmouth when it comes to research dollars" -- The Herald News
Research and funding
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) awarded a $96,376 grant to SMAST Professor and Chair of the Department of Fisheries Oceanography Kevin Stokesbury for his project "A New Sampling System for New England Groundfish Using Video Technology, Focusing on Cod in the Gulf of Maine." The goal of the project is assess the population of cod and provide all stakeholders with trustworthy science that leads to smart management of the Gulf of Maine cod fishery.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a $350,000 grant to SMAST Professor and Chair of Department of Estuarine & Ocean Sciences Mark Altabet (PI) for his portion of the collaborative research project titled "Was Southeast Pacific a hot spot for nitrogen fixation during dusty glacial conditions?" The project uses advanced techniques to examine nitrogen fixation activity on the Southeast Pacific Ocean as well as how the region has changed over time.  Miles Sundermeyer , Associate Professor, Department of Estuarine & Ocean Sciences at SMAST, has also received an NSF grant  in the amount of $283,485 for his portion of the collaborative research project "The Role of Internal Wave-Wave Interactions in Stirring and Mixing the Ocean." 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) awarded a $480,600 grant to SMAST Research Faculty member  David Bethoney, and Brad Schondelmeier and Bill Hoffman of the Massachusetts DMF, to continue their successful river herring portside sampling and avoidance program. The project focuses on sustaining, improving and evaluating portside sampling and river herring incidental catch reduction in the Atlantic herring mid-water trawl fishery.

The NOAA Fisheries Saltonstall-Kennedy (SK) Grant Program awarded two projects with a total of $481,000 to Pingguo He to adopt and design a German-style flatfish-excluding grid and a Sort X grid from European devices. Both projects, which are a collaborative effort with the local fishing industry and gear manufacturers as well as Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries in one of them, received funding for a one-year period. Funding for the yellowtail flounder project is $233,500. Funding for the haddock project is $247,500.

The Office of Naval Research has provided a grant in the amount of $29,553 to Associate Professor Miles Sundermeyer for his project "LatMix 2011 & 2012 Dispersion Analysis." The project involves using LatMix, which combines shipboard, autonomous, and airborne field observations with modeling to improve understanding of ocean stirring across multiple scales.  Additionally, Sundermeyer received a $25,481 grant from The Massachusetts Environmental Trust  for his project "Quantifying Impacts of Oyster Aquaculture on Estuarine Nitrogen-Related Water Quality." 

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently granted $752,807 to Steven Lohrenz for his project titled "Research and Education in Quantitative Fisheries and Ecosystem Science." The project involves conducting research and educational activities related to stock assessment and quantitative fisheries science.

Additionally, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council, New England Fishery Management Council, and Science Center for Marine Fisheries (SCeMFiS) respectively have awarded funds for the following collaborative research projects focused on improving stock assessment and understanding fisheries habitat - Analysis of Fishery Dependent Data Use in Stock Assessment, amount: $20,116, Catherine O'Keefe (PI); Developing and testing stock assessment models for black sea bass using Stock Synthesis, amount: $68,768, Steve Cadrin and Gavin Fay (Co-PIs); Mapping the distribution of Atlantic cod spawning on Georges Bank using fishermen's ecological knowledge and scientific data, amount: $74,536; Steven Cadrin, Gregory DeCelles, and Douglas Zemeckis (PIs).

SMAST continues to expand
Laying the groundwork

The long-awaited expansion of the SMAST is official. In 2015, SMAST broke ground for the new 76,000-square foot building, which opens fall of 2017. The three-tier, LEED-certified, destination space for marine science will include flexible labs, a state-of-the-art computational facility, classrooms, break rooms, high-bay storage for large equipment, and an expanded seawater research facility.

The expanded campus, which is a collaboration with the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF), will also feature offices and research space for the DMF as well as SMAST faculty, technical staff, and students. The two New Bedford facilities will serve as the hub of education and research on commercial fishing, coastal preservation, ocean observation, and climate change.
Faculty, students, and alums in the spotlight
Spawning dynamics, seasonal movements, and population structure of Atlantic cod


Steve Cadrin (left) and Doug Zemeckis (right) display cod fish with storage tag near fin .

Atlantic cod have been a principal target species in New England's ground fish fishery since the 17th century. In recent decades, cod have experienced substantial declines in abundance. Many historical spawning components have been depleted, reducing cod stock productivity and stability.

Over the last seven years, Doug Zemeckis, who recently earned his PhD in Marine Science and Technology, has worked closely with his advisor Steve Cadrin, Associate Professor in the Department of Fisheries Oceanography at SMAST, on several studies concentrated in the Gulf of Maine. The objective of these projects is to provide a more holistic understanding of cod population dynamics and address fisheries problems using various tagging methods that track the journey and whereabouts of cod.

From conventional to advanced tagging methods
"With the conventional tags, we typically rely on fisherman to recapture and report. With the electronic archival tags, we are able to track fish so that we know their journeys and behavioral patterns, and, again, we rely on fisherman to recapture them," explains Zemeckis. And then there is the acoustic tagging method, which uses electronic tags that emit a signal that is detected by hydrophones so researchers can track tagged fish. "The advantage of the acoustic tag is that we don't need a fishery recapture," says Cadrin. "Really it's our hydrophones that collect the information on where and when fish were."

Inter-related projects on spawning dynamics and discard mortality
In addition to the spring spawning project, which was the first of three major projects that began in 2009 and was completed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (who first funded the project), Cadrin and Zemeckis have also served as co-principal investigators on other tagging projects in collaboration with researchers at various agencies. 

Their winter spawning cod project, now funded through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was initially funded through the Nature Conservatory and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Research with winter spawning cod has built off previous experience with the spring spawners and focuses on mapping the spatial and temporal distribution of cod spawning in Massachusetts Bay to inform fishery management decisions. The overarching objectives between both studies have been to improve our understanding of the spawning dynamics, seasonal movements, and population structure of cod in the Gulf of Maine.

The spring spawning research informed the timing and size of the Spring Cod Conservation Zone (SCCZ) in Massachusetts Bay, which is the closure in which the researchers were tagging spring spawning cod. Additionally, the evidence for disruption of spawning by fishing that was collected by Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries researchers in 2009 has been considered by managers in informing other cod protection measures in the Gulf of Maine. The findings are also expected to contribute to the development of future fishery management plans and stock assessment models that work towards achieving stock rebuilding.

The next project focused on cod discard mortality and became a spinoff of the team's previous research on winter and spring spawning behavior. The discard mortality project was competed in collaboration with by researchers from the New England Aquarium, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the University of New England.

"The results of Doug's and his colleagues' work have direct relevance to the way we monitor these fisheries resources and the way these fisheries are managed when it comes to protecting spawning behavior and conserving different spawning components, and accurately modeling the population dynamics," says Cadrin. "All of these have direct relevance to New England fisheries, particularly the acoustic tagging work, which has been a great example of the research results produced by the Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute - a partnership between SMAST and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries." 

Zemeckis agrees. "I can't think of a better example of the strength of that partnership than these projects. There's a co-benefit where we have successfully combined everyone's complimentary areas of expertise, which has led to the development of very strong and productive collaborations," says Zemeckis.

Alumnae  Katherine Thompson

As a child raised in a fishing family in New Harbor, SMAST alum Katherine Thompson realized her passion for sea animals very early. Well before she entered the professional field of marine science, she spent her summers serving as a sternman at Round Pond.Since then, she has continuously expanded her connection with marine life - first as a biology major at Smith College, which led to several marine jobs in Maine, including a boatbuilding apprenticeship, lobstering, shrimping, oyster aquaculture, and a SCUBA diving internship suction sampling juvenile lobsters. 

"It was when I was sterning on a lobster boat that I began to realize the important role of fisheries science in informing stock assessments and ultimately fisheries regulations," says Thompson. "It was for this reason that I applied to graduate school. I heard that SMAST has one of the best fisheries programs in New England. I knew that I wanted to study sea scallops and several folks recommended that I speak with Dr. Kevin Stokesbury. A few months later I was his student."

Thompson earned her master's degree in living marine resource science and management from UMass Dartmouth's SMAST in 2013. Her master's degree thesis focused on the timing of sea scallop spawning on Georges Bank. After graduating, Thompson then landed a job at Coonamesset Farm Foundation (CFF) coordinating the Seasonal Bycatch Survey in which she had previously collected my thesis samples. "I had already built positive working relationships with the industry while at SMAST, which helped with the job. I also collaborated with the Stokesbury and Cadrin labs on two projects. The strong collaborations that I established at SMAST as well as the knowledge and skills that I gained there helped me greatly when beginning the job at CFF."

Thompson is currently pursuing a PhD in marine biology at the University of Maine, and recently landed a career as a lead scientist for the Department of Marine Resources (DMR). Her new role involves coordinating the lobster sea sampling program as well as the ventless trap survey (VTS). Additionally, she supervises DMR scientific staff and contractors who participate in these programs.

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Event Highlights
2016 Intercampus Marine Science Research Symposium

The 2016 UMass Intercampus Marine Science (IMS) Research Symposium will be held on Friday, March 25, 2016 from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm in the Claire Carney Library's Stoico/FIRSTFED Charitable Foundation Grand Reading Room on the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus.

Each year the symposium gives IMS students from all five UMass campuses - Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, and Worcester - the opportunity to share their current or proposed research, receive feedback from other students, faculty, and scientists, and boost their CV.  The event is free and open to the public. Those planning to attend should RSVP via email to IMS Research Symposium student coordinator Robert Wildermuth at . Visit the website  for more information.

2015 GAEA Climate Summit

This past December, UMass Dartmouth hosted the Global Awareness Education and
Action (GAEA) event, a two-day program focusing the impacts of climate change on the region. The summit initiated a multi-regional dialogue and educational campaign about the impacts of climate change, focusing on coastal communities south of Boston.

Sponsored by UMass Dartmouth, the Island Foundation, and the New Bedford Whaling Museum in collaboration with seven daily newspapers located south of Boston, the event convened a region-wide conversation that brought together scientists, policy makers, business leaders, and citizens from all 54 cities and towns to discuss the issues in a manner that educates and mobilizes individuals and communities.  Various SMAST scientists, including  Dean Steven Lohrenz and  Professors Kevin Stokesbury Steve Cadrin James Bisagni Jeff Turner Chrissy Petitpas Changsheng Chen , and
Brian Howes , presented their research. For a partial recap, visit .

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Dr. Mark Altabet, Professor & Chair
Congratulations to Professor Mark Altabet of the Department of Estuarine and Ocean Sciences, who was recently appointed senior editor of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography's (ASLO) prestigious journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters, which features innovative and cutting-edge research in any area of limnology and oceanography.

Dr. Kevin Brink, Adjunct Faculty

SMAST welcomes physical oceanographer Dr. Kenneth Brink. Brink, a Senior Scientist Emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, previously held the position there as director of the Coastal Ocean Institute and Rinehard Coastal Center from 2000-2004. He is an elected Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society.

Michael Marino, Assistant Dean
Congratulations to 2015 Annual Chancellor's Award Recognizing Excellence in Service Award winner, Mike Marino, who received a $2,000 cash prize for his commitment and service. In addition to serving as Assistant Dean, Marino serves on various UMass D committees, including The University Asset Management Advisory Council and the Spring Mentoring Program for new employees.

Sonaljit Mukherjee, PhD Candidate 

Congratulations to Sonaljit Mukherjee, who performed his own piano composition at the Enlightened Piano Radio Awards Ceremony and Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City last October. In addition to composing music, Mukherjee devotes his efforts to his research in the field of submesoscale ocean modeling and upper ocean mixed-layer dynamics.

Doug Zemeckis, PhD Candidate

Congratulations to Doug Zemeckis who recently completed his PhD at SMAST. Zemeckis has been a highly productive student, contributing his co-authored research to nearly a dozen scientific journals. His prodigious output on winter and spring spawning has been pivotal in defining the management practices of New England fisheries. His spring spawning project was completed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. His winter spawning cod project, now funded through a grant from NOAA, was first-year funded through the Nature Conservatory and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Additionally, Zemeckis served as co-principal investigator on a discard mortality project, which was competed in collaboration with by researchers from the New England Aquarium, Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, and the University of New England.

UMass Dartmouth School for Marine Science & Technology | 508.910.6550 | Email | Website