The Fisheries Ecology Division is located in the NOAA Fisheries Santa Cruz Laboratory on the University of California’s Coastal Science Campus.
What We Do
The Fisheries Ecology Division studies California demersal and anadromous fishes, their fisheries, and their habitats. Demersal species under study include rockfishes, flatfishes, Pacific whiting, sablefish, and lingcod. Anadromous species include coho and chinook salmon, steelhead, and green sturgeon. Results of this research are used by the Pacific Fishery Management Council to manage fisheries and by NOAA Fisheries to manage threatened and endangered species and their habitats.
Our scientists focus on causes of variability in abundance and health of fish populations, ecological relations in marine communities, and the economics of exploiting and protecting natural resources. We also assess the stocks of species targeted by various fisheries, and assist in evaluating potential impacts of human activities on threatened or endangered species.
The Biophysical Ecology Team conducts ecological research on anadromous fish (Pacific salmon and sturgeon) in California. Our work focuses on the interface between physics and biology, with the goal of developing a mechanistic understanding of the processes that determine how individuals respond to their environments.
Cooperative Fisheries Oceanography Research
The Cooperative Fisheries Oceanography Research Team (CFORT) is based at Cal Poly Humboldt and conducts research focused on the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, particularly that portion off northern California. We use a variety of research approaches including oceanographic data collection, laboratory analysis of chemical and biological samples, numerical and statistical modeling, and development and application of ecological theory.
The Ecosystem Forecasting Team develops new approaches to modeling complex systems and make use of recent developments in other fields like nonlinear dynamics, physics, and machine learning. We apply these tools to predict recruitment in harvested fish populations, estimate state-dependent species interactions, and understand synchrony and asynchrony in marine metapopulations.
Fisheries and Ecosystem Oceanography
The Fisheries and Ecosystem Oceanography Team conducts an annual midwater trawl survey of pelagic juvenile rockfish and other groundfish, along with forage species such as krill, market squid, anchovies, and sardines. Starting in 1983 and originally limited to California’s central coast, the survey expanded in 2004 to include the entire California coastline.
Fisheries Assessment Modeling
The Fisheries Assessment Modeling Team studies fishery dynamics, assessment, and ecology, providing scientific support to salmon and groundfish fishery management. Research themes include population dynamics, demography, statistical methods for natural resource management, and stock assessment. Team members participate in a variety of working groups, including those focused on hatchery review, stock assessment improvement, amendment of fishery management plans, and genetic stock identification.
The Fisheries Economics Team conducts social science research on issues important to the management of fisheries, protected species, and ecosystems. We focus on three areas: water quality and allocation issues, usage and economic value of ocean and coastal resources, and economic and social dynamics of fishing fleets and communities.
Habitat and Groundfish Ecology
The Habitat and Groundfish Ecology Team studies deep-water California demersal communities and habitat assemblages, the goal being to provide sound scientific information to ensure the sustainability of marine fisheries and the effective management of marine ecosystems.
Landscape and Seascape Ecology
The Landscape and Seascape Ecology Team are ecologists, earth and water scientists, and geographers working to elucidate the linkages between habitat and anadromous fish that spawn in California. Our approach to this uses principles and methods from fish and stream ecology and biology, landscape, ecosystem, community, and population ecology with climatology, oceanography, hydrology, and geomorphology.
Molecular Ecology and Genetic Analysis
The Molecular Ecology and Genetic Analysis Team uses population genetic data and analytical techniques to address a broad array of questions in ecology, evolution, behavior, conservation, and management of marine and anadromous organisms. We actively implement novel methods for the acquisition and analysis of molecular data, providing inference for both specific and general problems in biology. Most of our research involves salmon, trout, and groundfish, but we also work on marine mammals and other fishes, and much of our methodology development is more broadly applicable.
Salmon Life History
The Salmon Life History Team develops innovative methods to quantify different metrics of life history diversity across freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems for ancient and modern salmon. We integrate isotopic analyses in archival tissues with fish surveys, environmental monitoring data, field experiments, and quantitative models to evaluate ways in which changes in the environment shape salmon life histories relevant to their conservation, management, and recovery.
Steve Lindley, Ph.D.
Steve Lindley joined NOAA Fisheries as a research ecologist in 1996, becoming director of the Fisheries Ecology Division in 2011. He has degrees in aquatic biology and biological oceanography, and was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Steve's research interests include population dynamics, ecosystem ecology, quantitative methods, and the linkages between physical and biological processes. His research with NOAA Fisheries has focused on endangered anadromous fish such as Chinook salmon, steelhead and green sturgeon.
Kate Achilles, Ph.D.
Kate Achilles is the Deputy Director of the Fisheries Ecology Division and oversees Operations and Management services at the Santa Cruz facility. She has been involved with research administration for multiple divisions at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center over the past decade. Kate is also actively involved with international marine education and ocean literacy initiatives and is currently the President of the National Marine Educators Association. In her free time, Kate enjoys backpacking, gardening, and spending time with her family.