What We Do
The Population and Ecosystems Monitoring Division performs large-scale fishery-independent surveys and applied research. Our science supports fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem-based fisheries and protected species management in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, southeastern Atlantic (South Atlantic), and Caribbean regions.
Fishery-independent surveys use consistent, standardized sampling methods to assess changes in focal species’ abundance and other population metrics (e.g., age and size structure) over space and time. We use trawls, plankton nets, longlines, scuba divers, video cameras, and fish traps to survey. Our surveys support stock assessments for approximately 40 stocks in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, South Atlantic, and Atlantic high seas. The data we collect and analyze supports management advice to three regional fishery management councils, two interstate marine fisheries commissions, and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
Our applied research focuses on topics including fish population dynamics (including the effect of habitat, climate, ecosystem, and anthropogenic drivers), habitat ecology and restoration, fisheries and community ecology, and the application of advanced technologies to fisheries- and habitat-focused research. We also coordinate closely with the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office to address habitat science needs.
Atlantic and Caribbean Reef Fish
Our Atlantic and Caribbean Reef Fish team supports the management of fish populations in the U.S. South Atlantic and Caribbean. We conduct scientific monitoring through multiple survey efforts in coral reef, offshore hardbottom, and deepwater habitats. Research within the team focuses on fish population and community dynamics, spatial distributions, habitat use, survey methodology, and ecosystem change.
The research and data collection support multiple stock assessments and are an integral component of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program.
Gulf and Caribbean Reef Fish
Our Gulf and Caribbean Reef Fish team focuses on collecting data on a variety of fish species in the region. This is achieved through a wide range of surveys, compiling historical surveys with new surveys, utilizing new technologies to gather information on populations, and DNA barcoding. The team historically focused on reef fish living in the mesophotic zone (depths ranging from 100 feet to over 490 feet) because of the lack of data on these species. We will use the data we collected from the mesophotic studies to set up a comprehensive restoration plan for the zone. Our focus will be where the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill took place in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Our Habitat Ecology team focuses on scientific research and monitoring of interactions among organisms, habitats, and their environments to determine how habitat impacts NOAA’s trust resources. We are keenly interested in determining how environmental change like habitat loss, habitat restoration, alteration of salinity patterns, and climate change are impacting the relationships between organisms and their essential habitats. This includes analyses of patterns in organism presence-absence, density-biomass, growth-mortality, production, abundance-distribution, genetics, and immigration-emigration. Our research and data collection facilitate the adaptive management of marine and coastal ecosystems covering a broad range of habitats including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass, and Spartina marshes.
Oceanic and Coastal Pelagics
Our Oceanic and Coastal Pelagic team support the management of fish populations in the Southeast of the U.S., Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Caribbean, and Atlantic high seas. We conduct bottom longline surveys, cooperative tagging programs, satellite tagging, biological sampling, as well as monitoring and assessment program oversight. The research conducted through our team is heavily focused on population dynamics, abundance, distribution, movement patterns, and habitat use of pelagic species such as billfish, tunas, and sharks. Data obtained from the long-running bottom longline survey are also an integral component of assessments for red snapper and other important reef fish species.
Trawl and Plankton Surveys
Our team works in collaboration with the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program (SEAMAP) and state partners (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida) to conduct annual groundfish (Summer, Fall) and plankton (Spring, Fall) surveys in support of fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico. The surveys provide fisheries-independent data for the development of abundance indices. The indices are used in the population assessments of numerous species, including brown shrimp, white shrimp, red snapper, western Atlantic bluefin tuna, king mackerel, and gray triggerfish, among others. Environmental observations are collected during each survey to characterize habitat parameters. The observations also provide the background data needed to assess the degree to which anthropogenic, environmental, and climatic variability affect the distributions, abundances, and population dynamics of managed species and other marine resources.
Todd Kellison, Ph.D.
Dr. Todd Kellison serves as the Director of the Population and Ecosystems Monitoring Division.