Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center Young Scientist Opportunity Projects
PYSO project listing for summer 2021.
Project 1. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Research Integrating Climate Projections into a Population Model
Dr. Camryn Allen, Marylou Staman, Shawn Murakawa, Dr. Alexander Gaos, and Dr. Summer Martin
The intern will work directly with scientists in the Marine Turtle Biology and Assessment Program (MTBAP). They will be mentored in general topics of wildlife and fisheries research and endangered species conservation, and will be exposed to multiple facets of the research program beyond their project area. They will receive specific training on the datasets and general methods necessary to succeed in their internship project as well as basic analytical tools for their analysis and reporting. A 12-week internship is preferred.
Background and Description
The MTBAP conducts research to monitor the status and trends of marine turtle populations throughout the Pacific Islands Region (Hawaiian Archipelago, Marianas Archipelago, American Samoa, and the Pacific Remote Island Area). This requires understanding the biology, ecology, and population dynamics of multiple turtle populations of five species (green, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley turtles). Additionally, MTBAP studies the impacts of anthropogenic threats, such as fisheries bycatch and climate change, on Pacific Islands turtle populations to inform fisheries and protected species management decisions.
As part of the MTBAP research team, a PYSO Intern will work on a project to help fill gaps in our understanding of fisheries bycatch patterns and impacts on Pacific turtle populations. The intern will develop a user interface to assess fisheries impacts using a computer coding language such as R for a turtle population model. The model will allow users to adjust bycatch levels and determine resulting population impacts of proposed levels of fisheries bycatch. This would be an implementation project for an intern with coding skills who is interested in developing a useful tool for fisheries managers and protected species biologists. The population model code and general idea for the interface would be provided by the MTBAP team, and the intern would work creatively to design code for this specific use. The resulting product will provide a valuable tool for fisheries managers.
Duties and Responsibilities
The intern will help to further refine the project idea and develop research questions or implementation solutions within their project area. They will work with fisheries data and/or population models provided by the MTBAP team, and report findings as they progress. While working on their project, they will meet with mentors regularly, take part in turtle research team meetings, and other duties assigned to gain experience in multiple areas of the research program. Specific duties pertaining to potential project areas may include the following:
- Manipulate a large multi-year dataset of fishery catch, bycatch, and environmental variables.
- Create bycatch maps in ArcGIS for various turtle species.
- Construct, evaluate, and use statistical models (preferably using R code) to explore the relationship of different operational and environmental variables to variation in bycatch rates.
- Document the steps of the modeling exercise in a format that can be used in a scientific manuscript and internal NOAA report.
- Develop a user-interface for a turtle population model with adjustable fishery bycatch mortality.
The Intern will receive guidance and context necessary for their project. Helpful skills include the following:
- Interest in population dynamics of marine species, fisheries management, protected species science.
- Programming skills, preferably in R.
- Extreme attention to detail.
- Remain focused especially while working with large datasets, solving coding problems, writing in lab notebooks, labeling samples, and analyzing data.
- Excellent writing and communication skills.
- Ability to complete a 12 week internship.
- Interest in and aptitude for quantitative/statistical wildlife problems.
- Advanced R programming skills (or another language for advanced programmers, but the MTBAP team uses R); advanced coding skills are essential for the user interface project.
- Some ArcGIS mapping experience.
- Some statistical and modeling coursework and knowledge (ecological/biological/economic statistics).
- Strong interest in coding, debugging, and problem solving.
Project 2. Creating a Data Visualization Module of Bigeye Catch Data for a Fisheries Online Data Dashboard
Dr. Johanna Wren and Daniel Hong
Sharing and visualizing data and research with the general public is an important but often overlooked aspect of science. The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has created the Fishery Ecosystem Analysis Tool (FEAT), which is an online data dashboard that allows the public access to fisheries data streams and to generate interactive fisheries data reports. As more research and data become available, we would like to add data modules to FEAT that effectively communicate our research results.
Duties and Responsibilities
During the course of the internship, the student will participate in the following activities:
- Work with scientists using annual fisheries data and environmental time series data on data visualization ideas.
- Generate wireframes of data modules that fit within the FEAT framework.
Project 3. Time Series Tuesday: Sharing the Fruits of Long-term Monitoring Efforts
Dr. Phoebe Woodworth-Jefcoats and Ali Bayless
The Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center collects all kinds of data to better understand fish, corals, protected species, people, and habitats. Much of this data extends back years or decades. These long time series are crucial to understanding how climate change is unfolding in our region. Yet, despite all these time series, it can be challenging to know where to look and who to ask to find certain types of data.
This internship focuses on communicating information about these long-term time series, both internally and with the public. The student will work with science center staff to write brief descriptions of individual time series and create summary data visualizations. These will be shared through the region’s social media outlets as well as through internal communications. Project mentors will help the student connect with appropriate data stewards, as well as regional managers. Mentors will also provide guidance on technical aspects of the science communication products. The student will gain experience in science communication across a range of topics. The student will also have the opportunity to network extensively with regional staff. At the end of the internship, the student will have a portfolio of written and visual communication that will be shared on public websites and social media accounts.
Duties and Responsibilities
The primary duties and responsibilities include interviewing data stewards, writing brief plain language summaries of time series, crafting data visualizations, and creating social media posts for the Timeseries Tuesday campaign.
- Interest in climate change, marine science, and science communication.
- Ability to work independently.
- Excellent writing and communication skills.
- Ability to create data visualizations (line graphs, scatter plots, maps, etc.).
- This internship is open to marine science students as well as students in more communications-oriented majors such as science education or journalism, provided they have had some science courses.
Project 4. Biogeographic Waifs & Vagrants in the Hawaii Recreational Fishing Community
Dr. Donald Kobayashi, Dr. Kisei Tanaka, and Dr. Joy Smith
Recreational fishers in Hawai‘i often report on their unusual fish catches in search of identification or for purposes of just sharing interesting news with other fishers. The reporting can be through publications dedicated to fishers such as Hawai‘i Fishing News and Lawai`a or online media such as Facebook and Instagram. These unusual catch events are usually of species that occur in other portions of the Pacific Ocean and not typically found in Hawaiian waters. These events are possibly linked to oceanographic or other environmental drivers to fish species distribution and abundance. These impacts may be for that particular year, for several years, or continuously occurring as part of a trend over time. Scientific discoveries of new species, range extensions, or anomalous events are often published by scientists in the mainstream scientific literature. These publications will sometimes result from scientific observer information from commercial fisheries, but recreational fisher observations are often overlooked.
The objectives of this project are to compile recreational fisher observations of unusual catch occurrences in the Hawai‘i fishing community. Two fisher publications will be initially targeted: Hawaii Fishing News and Lawai‘a. The summary data will be examined in conjunction with oceanographic and other environmental time series of data available for the Hawaiian region. If time permits, the project will also include data gleaned from iNaturalist, Facebook and Instagram. We anticipate that this project will eventually result in a peer-reviewed scientific publication.
Duties & Responsibilities
The intern will be given access to hard or electronic copy of all available issues of Hawaii Fishing News (published monthly since 1977), Lawai‘a Magazine (published 2–3 times a year since 2008), and Hawaii Skin Diver (75 published issues over approximately 10 years). This may optionally include visits to the main offices of these publications if the intern is available on Oahu and COVID-19 constraints are workable. Social media postings will also be scrutinized if time is available. The intern will collect all data pertaining to unusual catch events, based on comparison of the species of interest and its description in reference material available for fish species in Hawai‘i (for example, Randall's 2007 “Reef and Shorefishes of the Hawaiian Islands” and Mundy’s 2005 “Checklist of Fishes in Hawaii”). These observations will be tabulated by date, island, and summarized primarily by year. Annual metrics of various oceanographic variables and indices (such as sea surface temperature, chlorophyll, current speed, current direction, mixed layer depth, salinity, oxygen, El Nino Southern Oscillation, and Pacific Decadal Oscillation) and other environmental variables (such as wind speed, wind direction, storm activity, and rainfall) will be compiled and statistically analyzed with the fish observations. These findings will be prepared for publication in the scientific literature.
Preferred applicants will have familiarity with Hawai‘i fish species and Hawai‘i fishing practices. The applicant will be expected to accurately collect information from various sources (hard copy, PDF, online social media posts) and compile it into a standardized database. The applicant should have excellent skills with Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. The applicant should have working knowledge of programming languages such as R and statistical methodologies amenable to comparing different time series of data.
Questions? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.