My Current Research: Detecting River Herring Using the Water they Swim through

Research Focus (ABT):

River herring are an important migratory species that travel in and out of coastal bays and their associated rivers at different stages in their life cycle. These fish were once so abundant they would migrate inland up and down the coast of North America in billions. This massive migration was an important resource to humans tracing back thousands of years, additionally, these fish also provide numerous ecosystem services to riparian, estuarine, and ocean environments.

However, overfishing, habitat loss, and declining water quality have caused severe reductions in their populations to the point where they are no longer able to support large-scale fishing efforts. As an anadromous species, population monitoring is recommended on a per river basis but continuous monitoring of every river where these fish occur is unrealistic for management agencies with limited resources.

Therefore we employ a quicker, cheaper, and less labor-intensive methodology based on the premise that fish shed DNA in the form of scales, feces, and mucus into their environment, and that we can measure this environmental DNA (eDNA) in the water using highly sensitive molecular tools. Using a local population of river herring, we measured the amount of river herring eDNA present in water samples on a daily basis throughout the 2021 river herring spawning run. We compared our eDNA results to fish count data taken during the same season to evaluate the effectiveness of eDNA monitoring tools on river herring populations.


A Crabby Hero Born: The USM COVID-19 PSA Competition

In January of 2020 I received an email from my University, The University System of Maryland, presenting a Public Service Announcement Competition. The competition sought to gather a slough of creative messages for fighting pandemic fatigue and encourage people to get vaccinated.

I developed a comic strip story about a little heroic blue swimmer crab who learned of a strange human virus that sent people hiding indoors. Distraught that his beloved Marylanders would be trapped inside for the summer once again, the Vaccination Crustacean was called to action!

I submitted my comic and much to my delight it was selected as one of the six winners of the competition.

There are eight crabby puns in the comic, and better yet, there are ten suggestions for slowing the spread of COVID-19! Can you spot them all?? Click on each image below to get a closer look:

As we begin to enter into a potential new phase of masks and quarantines, the messages the vaccination crustacean has to share are vital to slowing the spread of this virus.

I received a nice tweet of appreciation from the President of my University, Peter Goodwin at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.