The Fish Ecology Laboratory at WHOI

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Nassau grouper (Epinephelus striatus), Glover's Reef, Belize (Simon Thorrold)

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Whale sharks (Rincodon typus) are rare but widely distributed throughout the world's tropical oceans.  We are using PSAT tags to examine movements of whale sharks in the Red Sea in collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). (Simon Thorrold)

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» Extreme longevity in white sharks
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» Tracking fish though a coral reef seascape

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» Connectivity In Marine Fish Populations: Larvae Spawned In Marine Reserves Can Travel Long Distances
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» Local replenishment of reef fish larvae to a marine reserve (American Scientist magazine)

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» The Secret Lives of Fish
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Welcome to the Fish Ecology Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Our laboratory studies animal movements in ocean ecosystems.  We use stable isotope geochemistry to track dispersal and migration of individuals in marine environments over a range of spatial and temporal scales.  Satellite archival and acoustic tagging provide additional and independent data that is used to verify our geochemical tracer results and to generate new hypotheses on animal movements.  By quantifying and eventually modeling the influence of movement on marine populations we hope to provide decision makers with a scientific basis for the conservation and sustainable management of ocean ecosystems.



Our research

A primary focus in our research can be broadly considered ecogeochemistry - the application of isotope and trace element geochemistry to fundamental questions in ecology.  We are developing new transgenerational mass marking approaches and DNA parentage analyses in several species of coral reef fishes in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea.  Ultimately we hope to generate empirical estimates of population connectivity that will be used to validate coupled bio-physical models of larval dispersal in coral reef ecosystems.  We use geochemical signatures in the otoliths (or "ear stones") of marine and anadromous fishes as natural tags of natal origins.  By analyzing trace element and stable isotope concentrations in the cores of adult otoliths, and comparing these with ground-truthed signatures from otoliths of larvae collected before dispersing from natal spawning locations, we can determine natal origins and population affinities of individual fish.  Finally, we are using a combination of pop-up satellite archival transmitting (PSAT) tags and isotope geochemistry of vertebrae to examine migration connectivity of basking sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and whale sharks in the Red Sea. 


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Last updated May 27, 2009
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