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Jeff SteinStatement of Research Interests

Jeffrey A. Stein

My research interests focus on the study of basic and applied ecology of freshwater and marine fisheries to understand linkages between ecological function and exploitation of populations by human activities. Fundamentally, I seek to explore how human activities can impact the reproductive ecology and behavior of fishes, ultimately translating findings into meaningful and effective conservation actions.

A large component of my research investigates the impact of catch-and-release angling on the reproductive life history and recruitment dynamics of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), a popular freshwater sport fish. As a species that provides parental care during the earliest phases of juvenile development, largemouth bass are an excellent model for examining the importance of parental care in determining recruitment dynamics and, more broadly, variations in population size in exploited systems. I am currently conducting a suite of observational studies, manipulative experiments and population modeling studies to determine whether reductions in individual reproductive success can be detected as reductions in recruitment at the populations level. Understanding the importance of reproductive success as a determining factor in recruitment processes will have significant conservation implications for this highly popular sport fish.

Understanding the impacts of catch-and-release angling is a major theme of my research spanning several species and systems. For example, I am collaborating with a diverse team of researchers seeking to elucidate the behavioral and physiological responses of bonefish (Albula vulpes) to catch-and-release angling events. Bonefish are a marine sport fish that inhabit tidal flats and coastal mangrove systems, although little is known about their reproductive behavior. My interest in bonefish is centered on gaining an understanding of their basic life history and reproductive behavior characteristics as a way to promote their conservation. Bonefish are regular inhabitants of coastal areas that are at risk of unchecked development in many locales around the globe. A clearer understanding of bonefish reproductive behavior and the behavior and physiological responses to angling are key steps to implementing conservation practices to maintain sustainable populations and promote healthy fisheries.

The role of the angler is a key component of my current research interests. As such, I utilize a variety of approaches to investigate hypotheses that test the impacts of angling on sport fish populations. For instance, I am currently working on a study that uses over 20 years of fisheries dependent and fisheries-independent data to develop statistical models and population indices that describe healthy sport fisheries. The use of long-term data sets and statistically robust approaches are powerful tools that can elucidate complex mechanisms and relationships between fish populations and the humans that utilize fisheries resources. Equally important to my research is the use of field ecology studies as a method for gaining an intimate understanding of the systems I study. My research has benefited from the use of world-renown field stations specializing in supporting field ecology studies, whether observational or experimental in nature, as well as productive collaborations with researchers from a variety of institutions and disciplines. Components of my research also utilize experimental approaches to fish ecology, including almost ten years of research conducted at the Illinois Natural History Survey research ponds in Champaign. By incorporating observational and manipulative studies, field-based and mesocosm-style experiments, and data modeling and statistical approaches, I strive to deliver innovative and cutting edge fisheries research that informs proactive conservation actions.

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