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Pop Dy Fellow Studies Spot, Atlantic Croaker

Over the next three years, Ben will investigate the effects that seasonal oxygen deficiencies and rising water temperatures have on spot and Atlantic croaker.

By Katharine Sucher, Science Writing Intern 

Ben Marcek. ©VASG

Ben Marcek. ©Jennifer Armstrong/VASG

This June Benjamin Marcek began a population and ecosystem dynamics fellowship with Virginia Sea Grant (VASG).  Over the next three years, Ben will investigate the effects that seasonal oxygen deficiencies and rising water temperatures have on spot and Atlantic croaker fish populations in the Chesapeake Bay.

Due to oxygen deficiencies and rising water temperatures, some researchers suspect that fish populations in the Chesapeake Bay have been moving to new, suboptimal areas. These habitats may be responsible for increased mortality rates and decreased population growth in fish species.

During his fellowship, Ben will collect monthly observations of spot and Atlantic croaker populations in the Chesapeake Bay. He will use data on water temperature, oxygen concentrations, fish population distributions, and more to inform a predictive model. Ben hopes this model will forecast the abundance and distribution of fish populations in relation to environmental factors.

“This study addresses VA Sea Grant strategic priorities of sustainable seafood and healthy coastal ecosystems by providing resource managers with a state-of-the-art tool to understand and model the response of fish to changing environmental conditions,” Ben said.

In 2010, Ben graduated Summa cum laude from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in marine and freshwater biology. He graduated with a master’s in marine science from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) in 2013 and is currently pursuing a PhD in fisheries science at VIMS. Ben’s research mentors and advisors have inspired his future career aspirations.

“Ultimately, I would like to establish my own research lab at a government institution or research university,” Ben said. “As a research scientist, I would seek to emulate the successful scientists that I have worked with throughout my undergraduate and graduate career.”