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VASG Welcomes Ecosystem-Based Management Fellow

This week, Amy Freitag joins VASG as a postgraduate fellow studying science behind ecosystem-based management.

By Julia Robins, Staff Writer

After growing up with field trips to the Chesapeake Bay, learning the foundations of ecology, Amy Freitag says that joining Virginia Sea Grant (VASG) as a postgraduate fellow feels like “coming home.”

Amy Freitag. ©VASG

Amy Freitag. ©VASG

“It very much feels like I’ve come full circle.”

This November, Freitag will join VASG as a postgraduate fellow in ecosystem-based management science.

“My dream job has always been to work for extension/Sea Grant, so I’m looking forward to developing my professional network through this fellowship to find a career in extension or government taking care of the Chesapeake,” says Freitag.

During her fellowship, Freitag will work to advance ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) in the Chesapeake Bay. Ecosystem-based management is an environmental management approach that recognizes the full array of interactions within an ecosystem, rather than considering single issues, species, or ecosystem features in isolation. Freitag will work to improve the understanding of fisheries by analyzing the connections between fisheries, land-use changes, habitats, and the ecosystem services they provide, rather than looking at these elements separately.

Analyzing and understanding the linkages between these issues has been a difficult and ongoing task in the Chesapeake Bay region. Maryland Sea Grant led a multi-year initiative to develop research-based guidance for managers on EBFM. There are also multi-state and sector Goal Implementation Teams in sustainable fisheries, habitat, water quality, watersheds, stewardship, and leadership to facilitate ecosystem-based management discussions and considerations across the watershed.

“Working in other places, I’ve heard the terms ‘ecosystem-based management’ and ‘monitoring’ thrown around, but this fellowship is the first time I’ve seen a group of people take a truly open approach to figuring out what exactly we mean by that,” says Freitag. “That’s what I’m most excited about—having the chance to be part of a new way of thinking about estuaries.”

Freitag will also help develop and provide sound scientific information to support ecosystem-based approaches to managing the coastal and marine environment and enhancing ecosystem health, services, and resilience.

“I’m of the philosophy that we can support both human communities dependent on nature and nature itself,” says Freitag. “Ecosystem-based management should be a way to help do that, and my fellowship is a chance to prove the theory.”

“I am thrilled that we attracted such an amazingly talented scientist,” says Troy Hartley, director of VASG. “Amy…is trained in both social and biological sciences and will enable us to synthesize social and natural sciences in new ways to move EBFM closer to reality. [She] is a wonderful addition to VASG and the Chesapeake Bay community.”

Freitag has a Ph.D. in Marine Science and Conservation from Duke University and a B.S. in Development Sociology and Biological Sciences from Cornell University. She also served as a science integration fellow with California Ocean Science Trust from 2013-2014.

Freitag’s two-year fellowship will begin in November and is jointly funded by VASG and National Chesapeake Bay Office.