Predicting spatio-temporal shifts in larval fish abundance in the eastern Pacific using Bayesian hierarchical modeling

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Biodiversity of ecological communities is largely driven by the ability of animals to successfully disperse and survive in various habitats. For many marine fishes, this dispersal occurs during a planktonic larval phase, and is influenced by a number of biological and environmental factors. Large-scale climate fluctuations have previously been shown to transport fish and invertebrate species northward, but it is not always clear how environmental variation influences individual species from diverse habitats. Due to natural and anthropogenic climate effects, in addition to oceanographic trends, southern California provides a unique platform for studying the population persistence, range expansion, and species invasions of fishes.

In her research project, the fellow proposes to develop a spatially- and temporally-explicit statistical model to examine how the shape and density of larval distributions in the southern California bight region vary with environmental factors and species’ biology. She will apply this model to data-moderate, underassessed, cryptic, or threatened California fisheries.

Results from this project will help to fill knowledge gaps previously outlined by NOAA Fisheries. The model developed in this project could potentially form the basis for a user-friendly, flexible tool for examining shifts in distributions that is valid for a wide array of species, including adult organisms and invertebrates.