Graduate Student, M.S. Biology expected
Graduate Thesis Committee:
Adviser: Dr. Danielle Zacherl
Committee Members: Dr. Paul Stapp (CSUF), Dr. Douglas Eernisse (CSUF), Dr. Melissa Neuman (NOAA)
In general, my interests lie in marine conservation issues in southern California with a focus on the ecology of rare and endangered species, kelp forest community interactions, and fisheries management. While at CSUF, I will be determining population structure, reproductive potential, and habitat associations of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) in southern California.
Seven species of abalone are found in subtidal kelp forests along the coast of California, five of which once supported viable commercial and recreational fisheries. However, stock collapse led to the closure of fisheries in central and southern California in 1997. The pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) once supported a modest commercial fishery in southern California. This abalone species is unique from the others in that it represents the broadest geographical distribution, occurring from Sitka, Alaska to BahÍa Tortugas, Baja California Sur, Mexico. In 2013 NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) was petitioned to list the pinto abalone as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) in response to evidence of continued population declines. If listed, it would be the third abalone species to become federally protected. Although the first status review (2014) by NMFS concluded that listing was not warranted at this time, they noted that a significant lack of baseline data increased the uncertainty of their assessment and pointed to a need for improved monitoring of the species throughout its range and especially in southern California where basic ecological data are lacking.
Beginning in 2013, I began preliminary SCUBA surveys in San Diego, CA, where one of the few known pinto abalone populations is present, to answer the following questions:
- Where are pinto abalone present and absent?
- What is the size range and density structure of pinto abalone populations and is recruitment (successful reproduction) occurring?
- What is the average distance between individuals and sex ratio for pinto abalone?
- What habitat characteristics are associated with higher pinto abalone densities?
Preliminary data collected to date show that while densities in San Diego are low, there is evidence of recent successful reproduction (recruitment) due to the presence of juvenile pinto abalone. Individual animals within the population represent a broad size range (13 – 151mm maximum shell length), which indicates a population composed of many size classes. However, average distance between neighboring abalone is much greater than two meters (6.5m). I will continue to answer these questions as I complete fieldwork in Spring 2016. The methods developed here can be applied on a larger scale to determine the status of pinto (and other abalone species) throughout southern California and to inform recovery efforts on a much larger scale.