Intro and First Quarter Update

Hi, my name is Will Fennie and I am a Robert E. Malouf Scholar. I am working on my PhD at Oregon State University and really interested in the early life history of rockfishes. Rockfishes, like many marine organisms, have a planktonic larval phase where their young drift offshore and develop in the pelagic waters off Oregon’s coast. As they develop, these young fish must feed, grow, and return (or recruit) to nearshore reefs. Rockfish face many challenges during this journey. My research aims to understand how the oceanographic conditions young rockfish experience affect their growth. In addition, I want to study how rockfish early growth contributes to a juvenile rockfishes ability to survive the journey to nearshore reefs.

Sorting pelagic rockfishes during the 2016 NOAA Pre Recruit Survey. Photo Curt Roegner.

To study how ocean conditions affect juvenile rockfishes’ growth, I have to collect juvenile rockfish during their pelagic life stage. To determine how early growth determines recruitment to nearshore reefs, I need to collect juvenile rckfishes during their pelagic life stage, their settlement stage (right before they recruit to nearshore reefs), and their poste-settlement stage (once they have settled to reefs). Because the ocean off Oregon’s coast is so wild, I’ve needed to team up with some amazing people to get on the water and collect rockfishes. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Ric Brodeur a year and a half ago and because we shared similar interests, he allowed me to come on his NOAA research cruise to collect pelagic juvenile rockfishes.

Next, my lab mate Dani Ottmann paved the way for OSU students to work with Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert at OSU and with scientists at Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW). OSU and ODFW scientists have developed a nearshore groundfish recruitment monitoring program. These scientists deploy moorings offshore of Oregon’s nearshore reefs witha standard monitoring unit for the recruitment of fishes (SMURF) to collect setttlement stage fishes. SMURFs are plastic garden fence mesh cylinders that mimic the kelp canopy habitat juvenile fishes recruit to. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and ODFW provide vessels to reach these moorings. Once there, snorkelers jump into the water to retrieve SMURFs and collect juvenile fishes. Finally, I have to SCUBA dive on nearshore reefs to collect juvenile rockfishes that have settled to benthic habitat.


Left: Dani and I retrieving a SMURF in Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Swieca) Right: Dani displaying a SMURF with Redfish Rocks in the background.

Left: Dani and I retrieving a SMURF in Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve. (Photo: Kelsey Swieca)
Right: Dani displaying a SMURF with Redfish Rocks in the background.

Thanks to all the help I’ve had, I have enough samples to start my research. Through my collaboration with Ric Brodeur, I have access to pelagic juvenile rockfish samples of several species from the last 12 years, and access to the early life stage of black rockfish. Thanks to OSU and ODFW’s SMURF project, I have access to several hundred settlement stage black and quillback rockfishes. Thanks to several OSU dive buddies, I was able to collect settled juvenile black and quillback rockfishes on Oregon’s nearshore reefs.

Next quarter I will be busy working up these samples. Stay tuned for information on how to measure the age and growth of juvenile rockfishes.

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One thought on “Intro and First Quarter Update

  1. Wow, it sounds like it takes a village to make these types of projects possible! That is great that you’ve made so many connections. What sort of oceanographic conditions are you specifically going to look at? And did you take those measurements in the field when you collected the fish, or are you going to be manipulating those variables in a wet lab?

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