Stephan Munch, Ph.D., a research faculty member at UC Santa Cruz and a fisheries ecologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has been awarded a 2012 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. His project will develop tools that predict changes in fish population demographics in response to climate change.
“The Pew Marine Fellowship will allow me to conduct important research needed to increase our understanding of how organisms and ecosystems in the ocean will react to climate change,” said Dr. Munch. “These ecological responses will affect not only the characteristics of fish populations, but also the diversity of natural systems and economic productivity of global fisheries.”
The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation is a prestigious program that gives recipients US$150,000 for a three-year scientific research or conservation project designed to address critical challenges facing our oceans. Dr. Munch's Pew Marine Fellowship project will develop, validate, and apply statistical methods for forecasting climate-driven changes in fisheries populations. By experimenting with fish in the laboratory, he will also examine the effects of temperature on fish maturation rates and other traits that affect population size. His efforts will result in a free online tool for predicting these population responses and will make the information available to management bodies and the scientific community.
Characteristics of animals, such as population growth rate and lifespan, greatly affect the design of conservation and management plans. All of these are affected by climate, which is projected to change substantially in the next 50 years, with significant increases in global mean temperature. Dr. Munch's research will result in a large-scale view of the impact of these changes on fisheries, including responses of species for which there is now little relevant data.
“Through Dr. Munch's demographics tools, we will be able to better project future climate-driven changes in fisheries populations,” said Joshua S. Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. “By making this information easily available online, it can help fisheries managers and others make informed decisions about conserving fish populations in the face of substantial shifts in the ocean environment.”
After obtaining a Ph.D. in coastal oceanography from Stony Brook University in 2002, Munch was a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Stock Assessment Research and the Department of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at the University of California Santa Cruz. In 2005 he returned to Stony Brook as a faculty member in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Munch took his current position as research faculty with UCSC and as a fisheries ecologist with NOAA in 2010. He continues to serve Stony Brook University as adjunct faculty in the department of Ecology and Evolution and the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has awarded 125 fellowships to recipients from 32 countries. The Pew Marine Fellowships fund science and other projects that address critical challenges in the conservation of the oceans. Through a rigorous nomination and review process, a committee of marine specialists from around the world selects Pew Marine Fellows based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including their potential to protect ocean environments. Unique and timely projects led by outstanding professionals in their fields are chosen annually, targeting individuals who are mid-career. The program is managed by the Pew Environment Group, based in Washington, D.C.