Congratulations to Mary Fisher for receiving the School for Field Studies Distinguished Student Researcher Award!
Mary Fisher is a Natural Resources major with a minor in Marine Biology. She is currently working on her honors research with Dr. Matthew Hare and is looking forward to attending graduate school this coming fall.
“I have always wanted to contribute to research for conservation and management, and became convinced that I wanted to do so in marine ecosystems after my experiences at Cornell’s Shoals Marine Lab and at SFS,” said Fisher.
Fisher was selected for the School for Field Studies (SFS) Distinguished Student Researcher award based on her research project Ecological Knowledge in a Data-Deficient Fishery: Using FEK to Explore and Quantify Long Term Changes in the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) and Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) Fisheries of South Caicos, the Turks and Caicos Islands. Her work plays a key role in the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies’ Five-Year Research Plan by addressing one of their key research questions: “What is the present status of commercially and ecologically important marine organism stocks?” Fisher’s research suggests that some inshore fisheries may be more heavily exploited than previously thought, which has profound implications for TCI fisheries management.
For her research, Fisher conducted interviews with fishermen on South Caicos, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, in order to collect local ecological knowledge (LEK) on the Caribbean spiny lobster and queen conch fisheries. These are two of the largest fisheries in the Turks and Caicos, yet there are gaps in historical fisheries data and many challenges facing current fisheries management. Through these interviews, Fisher was able to record fishing effort and landings data from the 1950s – 2014 and to construct a map of intensive use harvest areas for each species throughout that time period. The fishermen not only proved to be a valuable source of qualitative and quantitative information indicative of the past and present states of the South Caicos fishery, but also provided well-informed opinions on major causes of depletion and potential future directions for management.
Fisher’s SFS DR advisor Dr. Edd Hind says that her work is “the first semi-quantitative fishers’ knowledge study of its kind in a developing world context and has a large chance of making an impact.”
Biographical information, research summary, and photo courtesy of and written by Mary Fisher. Additional information obtained from the SFS website