They say if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. For UNCW faculty member Fred Scharf, his living comes from teaching about fish. A professor of fisheries biology, Scharf schools undergraduates and graduates on the principles of fisheries science, fish stock assessment and fishery management strategies.
Scharf’s interest in aquatic systems began in his youth, when he spent summers on Lake Ontario.
“I used to read a lot of books that my grandfather had about the lake and the life within it. I maintained that curiosity, and when I was an undergraduate student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I got involved in research at the Marine Sciences Research Center. Eventually, I found my way into the fisheries ecology laboratory of David Conover and found that I had a passion for understanding ecological processes that shape fish populations,” he said.
In recent years, Scharf has collaborated with colleagues from NC State University and UNC Chapel Hill to thoroughly study flounder. He has focused on flounder migration and genetic diversity. His team of researchers, which includes UNCW undergraduate and graduate students, is examining flounder from the mid-Atlantic to the Gulf of Mexico. The long-term goal: a more sophisticated understanding of the flounder population in North Carolina, which will lead to recalibration of management policies to preserve fish health while also maximizing opportunities for local fishermen.
“Our research is currently focused on various aspects of the population biology of southern flounder,” said Scharf. “We just received some new funding to estimate mortality rates in North Carolina and also some funding to examine population structure in the U.S. South Atlantic using chemical signatures unique to specific regions. I am also working on a review paper on the early life history of red drum and examining how variation in first-year survival of red drum impacts population stability here in North Carolina.”
A faculty member at UNCW since 2003, Scharf was a National Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the NOAA Fisheries laboratory in Sandy Hook, N.J. In 2013, he received the Excellence in Fisheries Education Award from the American Fisheries Society for his long-term contributions to the field as a teacher, researcher and public policy advisor.
Outside of UNCW, Scharf enjoys enjoy baseball (particularly following the UNCW baseball program), playing golf and, of course, fishing.