Graduated May 2006 | Major: Biology and Marine Biology
"My honors research involves the examination of southern flounder caught in the New River commercial gill net fishery. My work is part of a larger tag return study to estimate harvest rates in this system. For legal sized flounder (>14 inches total length) that were tagged and later recaptured as part of the commercial harvest, I am estimating age and reproductive stage. To estimate age, I am removing otoliths (inner ear bones) of fish and counting the number of annual increments. Since fish deposit increments or rings each year, the number of increments is equal to the age of the fish. I also measure the length and weight of each fish and compare these numbers to the size of the fish when it was released. This enables me to estimate the growth rate between initial tagging and recapture. To determine the stage of reproductive maturity of each fish, I have been removing the gonads for staging and photography. I have been keeping an archive of photographed gonads to permit more detailed analysis in the future. Gonad weight is also recorded and related to total body weight to create a gonadosomatic index or GSI. This index can be plotted for fish captured during several months throughout the year to determine the duration of the spawning season. By collecting data on the age structure and maturity stages of harvested southern flounder, I hope to contribute information on the success of recent management actions taken to allow greater escapement of younger, immature fish and improve future reproductive output in the population.
Completion of this project has allowed me to gain valuable hands on experience in the laboratory and in the field. These are experiences that will provide me with a solid knowledge base heading into graduate study. In addition, having to synthesize all of this information together for my thesis is going to considerably improve my organizational and writing skills. The whole experience has been very beneficial."