Amazing Friends, Fantastic Research, Final Bog Post: Oh My Time Sure Does Fly By!

I can’t believe that is the last week, time sure does fly by when you are having fun and working hard! This summer has truly been one of my best, meet and made great friends from in lab to my totally awesome fellow REU students. I am going to miss ya’ll so much, from all the adventures, support, and just relaxing we have done together the past 10 weeks. I have learned so much by working in Dr. Erisman’s lab from how to age fish to figuring out what reproductive phase they are in. I have a new niche in marine biology that I know that I would what to do work in once I graduate. This whole experience has helped me see what the research side of marine biology is like, I do enjoy it alot; yet I can see myself doing work also in educating others about the dangers fish and the marine environment face.  Just yesterday I presented my findings in front of  people from the institute as well as family, boy was I super nervous but in the end it was great. Here is my abstract encapsulating all the work I did in 1o weeks:

Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) are a very popular recreationally fished species in many regions, especially in Texas. Despite them being very popular in South Texas little is known about their growth patterns in this region. Having knowledge of any fish species growth patterns are important in managing their populations, but it’s especially important for exploited fishes. The objectives of this study were to fit the von Bertalanffy growth model to length at age data, and compare South Texas Sheepshead growth with Sheepshead growth in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We hypothesize that the t0 and L parameters would be different, while k value will be like that of other Sheepshead studies. Differences in growth parameters can be explained by regional differences in nutrient availability, exploitation status, and temperature. To determine the age of each fish otoliths were extracted, sectioned, and then aged by counting annuli under a camera equipped microscope. Von Bertalanffy growth parameters were estimated by nonlinear squares regression in R Studio. Our growth parameters came to L=400.11, k=0.38, and t0= -2.54.  Our estimates of t0 and L are substantially lower than values reported in previous Sheepshead age and growth studies. Specifically, t0 was biologically implausible, suggesting a sampling deficiency. Data was simulated using mean length at age calculated using growth parameters from Dutka-Gianelli and Murie (2001), and standard deviation for ages one to three. Combining our data with our simulated data showed that our parameter estimation for t0 and Lwill improve when more samples are collected. Therefore, this work is an important foundation for describing Sheepshead age and growth in South Texas, but more sampling must be done to accurately characterize this relationship.

Here are some photos from the past couple weeks:


Thank you to everyone in Dr. Erisman’s lab, Deana, Yida, and of course my REU fam for making this research experience amazing. Keep in touch Andrea, Aileen, Adriana, Ally, Charles and Kwame will miss you guys a bunch!!

   An experience I will never forget!

-Sam Vanderhoof

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