“Estuarine habitats such as saltmarshes, seagrasses and oyster reefs are important for the growth, reproduction and survival for many of North Carolina’s recreationally and commercially important fish species. Unfortunately, these habitats are exposed to negative stressors, resulting in loss and degradation of these valuable resources. There is a need to identify habitats that are most conducive to producing healthy fish populations so coastal resource managers can develop and implement effective conservation efforts. Fundamental to such initiatives is understanding how fish use and move among different habitats over tidal, daily, seasonal and life-time scales.
My dissertation incorporated an emerging technology, acoustic telemetry, to monitor fish movement and habitat use. This approach has greater resolution in time and space than some traditional methods such as net- and trap-based surveys. By tracking individuals from three recreationally and commercially important fish populations (red drum, black drum and southern flounder), my research provides managers with: (1) a better understanding of estuarine-scale movement and habitat selection by fishes in targeted N.C. estuaries, (2) fine-scale habitat preferences within estuarine seascapes, and (3) the value of restored oyster reefs as habitat for these fish species. Outcomes from these studies are being utilized by coastal managers to develop targeted conservation initiatives designed to preserve the most critical habitats for estuarine fish species.”