Graduate student starts research initiative studying fish species

Photo by Ingrid Taylar (courtesy of Creative Commons).

Andrea Sanmiguel//Contributing writer

The Coastal Angler Science Team is a research group of fisherman and university researchers that studies the growth patterns and survival rates of fish species in the Everglades.

The team, although in its earliest stages, plans to develop into a dynamic program that will adapt to future research needs, said CAST founder and graduate student Jessica Lee.

“It’s a dynamic program that has potential to evolve and mold to a resource however needed,” said Lee.

The “mark-recapture” technique is the special capture method the team uses to tag each individual fish and release for later recapture. On average, anglers can catch up to 100 fish per excursion, which maximizes chances for recapture.

Beginning fall 2012, CAST researches has targeted fisheries and fishing grounds in areas expanding from Rookery Branch and Tarpon Bay, studying species such as large mouth bass and snook.

The team currently works with undergraduate students in the lab. There, they apply tags, collect data, exchange ideas and interpret findings. Lee encourages undergraduates to work with the team.

“The more the students are in the lab… the more integrated they get,” said Lee. “They help support projects and provide feedback. Everyone comes in with a different talent that we can take advantage of.”

Thesis adviser Dr. Jennifer Rehage agrees.

“This program is an example of how regular people can get involved in science,” said Rehage. “Even people who are not necessarily from a scientific background; they can [participate] while having fun.”

Lee even plans to start a participant incentive program fall 2013. This will include a 4-6 month recapture tournament and will encourage more people to get involved and contribute, said Lee.

Currently, CAST has over 2,500 tags placed and is hoping to retrieve new findings in the winter.

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