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Defining Ecosystem-based Management Boundaries Using Genetics and Fisheries Data

Principal Investigator: Robert Toonen

Graduate Student: Johanna Wren

The exchange of individuals among populations, termed connectivity, is a central element of population persistence and maintenance of genetic diversity, and influences most ecological and evolutionary phenomena. To date, field studies of marine connectivity have necessarily focused on one or a few species at a time, providing little understanding of both the extent of variability in connectivity across a whole community and what factors drive that interspecific variability. By combining our extensive genetic data collected from across the Hawaiian Archipelago with existing ecological and fisheries data, we seek to understand the drivers of connectivity and guide future management efforts around the world. Our community-level genetic analysis will be the first rigorous attempt to determine the relative roles of oceanography, ecology/habitat, fisheries and history on influencing genetic patterns in an alternative hypothesis-testing framework. This project will increase our understanding of patterns of exchange in marine systems and enable more effective and sustainable management of marine resources. In combination with other projects currently underway in our lab, this effort seeks to develop predictive modeling that will extend inference of connectivity patterns beyond the sites and species sampled and provide insight on the suites of species with similar and divergent patterns of connectivity, contributing new knowledge to basic marine ecology and the science of Ecosystem Based Management.