Course Syllabus Winter 2017

Fisheries Oceanography investigates how the environment influences distributions and abundances of marine icthyoplankton (i.e. invertebrates and early life stages of fish). Traditional efforts have focused on commercially important stocks, but implementation of ecosystem-based resource management is expanding the number of species, life stages, and trophic levels included in research and resource management. Results of fisheries oceanographic studies are used to increase understanding of fish and zooplankton life histories, predict recruitment to commercially harvested populations, reduce uncertainty in resource management decisions, and to decouple anthropogenic from natural effects on abundance fluctuations in aquatic populations.

This course will introduce the fundamentals of fisheries oceanography and demonstrate the multidisciplinary nature of fisheries oceanographic research. This course will enable students to understand fish and zooplankton life histories, identify physical factors influencing survival and recruitment, critically evaluate scientific literature, and improve scientific writing skills. After investigating the history and approaches used in fisheries oceanography (week 1), the class will examine aquatic population responses to physical forcing (weeks 2-6), and then design a research program to investigate recruitment variability in one section of the NE Pacific (Aleutian Islands, Arctic, Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska) (weeks 7-10).

Course requirements include written assignments, a midterm exam, and an oral and written presentation of a research proposal. All students are expected to attend lectures, to participate in discussion sections, to write exams, and to present and submit a research proposal to the class.

Course Grading





Midterm Exam


Proposal Presentation


Proposal Paper


Assignments will include critical reviews of selected papers, choosing and supporting one side in debates of current topics, and predicting biological responses to environmental conditions. The midterm will focus on principles of fisheries oceanography. Research proposals will examine environmental factors that potentially influence the distribution and abundance of a fish or invertebrate species.

Reference Material

There is no required text book for the course. Required and supplementary readings will include book chapters and journal publications. Resource book chapters and journal papers will be available on the class website.

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are specified for each week and provide a good study guide for topics included in the midterm and final exams.


Learning Objectives


- explain the relevance of fisheries oceanography and evolution of the field
- identify relevant spatial and temporal scales of biological processes for ELH fish


- systematize relative importance of physical forces on vertical and horizontal distributions of commercially important fish life history stages
- extrapolate how temporal variation potentially influences world fisheries catches


- extrapolate effects of physical conditions on the production of fish biomass
- extrapolate effects of physical conditions on fecundity and spawning of marine fish


- extrapolate effects of physical conditions on feeding and growth of marine fish
- extrapolate effects of physical conditions on the mortality of marine fish species
- extrapolate effects of physical conditions on the kinematics of marine fish species


- integrate relevant oceanographic processes with factors influencing survival and growth of fish larvae
- specify physical processes that determine variability in recruitment of walleye pollock in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska


- interpret stock and recruitment relationships using commercial fish stock examples
- evaluate the success or failure of recruitment indices


- identify significant hardware innovations that advanced understanding of marine fish early life histories
- list components, themes, and requirements from requests for proposals


- summarize approaches used to model multispecies responses to climate change
- identify relevant research themes designed to investigate recruitment variability


- specify important physical and biological processes that influence survival of ELH fish species for a given ecosystem
- formulate research priorities for ecosystem management of a given ecosystem


- generalize ELH presentation material to other species and locations
- evaluate peer presentations to identify effective presentation techniques


Fisheries Acoustics Research Lab

FISH 437