Western Fisheries Science News, March 2018 | Issue 6.3

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Science Collaboration Brings Dr. Maya Groner to WFRC

Image of Maya Groner

Image of Maya Groner. (Public domain.)

As Dr. Maya Groner prepares for her first research trip to Alaska, her enthusiasm for starting a new adventure and chapter in her career is evident. “This will be my first research trip to Alaska and I’m looking forward to seeing for myself how disease and other stressors are affecting the herring populations” Maya, a research ecologist, has recently partnered with Dr. Paul Hershberger, leader of the USGS WFRC’s Marrowstone Marine Field Station (MMFS), and his team to investigate Pacific herring in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Collaborations are an important element to science projects at the WFRC—be it with management agencies, universities, tribes, or fellow scientists— to strengthen understanding of fish issues and generate strategies for addressing those issues. The addition of Maya to the Disease Ecology programs at Marrowstone and the WRFC, through this collaboration, will bring more expertise and new perspectives to a complex and on-going challenge for fisheries in the region. We’re looking forward to the partnership.

Maya first learned about WFRC and met Paul Hershberger through a National Science Foundation research coordination network on the ecology of infectious marine diseases. They met over the years and saw some overlap in their interests. “Working at WFRC’s facilities was attractive because of the ecology and fish health overlap” said Maya, “as well as the saltwater facility at MMFS and their work with forage fish.” Now, she is employed as a research scientist at the Prince William Sound Science Center in Cordova, Alaska where she is supervised by Scott Pegau, Director of the Oil Spill Recovery Institute and Lead of the Herring Research and Monitoring Program, which she and Paul both participate in. The majority of her research will be conducted at WFRC’s Seattle Center and the MMFS. Together, scientists will be running a number of experiments as well as sampling herring populations in Alaska.

Maya brings with her much expertise in the area of ecology and evolution of aquatic diseases. Her educational background includes a B.A. in Earth and Environmental Science at Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences at University of Pittsburgh. Maya has worked on a variety of topics, including the effects of pesticides and pathogens on amphibians, effects of climate change and disease on shellfish and seagrass, the epidemiology of sea lice in salmon, and the epidemiology of epizootic shell disease in American lobsters. In her last postdoc she also worked on quantifying the effects of increasing seawater temperature and mycobacteriosis on striped bass in Chesapeake Bay. Her research investigates how shifts in the relationships between the host, pathogen and environment can create novel interactions resulting in increased pathogen virulence, reduced population resilience and changes in disease ranges. Her research takes an applied approach, examining declining species, threatened ecosystems, impacts of climate change, and interactions between wild and farmed fisheries.

For her current project, Maya will be looking at the impact of three diseases—viral hemorrhagic septicemia, viral erythrocytic necrosis, and ichthyophoniasis—on Pacific herring populations. She’s interested in using tools that have been developed to look at population dynamics. “I’m really excited about using mark-recapture to look at disease” said Maya, “I plan to use agent based models and population matrix models to quantify the impacts of environmental conditions and disease on affected populations.” This is an area she has long-been interested in, as she bridges some gaps in ecology.

“We’re looking forward to having Maya join our team” says Paul Hershberger. “She’s an exceptionally well-rounded disease ecologist who has the rare ability to plug into every phase of ecological disease projects – from the initial project conceptualization to the ultimate modeling of the final product, including oversight of all laboratory and field based steps in between.”

To contact Maya email her at mgroner@usgs.gov.

Newsletter Author: Rachel Reagan



USGS Volunteer Awarded Scholarship for Addressing the Impacts of Contaminants on Fish: An undergraduate volunteer at the WFRC, Jacquelyn McDonald, has just has been awarded a University of Washington Mary Gates Research Scholarship for her project titled “Assessing the effect of 17α-ethinylestradiol on phagocytosis in fish”. McDonald has developed a flow cytometry based assay for assessing the impacts of contaminants on the ability of fish phagocytes (macrophages, neutrophils) to do their job, to eat and kill pathogens. McDonald is a double major at University of Washington (UW) in Biology and Environmental Science and Resource Management and has been working with USGS WFRC scientist John Hansen. She will be presenting her findings as an oral presentation at the 21st Annual UW Undergraduate Research Symposium May 18, 2018. The project directly contributes to the USGS Environmental Health Mission Area, advancing understanding of how contaminants and pathogens in the environment affect the health of biota. For more information, contact John Hansen, jhansen@usgs.gov, Seattle, WA.

USGS Scientists Present at Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society: USGS WFRC scientists presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (AFS), March 13-15, 2018, in Eugene, OR. Sessions presented were: “Planning Downstream Fish Passage Improvements for Willamette Project Dams”, “Unmanned Aircraft for Fish and Habitat Monitoring and Research”, “Climate Change and Freshwaters: are we ready to adapt?”, “Research to Support Recovery”, and “Ecological Responses to Regulated Flow in the Willamette River”. The Oregon Chapter of the AFS is composed of over 400 fisheries and aquatic science professionals from federal, state, and tribal agencies, colleges and universities. For more information, contact Toby Kock, tkock@usgs.gov, Russ Perry, rperry@usgs.gov, or Ken Tiffan, ktiffan@usgs.gov, Cook, WA.

In The News

On February 27, 2018, the USGS was mentioned in a story by National Public Radio (KNKX; Seattle, WA) about light pollution and its potential threat to Puget Sound Chinook salmon. USGS WFRC ecologist, Dave Beauchamp, has been collaborating with partners to better understand the influence of light pollution on predator-prey interactions and mortality of juvenile salmon and forage fish populations along migratory corridors and open-water feeding habitats. For more information, contact Dave Beauchamp, fadave@usgs.gov, Seattle, WA.


Ostberg, C.O., D.M. Chase, M.C. Hayes, and J.J. Duda. 2018. Distribution and seasonal differences in Pacific Lamprey and Lampetra spp eDNA across 18 Puget Sound watersheds. Peer J 6:e4496.

Perry, R.W., J.G. Romine, A.C. Pope, and S.D. Evans. 2018. Effects of the proposed California WaterFix North Delta Diversion on flow reversals and entrainment of juvenile Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) into Georgiana Slough and the Delta Cross Channel, northern California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2018-1028, 46 p.

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Western Fisheries Science News, March 2018 | Issue 6.3
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Western Fisheries Science News, March 2018 | Issue 6.3 (pdf)

Western Fisheries Science News, March 2018 | Issue 6.3 (pdf)