Ella Rothermel, a candidate for Master of Science specializing in Ecological Systems at UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, is studying fish migrations off the coast of Maryland.
Her research focused on the movement ecology of striped bass and Atlantic sturgeon. Both of these species reproduce and are born in freshwater but spend a significant portion of their adult lives in the ocean. Little is known about how Atlantic sturgeon and striped bass behave as they migrate along the East Coast. She used acoustic telemetry to understand their seasonal patterns of movement.
As plans move forward for the construction of a renewable wind energy farm off the coast of Maryland, Rothermel says it is critical to understand how this development will impact the fish that live there. Acoustic telemetry acts as a sort of “E-ZPass” system for fish. This will allow scientists to get a baseline for how endangered or commercially important species like sturgeon and striped bass utilize offshore areas. Her findings can be used both to help limit impacts to these fish during wind farm construction and to evaluate changes in their behavior that might happen once wind turbines are in place.