252-475-5400

Marine Fisheries Ecology

Research Lab Overview

Marine ecosystems are experiencing impacts from a changing climate, fishing, and increasing human populations on the coast. Our research is aimed at understanding the impacts of these pressures on biological communities, so marine resources can be sustainably managed. A majority of our work is developed in coordination with state or federal fisheries managers, or with stakeholders, in order to produce policy-relevant results.

​We use two major approaches: 1) using existing long-term biological survey data and environmental data to model species habitat use and distribution, which can be used to understand historic trends and also to predict future impacts; and 2) conducting field-intensive investigations to collect novel data on species life history or habitat function.

Contact Information:

James W. Morley
Assistant Professor
Department of Biology
East Carolina University
Coastal Studies Institute

252-475-5454
morleyj19@ecu.edu

www.morleylab.com

Current and Recent Research Projects

Do oyster aquaculture farms function as good fisheries habitat?

Oyster farms occur in estuaries and displace natural habitats. This industry is on the rise in the U.S. and so it is important to understand the change in habitat function when an area is leased for culturing oysters. We are examining how fish and invertebrates use oyster farms in multiple ways. Including a survey of fish abundance and species composition on oyster farms across North Carolina, and comparing them to nearby control areas. Also, we are examining fine-scale movements of fish within an estuarine landscape that includes an oyster farm, by using acoustic telemetry tags that are implanted into juvenile fish and tracked for two months.

Reproductive life history of sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus) in North Carolina

Sheepshead are an economically important species in the southeast U.S. Little is known about the life history of this species. For instance, it is uncertain if specific life stages might be vulnerable to fisheries exploitation, or if nursery habitat availability limits population growth. For effective management, an understanding of adult spawning patterns and juvenile recruitment dynamics is critical because these factors govern population growth. This project is a field-intensive study and we are collecting novel data on where and when adult sheepshead aggregate to spawn during the spring. Also, we are sampling juvenile sheepshead to determine their timing of recruitment, habitat use, and hatch dates in multiple areas across NC. Ultimately, this will provide an understanding of the connectivity between sheepshead spawning grounds and nursery habitats.

The influence of climate variability and nursery habitat quality on penaeid shrimp recruitment

Penaeid shrimp, including brown and white shrimp, are of great economic and ecological importance to North Carolina. Shrimp have a complex life history and annual abundance is highly variable. This variation is primarily due to year-to-year differences in climate and weather patterns, but there is a poor understanding of what specific factors influence shrimp recruitment. Using long term biological survey data and environmental data, we are using statistical models to elucidate the dynamics of shrimp recruitment in Pamlico Sound and other areas of NC. Predictive models will be used both to project future climate impacts on shrimp and also to develop a forecasting tool for the NC shrimp fishery.

Projecting future shifts in habitat for marine species as a result of climate change

Climate change is altering the geographic distribution of suitable habitat for marine species. These shifts are challenging fisheries management, which is based on the assumption that fish stocks are static over the long term. We conduct research to help fisheries managers anticipate changes in store for the 21st century. We have refined a method to forecast the future geographic distribution of species habitat on the North American continental shelf, based on niche models that describe species’ preferred temperatures and seafloor features. Presently, we are working towards a product that will rank the climate change vulnerability of economically important fisheries in all regions of the U.S. coast. 

Lab News
CSI Biologist Awarded Funding for Fisheries and Climate Change Work
CSI Biologist Awarded Funding for Fisheries and Climate Change Work

With climate change at the forefront of environmental issues, one of the notable changes has been the rising temperature in our ocean waters which has resulted in the displacement of many marine species. Some species have been able to adapt, while others may be left...

Jim Morley Brings Shrimp and Sheepshead Studies to CSI
Jim Morley Brings Shrimp and Sheepshead Studies to CSI

Jim Morley, a new assistant scientist at CSI and assistant professor in the Department of Biology at ECU, is excitedly anticipating all the possibilities of the work to come here at the Coastal Studies Institute on the ECU Outer Banks Campus. While his work has been...

Related Research Focus Areas

Marine
&
Coastal Ecosystems
Coasts
&
People
Marine & Coastal Resource Management

Led by East Carolina University (ECU), The Coastal Studies Institute is a multi-institutional research and educational partnership of the UNC System including North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, and Elizabeth City State University.

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ECU’s Integrated Coastal Programs (ECU ICP) is a leader in coastal and marine research, education, and engagement.   ECU ICP includes the Coastal Studies Institute, ECU’s Department of Coastal Studies, and ECU Diving and Water Safety.

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The ECU Outer Banks campus is home to the Coastal Studies Institute.
Located on Roanoke Island along the banks of the second largest estuary
in the United States, this coastal campus spans 213 acres of marshes, scrub wetlands, forested wetlands, and estuarine ecosystems.

FACILITIES

SUSTAINABLE CAMPUS

 

The faculty and staff at the Coastal Studies Institute come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, as well as departments and organizations including ECU Department of Biology, ECU Department of Coastal Studies, NC Sea Grant, the North Carolina Renewable Energy Program, and the UNC Institute for the Environment.

MEET THE TEAM

The CSI Board of Directors consists of professionals with strong backgrounds in coastal issues including research, development, outreach, education, and policies that affect coastal communities. The Board promotes the UNC System’s mission in helping it serve the people of North Carolina at a high level of excellence in every area of endeavor at the Coastal Studies Institute. The Board meets twice a year to discuss the projects and progress of CSI.

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Contact Us

Contact Info

The Coastal Studies Institute
850 NC 345
Wanchese, NC 27981

252-475-5400

info@coastalstudiesinstitute.com

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