Research Interests

My original research interests are the ecology, evolution, and conservation biology of temperate North American fishes, especially the diadromous forms that migrate between fresh and salt water.  However, in my twenty years as a scientist with the Hudson River Foundation, I worked primarily on gaining a better understanding of New York Harbor and the Hudson River Estuary--a system with myriad environmental challenges.  In my career now as an aquatic conservation biologist at Queens College, I concentrate on both of these (sometimes overlapping) research arenas.  I also enjoy working at an array of geographic levels and have been involved in projects ranging from the local (Bronx River fish passage), to the regional (migrations and stock identification of striped bass), to the national and international (conservation and restoration of sturgeons and shads). 

Striped Bass - Currier & Ives

An appreciation that grew out of my historical analyses of New York Harbor for my book, Heartbeats in the Muck, is the growing importance of the shifting baselines syndrome--that is, the notion that resource managers settele for less and less as their vision becomes further removed from original pristine conditions.  This  spurred a six-year effort to  produce a book that chronicles the historical ecology of western Atlantic diadromous fishes, from pre-Colonial times to the present.  Running Silver:  Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations is the result, a tour through time that relies for guideposts on the prescient observations of Thoreau from his A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.  I remain interested in finding ways and partners in building on the ten recommendations I make in the  book.  An outgrowth of this is is an abiding interest in the place of 'awe' in appreciating  animal abundances and biodiversity, and the ongoing loss of 'spectacle' (such as in great migrations) in the natural world.

Another major focal area for me is the stock structure and population genetics of fishes, in both the theoretical and applied senses.  I have worked collaboratively with Isaac Wirgin and others, mainly using molecular approaches, on species including Atlantic and shortnose sturgeons, striped bass, American shad, sea lamprey, Atlantic cod, winter flounder, and summer flounder.
I am also currently working with Liz Alter on using environmental DNA to assess invasive species and biodiversity concerns in the Hudson River watershed.

New York City Region - I.H. Eddy, 1812

Urban habitats are another area of intrigue for me.  With the radical improvements to the metropolitan area's water quality since the Clean Water Act of 1972, protecting and increasing its habitat quality and quantity has been a prime concern.  However, there is the newly recognized need to apply intelligent green-infrastructural approaches to help armore the city against storms like Sandy--'resilience' has superseded 'sustainability' as the mantra of our times.
Improving habitat for the 99.9% of the time that normal conditions persist, while also providing effective green infrastructure for those rare but profoundly important storms remains as important research and management frontier.  An additional urban habitats opportunity is the reopening of long-covered waterways, or 'daylighting,' which recently liberated the Saw Mill River in Yonkers.  Colleagues William Solecki and I are beginning to examine opportunities for this in New York City, in addition to collaborating on an environmental history of Jamaica Bay..

Other research topics that I have experience with or maintain a strong interest in include the zoogeography and diversity of North American (and Mongolian fishes), fish passage performance, dam removals, climate change and aquatic biota, the effects of alien species, fluctuating asymmetry as an indicator of stress, the ecological effects of power plants, and the literature and art of natural history and angling.

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