Reserves offer young scientists a unique opportunity—to do work with direct impact on the resilience of surrounding communities and the environments that support them. The impact of students like Brent Hughes is inspiring us to find resources to re-energize the NERRS Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
Brent’s work at California’s Elkhorn Slough reserve demonstrated the impact of low oxygen conditions on commercial fish diversity and abundance. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that years when oxygen levels in the waters of Elkhorn Slough dropped, so did fish diversity and abundance.
One year later, this translated into lower catch of commercial flatfish offshore. The study also revealed that oxygen levels tended to be higher in Elkhorn Slough in El Niño years and used publicly available data from the Reserves’ System Wide Monitoring Program to demonstrate that the same pattern holds in other West Coast estuaries.