Magazine article Oceanus

Forecasting the Future of Fish

Magazine article Oceanus

Forecasting the Future of Fish

Article excerpt

Hi! My name is Smily Moberg. I am a Ph.D student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program ...

... and I study imaginary fish.

So ... I'm not real?

That's correct! You are all theoretical fish ...

... but that doesn't mean l you're not important!

To predict the future of fishing, I use mathematical models. And you're key factors in my models!

Did she just say Chat she uses math to study fish?

People love to eat "real" fish. Much of the world depends on fish for food. But fish stocks are rapidly diminishing.

Hey! Where did the rest of us go?

We've got to find ways to ensure that we don't overfish. If fish populations get too low, they can't replenish their numbers and their disappearance can have far-reaching impacts on the larger ecosystem.

Hello?

Where is everyone?

Wh-what happened to all the cod on Cape Cod?

How can you figure that out? The ocean is full of complex relationships, with organisms interacting with one another and their environment ... You can't just put it all in a test tube and watch!

Yup. We definitely would not all fit.

Factor in the actions of the fishermen and economic markets and that really complicates the equation.

Yeah, we won't fit in there either!

Equations--that's the ticket! Mathematical models are just equations that describe relationships between different variables. Here's the equation for population growth:

dN/dt = rN (1 - [N/K]) - hN

N = number of fish

t = time

K = total number of fish that the environment can support

r = growth rate when there are few fish

h = how fast we harvest the fish

Okay! That's it, we're at capacity!

* Well, drawings of real fish, actually.

My tools include: computers, folders, paper, notebooks, LOTS of colored pens, and of course, my imaginary fish.

I use scientific information about how real populations of fish grow to devise my equations. …

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