Laura Almodóvar-Acevedo received her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez before joining the Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences Graduate Program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). She is currently a Ph.D. student at UMES specializing in Ecology and is member of the NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC).
Laura’s research focuses on black sea bass dynamics in the Chesapeake Bay, under the advisement of Dr. Brad Stevens and Dr. Howard Townsend. Her work involves creating a habitat suitability model to investigate if the historical decline in black sea bass landings is associated with a decrease in oyster reef habitat in the bay. She is also conducting a bioenergetics experiment to determine temperature on the respiration rate of juvenile black sea bass and a field survey to compliment the study. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop an Estuarine Habitat Affinity Index that can be incorporated into a stock assessment model to explain some variability in black sea bass juvenile recruitment.
Laura will be conducting part of her research on black sea bass at the NOAA Cooperative Oxford Laboratory in Maryland. Black sea bass are a data-poor federally managed species that will benefit from this new information on their essential fish habitat and juvenile dynamics. Since this species supports commercial and recreational fisheries, understanding juvenile habitat and the effect of different parameters on the population is essential for the NOAA sustainable fisheries goal. The integration of biotic and abiotic factors in a large area model and the analyses of time-series data also meets the strategic goal of advancing observations, modeling, and research necessary to understand climate change and its impacts. The Habitat Suitability Model will provide information about possible ecosystem services of specific reefs that can be used to determine where to invest in future Bay conservation and restoration efforts.