Meet Our Team

This project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, “Coupled Natural and Human Systems”: Collaborative Research: Climate Change and Responses in a Coupled Marine System. October 2009-September 2012.  Here is a list of the institutions and people who are doing this research: 1) Rutgers University: Principal Investigators (PIs): Bonnie J. McCay, Dale B. Haidvogel, Eric N. Powell, Janice McDonnell, with post-docs Frederic Castruccio, Daphne Muroe ,Carolyn Creed and graduate student Peter Zhang; 2) University of Massachusetts Amherst: PI: Sylvia Brandt; (3) Virginia Institute of Marine Science: PI: Roger Mann; and (4) Old Dominion University: PIs: Eileen Hofmann and John Klinck.

Oceanographers, Biologists,  Social Scientists and Educators Working Together

The oceanographers and biologists on our team are developing a Mid-Atlantic Surfclam (MASC) model that is the core of the project. In its present form, MASC combines a hydrodynamic model for the Middle Atlantic Bight (later combined with the Gulf of Maine) with an individual-based sub-model for surfclam larvae and a sub-model for adult clams. The hydrodynamic core of MASC is the Regional Ocean Modeling System (ROMS), in use world-wide for both basic research and real-time applications.

The social scientists are focusing on two key points where the natural components are coupled with the human components of the system: the fisheries themselves, including harvesting, processing, and distribution, and the dominant governance institutions, which consist of laws, scientific enterprises, management councils, and activities such as data collection and enforcement. They also are participating in the development of a surfclam model.

The project presents a unique opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral investigators to be trained in the variety of approaches that are needed to solve many of the important problems affecting marine systems. The use of state-of-the-art oceanographic and ecological modeling approaches that are linked to economic and social approaches provides opportunities to train students in a variety of disciplines. The educational component is integrated with the research and builds on an existing K-12 educational program and outreach with specialized communities such as the commercial fishery.

To learn more about our team members, scroll down this page.

Bonnie McCayBonnie McCay is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where she teaches in the Department of Human Ecology. Her graduate training was in anthropology at Columbia University (PhD 1976), and her research and teaching have focused on challenges and policies for managing marine resources, particularly fisheries. She has done field research in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, Canada, in New Jersey, and in Baja California, Mexico, with funding from the National Science Foundation, the New Jersey Sea Grant College Program, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.


Her books include “The Question of the Commons,” “Oyster Wars and the Public Trust,” and “Enclosing the Commons.” She currently serves on the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Science Advisory Committee to a research program of the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

Overview/General Explanations: As a human ecologist, I study interactions between people and the natural environment, especially as they appear in the activity of fishing. Recently, I have been investigating how the effects of climate change have influenced individual and collective behavior in the surfclam fishery. While the surfclam fishery in the Mid-Atlantic Bight region of the northwest Atlantic Ocean is currently one of the major fisheries in this region, climate change has threatened this fishery by causing surfclam populations to die off in the southerly end of their range. My research focuses on how the government and management agencies work together to come up with viable ways of adapting to this devastating change.

More detailed scientific explanation: As a human ecologist, my project is on the many dimensions of human adaptations and mal-adaptations to changes in their environments. Although my theoretical approaches and interests are very broad, my own research, grounded in the methods of cultural anthropology, has focused on marine and coastal ecosystems and communities and the institutional aspects of adapting to and managing commercial fisheries. More specifically, I am interested in documenting how human interpretations of the scientific models interact and influence other factors (including vulnerability, in the case of industry members) to generate feedback in the natural system.

Fishing is intriguing because it tends to generate so-called “tragedies of the commons,” or situations in which it seems to make sense for people to just take what they can, regardless of the consequences, because there is no good way to make sure that everyone will cooperate in protecting the environment. The fishing grounds are traditionally and legally public, not private, making them prone to commons problems. However, this situation has changed a lot over the past thirty or forty years, with greater government involvement in regulating the fishery commons, and the surfclam fishery of this study has been a pioneer in fisheries management. In 1978 it was the first in the nation to have a form of restrictions on how many boats could be involved, and in 1990 it was the first major fishery in the nation to be managed with Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), which make the right to fish a kind of tradable, individual right. Now it is one of the first to be viewed as experiencing documentable effects of climate change, and this research project offers us the opportunity to see how the government and the industry can work together to come up with viable ways of adapting to such changes.

John M. Klinck John M. Klinck is a Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Coastal Oceanography, Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Sciences, Old Dominion University, Virginia and his research and teaching have focused on physical oceanography and modeling of physical and biological processes in ocean environments. Although he is mainly interested inn theoretical studies of ocean processes, he also enjoys participating in cruises when he can.


His recent journal articles have analyzed hydrographic measurements from sensors on marine mammals, proposed processes by which oceanic water moves onto Antarctic continental shelves, analyzed how oyster shells accumulate to form reefs, and how disease affects oysters’ genetic variability. He is a member of the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is often a reviewer of manuscript submissions for the Journal of Geophysical Research, the Journal of Physical Oceanography, and Science, among others; in addition, he reviews proposals to NASA, NSF, NOAA, and NERC.

Overview/General Explanations: I am interested in developing and working with analytical and numerical dynamical models to analyze a variety of oceanographic systems including the continental shelf, fjords, submarine canyons, and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.. Recently, I have developed/worked with numerical models of ocean and ice processes in the Ross Sea and on the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula. In addition, I participated in several cruises to observe hydrographic conditions on the Antarctic Peninsula that were used to develop model studies. I am currently analyzing hydrographic conditions measured by sensors attached to free-roaming seals. This method increases our ability to observe ocean conditions over an extended period and in areas that are often ice covered. I am also interested in numerical models of bivalves which include environmental variation, as well as predation and disease. I have recently constructed an individual based model with explicit genes to analyze the processes associated with changes in the genetic structure of sessile – animals that don’t move and thus must adapt to changing conditions.

More detailed scientific explanation: My effort in this climate change project is to convert existing oyster and hard clam models to represent both adult and larval phases of surf clams. These models will be used to analyze how current environmental conditions (temperature, salinity, food, circulation, harvesting) influence the growth, survival and migration of surfclams. In particular, I am interested in how (and how rapidly) surfclams can move northward along the Middle Atlantic Bight in response to warming waters due to the general warming associated with current climate change.

Eileen HofmannEileen Hofmann is a Professor of Oceanography at the Center for Coastal Oceanography Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, College of Sciences, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia. Her graduate training was in Marine Sciences and Engineering at North Carolina State University, after which she was a post-doctoral research scientist at Florida State University. Following this, Eileen took a position in the Oceanography Department at Texas A&M University and moved from there to Old Dominion University in 1989. Her research and teaching have focused on understanding physical-biological interactions in marine ecosystems, climate control of diseases of marine shellfish populations, descriptive physical oceanography, and mathematical modeling of marine ecosystems.


Eileen has published over 100 articles in the peer-reviewed science literature. She has co-edited two books and four special issues of journals. She is presently CoEditor-in-Chief for the Journal of Marine Systems and is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Marine Research, Antarctic Science, and the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. She currently serves as the Chair of the Science Steering Committee, for the Integrated Marine Biogeochemisty and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) Project and she is a member of the Science Steering Committee of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program.

Overview/General Explanations: My research interests cover a variety of topics, which range from mathematical modeling of marine ecosystems to descriptive physical oceanography. My current research projects focus on carbon cycling on continental shelf systems, the ecology of shellfish diseases, hydrography and circulation of Antarctic coastal waters, and food web interactions in Antarctic coastal environments. The approach I have used in my various research studies has combined coupled physical-biological models with quantitative data analysis.

More detailed scientific explanation: Much of my research has focused on understanding the factors that control growth, recruitment and success of larval stages of estuarine oyster and clam species. This project provides an opportunity to expand these studies to an offshore species, the surfclam and extend the approaches and ideas developed in earlier studies. The effects of climate change on the Mid-Atlantic Bight surfclams populations are already apparent. As a result, this study provides the possibility of verifying model predictions of environmental effects on a marine species.

Sylvia BrandtSylvia Brandt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Resource Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her graduate training was in Agricultural and Resource Economics at University of California, Berkeley. Her doctoral research focused on the use of tradable property rights to manage fisheries.Her fisheries related publications include:


  • McEvoy, D., Brandt, S., Lavoie, N., Anders, S. Effects of ITQ management on fishermen’s welfare in the presence of an imperfectly competitive processing sector. Land Economics. 85(3).
  • Brandt, S., Ding, N. Share contracts in fisheries with transferable quotas. Ocean and Coastal Management.
  • Brandt, S. 2007. Evaluating tradable property rights for natural resources: The role of strategic Entry and exit. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. 63(1): 158-176.
  • Brandt, S., McEvoy, D. 2006. Distributional effects of property rights: Transitions in the Atlantic herring fishery. Marine Policy. 30(6): 659-670.
  • Brandt, S. 2005. The equity debate: distributional impacts of individual transferable quotas. Ocean and Coastal Management. 48(1): 15-30.

Overview/General Explanations: Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. Looking around us, however, we can see that resources are not allocated in anything resembling an optimal manner. My research focuses on two areas where traditional economic theories have failed to solve difficult problems in the allocation of public goods: fisheries management and chronic illness. Fifty years after the seminal paper on the economics of fishing, close to 40% of commercial fisheries are still over-harvested. While the proportion of U.S. GDP devoted to health care has risen to almost 14%, the highest among all OECD countries, millions of people suffer from illnesses that are straightforward to manage successfully.

My research asks why these suboptimal outcomes persist and how policymakers can increase public welfare by increasing economic efficiency, policy effectiveness, or distributive fairness. To answer these questions, I extend standard economic models to incorporate approaches from the other social sciences; I collect primary data or use novel data sets to gain new perspectives on existing problems; and I apply the tools of micro-econometrics for statistical analysis. My papers highlight the influence of typically unobserved or hitherto ignored factors, ranging from ownership structures in a fishery to household beliefs about medical treatments, and use these factors to explain why the real world deviates from previous theoretical models. Much of my research also has direct policy implications, whether for the design of regulatory regimes or for the evaluation of public health programs.

More detailed scientific explanation: Fisheries present the quintessential example of externalities – costs that are created but not borne by market participants. Individual fishing firms compete for shares of the total harvest, and each individual ignores the effect of his harvest on the total available stock. This behavior creates a market failure leading to overfishing and the economic destruction of the fishery.

Solving this problem is the central goal for fisheries management. Under Federal legislation, the total harvest for each regulated species is determined by primarily biological criteria; the question, then, is how to achieve the best possible economic outcomes while enforcing that total allowable catch.

Historically fisheries were managed with “command-and-control” regulation, where fixed limits are placed on vessel harvests and/or inputs (e.g. boat size, fishing season, technology). Alternatively, economists propose property rights approaches, where fishermen own the right to harvest a certain quantity of fish, and can trade those rights on a market. Tradable property rights (also known as individual transferable quotas, or ITQs) were not utilized on a large scale until after the introduction of tradable permits for sulfur dioxide emissions in 1995. Tradable property rights have also recently attracted considerable attention as the centerpiece of the main Congressional proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Introducing ITQs into a fishery should lead to the outcome where the total allowable harvest is caught at minimum costs, if the assumptions of the theoretical model are valid. In addition, recent research has emphasized that fishermen, in aggregate, may achieve increases in producer surplus as a result of ITQs. However, these potential efficiency and welfare gains depend critically on the assumptions that all sectors of the fishing industry are perfectly competitive and that consumers’ demand is responsive to changes in price. Furthermore, while much of the economic literature on ITQs focuses on aggregate gains, the fundamental policy debate revolves around the distribution of these gains among industry participants.

My research evaluates the real-world difference between tradable property rights and command-and-control regulation, both as a test of economic theory and as a contribution to current policy debates. To do this, my analyses explicitly incorporate the institutions that shape and govern fisheries. For example, my research has shown how the failure to consider strategic behavior can produce incorrect predictions regarding the impact of regulatory change. Similarly, by studying ownership structures in the fishery, such as vertical or horizontal integration, I have been able to empirically answer key questions concerning the equitable distribution of the costs and benefits from regulation.

Roger MannRoger Mann is Professor and Director for Research and Advisory Service at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) at the College of William and Mary, where he teaches Larval Ecology, Malacology, and the Biology of Invasive Species. He graduated with a PhD from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University) in 1976. Between 1976 and 1985, he was a postdoctoral fellow, assistant scientist and associate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  He joined the VIMS faculty in 1984. His research interests are diverse and include physiological ecology of marine molluscs, larval dispersal and recruitment processes in estuarine and shallow water systems, fisheries and aquaculture of marine molluscs, invasion biology, and the impacts of climate change on ecosystems. His current work is focused in the Chesapeake Bay and the Middle Atlantis Bight regions, although he has worked with collaborators in Chile, India, Israel and the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.Roger Mann has published over 100 peer review articles. He has edited five books including Exotic Species in Aquaculture, Dispersal of Living Organisms Into Aquatic Systems, and three volumes on aspects of mollusc culture and restoration.


Overview / General Explanations: As a physiological ecologist I am interested in sedentary animals, especially long lived species that live in environments where there are large seasonal temperature variations to which they must adapt. Surfclams are such organisms and their perpetuation in the Middle Atlantic Bight is further complicated by the seasonal stratification and circulation of the region in that these drive larval dispersal and recruitment processes. The current project provides a rare opportunity to marry my interest in larval ecology and larval swimming behavior with cutting-edge circulation models that provide testable hypotheses for spatially and temporally explicit larval distribution and recruitment processes. Further, the refinement of these predictive models provides valuable tools for improving long-term fishery management and understanding benthic (sea bottom) community structure in response to climate change.

More detailed scientific explanation: My research on molluscs has and continues to include investigations that explain variation in recruitment, growth and survival in estuarine and coastal shelf species in response to interannual variation in major environmental parameters. The surfclams of the Middle Atlantic Bight live in a region that experiences some of the highest annual sea water temperature ranges of any place on Earth, yet they live to be quite old (>20 years) and survive to an unusually large size for most bivalves. The fishery stock assessment data indicates a northward progression of the southern limit of their range in response, we believe, to sustained increase in the maximum summer temperature as a global warming indicator. This research project offers the opportunity to bring to focus a broad range of overlapping disciplines from numerical flow models to physiological and behavioral biology through population projections of exploitable stock to the supported commercial exploitation and human ecology. The complex but tightly interlocked end product will provide an important model for evaluating natural and human response to climate change and developing appropriate adaptation to such change.Again, this study focuses on the surfclams because they have characteristics that will allow us to develop a lot of information about adaptation to climate change in the natural environment. Sessile benthic marine molluscs – animals with shells that do not move and live on the bottom of the sea – are interesting model systems for the study of spatially specific, long-term responses to physiological stressors (like climate change). They store a complete history of their life in their shells, have bioenergetics that is amenable to experimental quantification and descriptive modeling, are typically benthic dominant, and, especially among the bivalves, have very conservative life history strategy across a very large number of species. They have global distribution from estuaries to the abyss and from the equator to high latitudes. Thus for a physiological ecologist they are a useful group to pursue studies of response to environmental change, be it local, regional or global.

Eric PowellEric Powell is a Professor and Director of the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory and the Aquaculture Technology Transfer Center, Rutgers University/New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. His graduate education was in * at the University of North Carolina and his research and teaching have focused on


Overview/General Explanations: My research interests include (1) paleoecology and taphonomy with emphasis on the process of preservation and destruction of carbonate skeletal material in marine sediments, (2) population dynamics modeling with emphasis on the modeling of shellfish diseases, genetics-based modeling focused on relating genotype to phenotype and environment, the application of models to estuarine management, and fisheries modeling emphasizing approaches to stock sustainability, (3) fisheries management emphasizing approaches to discard reduction, improvements in survey methods, and evaluation of alternative management approaches, and (4) the interaction of contaminants, parasites and pathologies in bivalve health.

Janice McDonnell is the Science Engineering & Technology Agent in the Department of 4-H Youth Development, as part of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES).  My interests include exploring how people learn and how to achieve “high quality” collaborations among scientists and educators. I am particularly interested in how these collaborations can result in Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) learning in informal and formal K-12 learning environments. My work involves developing real-time scientific data tools from Ocean Observing Systems to promote inquiry based instruction. Finally, I enjoy learning about and applying effective practices for assessing program/product impact (front end, formative, and summative levels) into instructional design.

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