First Draft: Legislative brief and life cycle infographic

For my project, I’ve chosen to create two visuals that serve two purposes, but can be used in conjunction. The first is a one page handout explaining the background and importance of considering the nematode parasite in American eel management. This will be given to the board members of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission who make the management decisions. I want this handout to make them aware of the issue so that they are more open to accepting changes relating to it. In talking with the ASMFC coordinator for the eel group, he recommended making it very visual and graphics heavy because the legislators are used to getting text heavy documents, so this would be something different and hopefully more appealing. I still have a lot to do on how best to get my points across and how to best use visuals, but this shows a draft of the layout and information I would like it to include. I will probably end up deleting a lot of this text and replacing it with pictures. I will send this to the coordinator and other people at ASMFC to get feedback.

communications_first draft

The second visual is the life cycle info-graphic, which I want to use to integrate the life cycle of the eel and the nematode so people can better understand how they go together. I plan to send this to the board members in addition to the handout, but I also plan to use it for presentations to a broad range of audiences. I want it to be visually appealing and easily understood so that people can understand it without me explaining it to them.

communications_first draft_lifecycle

I will need feedback on both about what is not easily understood and how to get rid of text and add more pictures.

Project Proposal: American eels and their nasty parasites

Marine parasites and diseases are seldom considered in fisheries management despite their potential for impact on a population. One such fish population that may have problems with parasites it the American eel (Anguilla rostrata). These snake-like fish are an economically and ecologically important fish species that has been in decline for the past decades. Currently their population is considered depleted and at historically low levels due to a combination of loss and alteration of habitat, dams, pollution, predation, and parasitism. In the mid-1990’s an invasive parasitic nematode Anguillicoloides crassus was discovered in an eel aquaculture facility in Texas as well as one river in South Carolina. Since then, it has rapidly spread throughout the range of American eel, and now can be found from Nova Scotia into the Gulf of Mexico. This parasite infects the swimbladder of eels, where it grows and develops while feeding on an eel’s blood. Repeated infections can cause severe damage to this important organ such that it is no longer able to function. My master’s thesis is investigating if this parasite is contributing to the depleted status of American eel through morbidity or morality effects. The information from my project will inform fisheries management on a potential source of natural mortality, which can then be used in stock assessments to better estimate the size of the population as well as population dynamics.

I have three possible ideas for communication projects based on a last minute conversation with my outreach mentor who is the American eel Coordinator for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC). One involves ASMFC board members and the other would target a more general audience that is initially interested in the American eel, so I’ll briefly describe both stakeholder groups. The ASMFC is the management agency for coastal fishes along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. The management decisions are made by a group of commissioners that represent the 15 member states as well as DC, Potomac River Fisheries Commission, National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Each group has three representatives: an administrator, governor’s appointee, and legislator. For each species managed, there is a specific board made up of the groups that have a stake in that fishery. Therefore my project would target the American eel Management Board members (which should be all groups).The commissioners are very formal and legislative, so I would have to tailor my project to that style. For the general public interested in American eels, I would expect them to be fishermen and local managers, as well as people interested in going to the aquarium.

My first project idea is either a memo or presentation to the ASMFC board members, which I understand are different, but my outreach mentor is checking what is feasible and appropriate. The memo would state the problem American eels are facing and the plan that the Technical Committee has to address it. The presentation would be more in depth and show results from my project. I am unsure of more details at this time because my mentor is finding out if this would be appropriate to do.

My second idea is to assist in the creation of exhibit information to be placed at aquariums. I don’t know too much about this project right now because my mentor mentioned it briefly and needs to follow up with the woman working on it to determine if I could help out. But I would image it would be creating an information plaque about the importance and effect of marine parasites and disease on fish populations and a little about my eels as an example.

My third idea, if both of these fall through, is to create a graphic linking the life cycle of the eel with the life cycle of the parasite. This would be very useful in presentations to all audiences as a simple and intuitive way for people to understand the processes occurring.