Fisheries Conservation

  • SERC research vessel

    Fishing for rays and sharks on the Potomac River for the Movement of Life Initiative (SERC/Jay Fleming)

  • Blue crabs support the most valuable fishery in Chesapeake Bay (SERC/Matt Ogburn)

  • River herring

    Monitoring River Herring spawning runs in tributaries of Chesapeake Bay (SERC/Matt Ogburn)

  • Choptank River oyster reef

    Working Land and Seascapes is exploring the ecology of oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay (SERC/Keira Heggie)

  • Sampling underwater grasses

    Studying the ecology of submerged aquatic vegetation  for MarineGEO (SERC/Liana Quinones)

Principal Investigator

The Fisheries Conservation Lab investigates the ecology, management, and conservation of marine and estuarine fisheries. We depend on fisheries for many things including food, employment, recreational opportunities, and cultural identity, but fishing and aquaculture rank among the greatest human impacts on marine ecosystems. Finding a balance between harvest and conservation of fishery species and mitigating the impacts of fisheries on marine ecosystems will be key to sustaining productive, resilient, and biodiverse coastal and marine ecosystems for future generations.

Our interdisciplinary research focuses on providing the best scientific information available to inform fisheries management and conservation decision-making at scales from local communities to global institutions. We apply field and laboratory experiments, animal tracking technologies, models, long-term observational studies, and historical perspectives to address fisheries issues including sustainability of fished populations, altered food webs and trophic interactions, linkages between habitat and fisheries, invasive species, and climate change. We engage in collaborative research through:

For more information, check out our 2023 annual report.

We're hiring!

Posted by Matt Ogburn on March 22, 2024

Oyster Reef and Estuarine Ecology Technician

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Starting salary: $45,146-$55,924 plus benefits (This is NOT a Federal position)

The Smithsonian Institution seeks an energetic, field-oriented biologist to support research on biological communities of oyster reefs and other estuarine ecosystems. The position is based in the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s (SERC) Fisheries Conservation Lab, led by Dr. Matt Ogburn (

The technician will conduct field and laboratory research on the ecology of harvested and restored oyster reefs and assist with long-term (40+ year) surveys of estuarine fish and invertebrate communities. The research is primarily located in Chesapeake Bay, with potential travel to other locations in the US (e.g., FL, CA, NY, TX) and internationally. Duties include:

  • Assisting with dive-based, underwater video, and ARIS sonar surveys of oyster reefs
  • Assisting with trawl, seine, and other field surveys of fish and invertebrate communities
  • Processing underwater video and sonar images, and biological samples
  • Data management, volunteer coordination, and science communication

The position requires a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, Marine Science, Ecology, or related field and demonstrated interest or experience working in oyster reef or estuarine ecosystems. The applicant must be detail-oriented, responsible, and prepared to work in challenging field conditions (lifting heavy objects, hot and cold days, soft mud). Competent data entry and management skills are required (Microsoft Office and R preferred). Practical knowledge of field research procedures and biology and taxonomy of estuarine organisms is preferred. Applicant must be willing to learn skills valuable to research teams including driving large trucks, driving and trailering boats, using power tools, and developing content for websites and social media. Experience with these skills, with ARIS or DIDSON sonar, and with Chesapeake Bay species should be noted in the application. Scientific diving certification (AAUS preferred) and experience is strongly preferred and should be described in the application.

The position is based at SERC in Edgewater, MD and requires occasional travel. This is a full-time position with a comprehensive benefits package (starting salary based on degree obtained and experience). The position is open to all candidates eligible to work in the US. The Smithsonian Institution is an equal opportunity employer, committed to a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of race/ethnicity, national origin, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, marital/parental/caregiver status and disability. The SERC community recognizes the value of diversity in promoting innovative science and creative solutions, and we strongly encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply.

To apply, please send the following as a single PDF document to Matt Ogburn ( Curriculum Vitae, cover letter summarizing relevant experience, and the names and full contact information (email, phone, postal address) of three references.

Review of applications will begin on 22 March 2024 until the position is filled.

Understanding the ecology of fisheries is critical to maintaining resilient, productive and biodiverse coastal and marine ecosystems. Fishing is an important sector of coastal economies, provides an important supply of food for human societies, and is an activity of great cultural and historical importance. But fisheries have also contributed to the decline of coastal and marine ecosystems through changes in biomass and community structure, disruption of food webs, and alteration of habitats. Using the Chesapeake Bay as a model system, we are addressing fisheries issues including the impacts of harvest, restoration, and conservation on populations, communities and ecosystems, habitat use, migrations and connectivity with other coastal ecosystems. To learn more about our fisheries ecology and conservation research, please visit the following webpages:

Our long-term studies of fish and invertebrate communities in the Rhode River, Maryland study site offer a window in the community structure and population dynamics of fish and invertebrate communities in one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, the Chesapeake Bay. Spanning more than three decades, this research tracks seasonal, annual, and decadal variation in species composition and abundance of fishes and macro-invertebrates. Sampling methods include trawling, seining, a fish weir, benthic infauna cores, and tethering experiments. The long-term descriptive data, in combination with our experimental studies, provide an unusual database for exploring populations, communities, predator-prey relationships, impacts of fisheries, and impacts of environmental variability and climate change, and other ecological processes. To learn more about our long-term research, please follow the links below:

Many species on the planet migrate during their lifetime, using different habitats during specific life stages. What habitats are most important and why? How will climate change affect migrations? What are the benefits and costs of migration to individuals? How can we best manage fisheries for migratory species? How do migratory species affect community structure and ecological processes? To learn more about our Movement of Life Initiative research, please visit our Movement of Life Initiative webpage:

Welcome to the Educator Resources page-- below are a collection of lessons, web resources, and videos arranged by subject to help you quickly find resources in your interest area to create lesson plans or activities. Maryland follows the Next Generation Science Standards for K-12 science content standards. Access the Next Generation Science Standards broken down by topic at the National Science Teachers Association website.

Are you a teacher visiting SERC? Click here to learn more about how to prepare for your field trip to our campus and other general resources!

Discover, create, and share more resources and educational experiences on the Smithsonian Learning Lab!

Lesson: Movement of Life Initiative: Protecting Whales
Grade 3
NGSS, Computer Science Teachers Association Standards, ISTE Student Standards

Lesson: Movement of Life Initiative: Discover What Makes Sharks Move
Grade 4

Lesson: Sharks and Shorelines
Grades 6-10

Activity: Ecosystem Explorer | EARTH A New Wild
Grades 5-8

Reading/ Video: SERC’s Shorelines Blog "Following the Movement of Life: Tagging Sharks and Rays"
Grades 5-7

Reading/ Video: SERC’s Shorelines Blog "Tracking the Bay’s Cownose Rays"
Grades 5-7

For more information about shark migration, check out Smithsonian's Movement of Life Initiative!

Lesson: The Blue Crab's Chesapeake Journey
Grade 9-12

Video: SERC Scientists Video from the Smithsonian Science Education Center, “How do Scientists Track and Monitor blue Crab Populations in the Chesapeake Bay?
Grades 3-8




Video: SERC Ecosystems on the Edge video by one of our scientists, called “Blue Crabs: Top Predator in Peril”
Grades 3-8




Lesson: Juvenile Oyster Disease: A Growing Problem
Grade 9-12

Video: Determining the Resiliency of Juvenile Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay
Grade 3-8


Activity Book: The World is Your Oyster: Activity and Coloring Book
Grade 2-5