News 2018: SMAST Year in Review: 2018

News 2018: SMAST Year in Review: 2018
SMAST Year in Review: 2018

From groundbreaking research conducted by faculty to students garnering recognition for their scholarship to scientists building a blue economy across the globe, the achievements at SMAST during 2018 epitomize momentum.

wind turbines

Building a blue economy 

As part of UMass Dartmouth's emerging Blue Economy Initiative:


  • In early 2018, SMAST entered into a partnership with Vineyard Wind and members of the regional fishing industry on the development of Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind farm. It will be the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind energy project over 14 miles off the coast of Massachusetts.
  • Using underwater video cameras, a group of early-career scientists sailed across the US, Canada, and Argentina to employ measures that are helping regulators improve management strategies for specific fish species, including balancing sustainable fisheries with seafood supply.
  • Dr. Avijit Gangopadhyay, Professor of Estuarine and Ocean Sciences, was also tapped for his expertise in the areas of the ocean economy and fishing industry. Invited by King of Morocco, Gangopadhyay served as a panelist at Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla for the Building a Blue Belt Initiative roadmap for Africa.

Faculty recognized for groundbreaking research

Dr. Wendell Brown’s ocean glider Blue returned from a 94-day trip at sea measuring temperatures and ocean conditions to give researchers more information on hurricanes. The autonomous underwater vehicle serves as part of a larger network of gliders deployed to help the National Hurricane Center improve forecasts of local hurricanes. The work is funded by NOAA.

Dr. Kevin Stokesbury was named SouthCoast Man of the Year for his continued research contributions to the fishing industry on the SouthCoast, especially his revival of the scallop industry. Dr. Stokesbury was called a “pathfinder” who has helped bridge the gap between academia, industry, and government. Stokesbury’s fish counting technology were featured by WBUR. Using machine learning, the technology counts and identifies fish while underwater, helping protect specific breeds.

Dr. Jefferson Turner and alumnae Dr. Christian Petipas of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries were featured in a short documentary about their project called “Shelfbreak Productivity Interdisciplinary Research at the Pioneer Array.” This past spring, in collaboration with state Division of Marine Fisheries, the team conducted research on fishing productivity at the shelf break just south of New England.

Cod captured with underwater video tech
Cod captured using underwater video technology developed by scientists at SMAST (photo courtesy Kevin Stokesbury).

Students awarded for scholarly achievements

Cassie Canastra, MS candidate, was named SouthCoast Woman of the Year for her dedication to the SouthCoast’s fishing industry, particularly Yellowtail Flounder. Canastra, who sits on many different seafood industry boards and works with the Buyers and Sellers Exchange, grew up amidst the fishing industry where she now advocates on their behalf.

Elizabeth Ells, PhD candidate, was awarded a scholarship from the Barnstable Association for Recreational Shellfishing, Inc (BARS). Ells received the scholarship for her work on Thorpe sorting using MATLAB. In 2017, BARS began an endowment for promising ocean researchers.

Owen Nichols, PhD candidate, was awarded "Best Student Oral Presentation" Award during the Cephalopod International Advisory Council 2018 conference for his research, “Offshore influences on inshore squid: linkages between water mass dynamics and Doryteuthis pealeii distribution.” The conference featured nearly 230 participants from 30 countries.

Kathryn Tremblay, MS candidate, has been awarded a $1,000 regional scholarship by the New England Chapter of The Hydrographic Society of America. Kate will use the scholarship to continue her thesis research, working toward completion of her MS degree under the advisement of Dr. Wendell Brown. Her thesis focus is to use ocean observation data to assess recurrent hypoxia and upwelling areas on the New Jersey coast, where oxygen loss has impacted fish stocks in the past and has human health concerns. 

Robert Wildermuth, PhD candidate, was awarded the national marine science graduate fellowship for his research, which supports NOAA's ocean goals with regard to healthy and sustainable marine fisheries, habitats, and ecosystems. Wildermuth is 1 of 6 recipients to receive the highly competitive 2018 NOAA Fisheries Sea Grant Population and Ecosystem Dynamics Fellowship.