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Featured Student: Mikaela Provost PDF Print E-mail
Mikaela Provost Fishing for black sea bass on the party boat Miss Beach Haven off Long Beach Island, New Jersey


Growing up in southwest Alaska, I spent many hours on the beaches of Kodiak Island jumping from one critter-filed tide-pool to the next. In a town where most people fished, as a kid I marveled at the ocean's plentiful resources and immediately fell in love with the sea. For my high school years I move off The Rock (a.k.a. Kodiak Island) to Minnesota where I discovered freshwater ecosystems. Excited to learn more about aquatic environments, I enrolled at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin (home of the cheese-heads!) and studied fish foraging behavior and nutrient cycling in lakes, and coral reef management in Tanzania (semester abroad).

At the end of college I was excited to put my skills to good use and so I joined Teach for America where I made my way east to Newark, NJ. Having spent most of my life on Kodiak and in Minnesota, Newark was huge culture shock! From 2007-2010 I taught high school environmental science, biology, forensic science, and anatomy and physiology at Weequahic High School. It took some practice, but after many tearful nights and a handful of wonderful mentors I grew to love teaching and hope to continue in the future. However, after 3 years of no sleep, 7-day work weeks, hours of grading, mentoring, and lesson planning, I thought grad school sounded like an excellent idea and I joined the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

Mikaela ProvostSeining for salmon on the F/V Salmonberry near Kodiak Island in Ugak Bay.

Under the supervision of Olaf Jensen, I am now working on black sea bass (Centropristis striata), a commercially and recreationally fished species along the east coast of the US. As a protogynous hermaphrodite, black sea bass change sex from female to male at larger sizes. Fishing regulations allow fishermen to keep only the largest fish, which results in disproportionately high fishing mortality on male black sea bass. With higher fishing pressure, female black sea bass may (1) change sex at early ages to replace lost males, or (2) reproductively active females may experience sperm limitation if females are not able to undergo sex change at earlier ages. In either case, managing a sex-changing fish presents unique challenges to fishery managers. We hope to learn more about the timing and frequency of sex change in order to elucidate some of the challenges surrounding heavily managed protogynous fish populations. I'm incredibly grateful I get to do work on things I find truly fascinating and I'm excited that my work may one day have a positive impact on sustainable fisheries.

Mikaela ProvostMixing 13C into a relatively large lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to look at carbon cycling
Mikaela ProvostMy Forensic Science class with Anne Milgram, New Jersey's Attorerny General at the time (in 2009)