The Nature Conservancy, URI award grant for marine conservation research

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Graduate student will study Rhode Island fish nurseries

NARRAGANSETT, RI – June 6, 2007 — A University of Rhode Island graduate student from Puerto Rico, Ivan Mateo, has been awarded a grant from The Nature Conservancy and URI for marine conservation. For the second year, the Conservancy and URI have awarded grants to support students working in coastal and marine conservation science and policy in collaboration with URI faculty.

Mateo will be researching the nurseries of tautog, an economically important species of fish, in Rhode Island.

“These grants and the partnership between URI and the Conservancy is supporting the next generation of marine conservation scientists,” said Lynne Hale, director of the Conservancy’s Global Marine Initiative. “As oceans and coasts continue to face increased threats, new and innovative thinking and research, such as what Mateo is pursuing, are needed to help protect our marine resources.”

The program provides a valuable collaboration said M. Beverly Swan, URI provost. “We are a research university. As such, we strive to involve students directly in research. This program is a model both of our goal and our accomplishments. We are extremely proud of these students.”

Mateo, whose work will be overseen by Dr. David Bengtson, will be examining the importance of open coastline and enclosed bays and lagoons as nursery habitats for tautog, an important species of fish in the region. “In light of the fact that the northeastern coast of the United States has experienced a major loss of its estuarine habitats due to human alteration of the coastal zone, data are needed to quantify the importance of specific coastal habitat types in sustaining tautog populations,” Mateo said in his abstract.

Mateo will use the grant to analyze chemical signatures from otolith organs, those that provide hearing and balance functions, in tautog that were collected in 2006. Through the analysis, researchers will be able to determine which nursery areas provide the greater numbers of adult fish so that efforts can be made to protect those areas.

With more than 100 marine projects in 22 countries and all coastal U.S. states, The Nature Conservancy focuses on marine conservation that achieves demonstrable results. Working with partners, the Conservancy creates lasting conservation results that benefit marine life, local communities and economies.