March 2012 Archives

Ph.D. Metadata

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Having defended my dissertation approximately 48 days ago, I've had some time to reflect on the process and experience of working on a Ph.D.  Sadly, I've come to no revelations or even iotas of wisdom to confer.  Instead, I've decided to spew a series of mildly interesting statistics, and to let you, dear reader, come to your own conclusions.

To youngsters considering the prospect of a Ph.D. program, take note.  You can safely expect all of these effects.

Statistic #1
: Coffee consumption. In the weeks leading up to my defense, my coffee consumption increased by about 50%.  You can see the sharp increase in the attached plot, and some of the effects it had on my web-making abilities.



Statistic #2
: MATLAB burnout.  I counted in my logs 8,762,838 lines of MATLAB code (including the script that I wrote to count lines of code).  Yes, that's almost 9 million lines.  No wonder my keyboard looks like a scene from The Thing.  I can only assume that a significant chunk of that is due to large matrices accidentally displayed to the screen.

Statistic #3: Herding cats.  It takes three months of rescheduling and postponing in order to get five (excellent) committee members in the same place at the same time for a defense.  Without Skype, it may not have been possible at all.

Statistic #4: Days at sea. Something to think about if you're planning a Ph.D. in oceanography.  Not as relevant if you're studying gender roles during the Enlightenment.


Statistic #5: Reproductive output. 

   Before starting my program, r = 0 per day. 

   Since starting my program, r = 4.6e-4 per day. 

This represents a very significant increase.

-Nick Record, signing off.

HMS AP Meeting Day 2

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Well, I will keep this short since our days have been long and jam packed with discussion.  Today the focus was on amendments to the shark plan and swordfish amendments.  I will not address each of these in the detail we discussed, but I will say that a common theme across all HMS species is the lack of certainty with the stock assessments for these species.  In fact, for many species of large and coastal shark species there is so little data or the data is so poor the assessments scientist cannot even make a recommendation as to how the stock should be managed.  Also, some species of coastal sharks are thought to be so low in numbers that their rebuilding plans are to set to achieve rebuilt stats by 2070-2099.  That is not a typo.........the stocks for some of these species would take almost 100 years to rebuild.  Now this is, in my opinion, a little ridiculous since we can barely assess stock within a couple of years.  In any case I think it indicates there are some serious problems with some of these species.  At the end of the day comments on bluefin were extended about another 30 minutes and then a small off the record discussion went on for another hour or so til about 7:30pm.  Sorry to keep this short, but gotta run.  

HMS AP Meeting

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Hello all.  Well, I am quite behind in making my first blog entry as a member of the lab, but here goes.  I was recently appointed to the Highly Migratory Species Advisory Panel which meets twice a year in DC to discuss the challenges of incorporating the international management of tuna, billfish, sharks, and swordfish at the domestic level.  For those of you not familiar with the process you can kind of think of it like a regional management council meeting, but with an international component and covering the entire eastern seaboard including the Gulf of Mexico and waters beyond the exclusive economic zone (out past 200 miles).  The members of the meeting are from a diverse group of organizations which include the NMFS, commercial and recreational fishermen, academic (my position), and environmental (PEW, OCEANA, Environmental Defense etc).  The morning session included mostly updates on the ICCAT meeting and recommendations followed by the proposed fishing quotas for the different user groups within the U.S. domestic fleets.  In case you do not know there are several groups which receive bluefin quota those include the haroon, purse seine, longline, recreational, and commercial rod and reel/handline.  A large portion of the afternoon was dedicated to going over several possible amendments to current issues in the bluefin fishery.  Most of this time was spent discussing the bycatch issue in the pelagic long line fleet.  For those who do not know the quota from ICCAT is strict, and overage has to be accounted for and even fish that are not landed count against the quota.  Over the past few seasons there have been increased interaction between the longline fleet and bluefin.  Now, there is no directed fishery for bluefin by longlines so this is all incidental bycatch.  Nonetheless the fish have to be counted and if one group goes over quota has to be pulled from the reserve or taken from another category and transferred to cover the overage.  If you cannot cover this the US will incur a penalty the next year and be out of compliance with ICCAT.  Not to go into too much detail, but the issue is complex and options span the range of simply putting observers on boats to shutting down the Gulf of Mexico (the entire thing!) to pelagic longline to protect bluefin on the spawning grounds.  As you can imagine such topics brought up some lively discussion.  All in all the day went well and while there are extreme differences in the views shared by the different groups the conversation remains civil and constructive.  Things take a long time to move forward in this process which can be a good thing as the panel weighs lots of different options for addressing the current issues facing the fisheries.  Well, I will leave it there, tomorrow we move onto sharks followed by swordfish the next day.  I will keep you posted.  

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