Research Focus

  • Our lab focuses on: quantitative fisheries ecology, population dynamics, and fisheries stock assessments and management.
  • We investigate the interactions between commercial fishing, ecological variables and dynamics of fisheries populations and communities.
  • Our goal is to develop sustainable fisheries and ecosystem-based management approach, using an interdisciplinary approach of fisheries biology, ecology, management policy, decision making theory, mathematical and statistical modeling, and computer simulations.

Chen Lab in the News

UMaine graduate students present at international marine conference

September 21, 2016

Five members of Dr. Yong Chen’s Lab in the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Maine have received external funding supports to present their fisheries research at an international conference this month. They are presenting at the Annual Science Conference (ASC) of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in Riga, Latvia at the end of September. ICES supports the sustainable use of the oceans through development of science and advice.

Dr. Jie Cao, a postdoctoral researcher; Mattie Rodrigue, a dual master’s student in marine biology and policy; Jocelyn Runnebaum, a Ph.D. candidate in marine biology; Kisei Tanaka, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and environmental sciences; and Mike Torre, a Ph.D. student in marine biology will all be presenting at the conference in Latvia.

They will be presenting research on a spatio-temporal model applied to survey abundances of Northern shrimp, a groundfish survey ran by both fishermen and scientists, a habitat suitability model for cusk using fishermen’s knowledge, American lobster shell disease, and a model of habitat suitability for sea scallops.

Some of their work highlights the importance of including fishermen’s knowledge and participation in sciences.

“Fishermen’s knowledge regarding important environmental variables for cusk is used to fine-tune habitat model development. Fishermen’s knowledge for areas where cusk are likely to be caught can also validate habitat suitability maps produced in modeling,” Jocelyn Runnebaum says.

All of their research is important to Maine, as these marine species are a part of many important fisheries in the Gulf of Maine.  

“The shrimp population that supports important fisheries in Maine experienced a sudden decline of all life history stages in 2012. Our study could potentially improve the stock assessment and management of the fisheries,” says Dr. Jie Cao.

“The expansion of lobster shell disease has become an emerging threat to the inshore lobster fisheries in the northeastern United States. The development of models to improve the efficiency and precision of existing monitoring programs has been advocated as an important step in mitigating its harmful effects,” Kisei Tanaka said.

These graduate students are excited to share their work with scientists from all over the world.

ICES ASC will be the first major conference that I attend during my PhD program and will provide me with excellent exposure to marine science research,” said Mike Torre.

It will be helpful to get feedback from researchers around the world who are looking to integrate sociology and economics into research and management of fisheries,” says Runnebaum.

“I hope to be able to meet with a multitude of disciplines who are all working toward sustainable fisheries management and be able to bring back some of their own knowledge to UMaine,” says Mattie Rodrigue.

Presenting their research will also help contribute to ICES’s mission of sustainable ocean use.

“My research addresses the principles of ICES that promote scientific research for optimum use of aquatic resources. I believe I can contribute to ICES’s efforts to aid effective implementation of ecosystem-based management policies,” said Tanaka.

Current Research Highlights

Survivability of recompressed barotraumatized groundfish bycatch in the Maine lobster fisherySurvivability of recompressed barotraumatized groundfish bycatch in the Maine lobster fishery

Atlantic cod and cusk are subject to barotrauma when quickly brought to the surface by lobster traps, which induces physical trauma to the fish. We want to test methods of reversing this physical trauma and thereby increasing thier survival rate.

Assessing Growth Rates and Habitat Preferences of Atlantic Halibut Off the Coast of Maine

Assessing Growth Rates and Habitat Preferences of Atlantic Halibut Off the Coast of Maine

This research aims to quantify growth rates of Atlantic halibut through otolith analysis and to describe habitat preferences by combining rigorous statistical analyses and modeling with fishermen’s knowledge.


Assessment and Management of American Lobster Fisheries

• Development of a user-friendly stock assessment model for the American lobster
• Developing and evaluating biological reference points for the American lobster fishery management
• Ecosystem dynamics of American lobster
• Evaluating lobster monitoring program

lobster distribution

Estimating season-, size-, and sex-specific spatial distribution of American lobster (Homarus americanus) using key habitat variables

Spatial distributions of American lobster are influenced by many factors. We developed a modeling approach for quantifying the season-, size-, and sex-specific lobster spatial distribution with respect to environmental and spatial variables in the Gulf of Maine.

sea scallopsAnalysis of the spatial distribution of fish populations with respect to habitat variables for sea scallops (Placopecten magellanicus) in the Gulf of Maine 

This research focuses on the incorporation of environmental variables into fisheries assessment. Photo Credit: NOAA


Feasibility of Certifying the Gulf of Maine Shrimp Trap Fishery as Sustainable

With an unstable market and an increased proportion of catch coming from the trap shrimp fishery the goal of this project is to understand the benefit and feasibility of certifying the trap fishery as sustainable with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


groundfish survey

Assessing the biological impacts of groundfish surveys- a metapopulation approach

This project seeks to evaluate the role played by population structure in shaping the statistical performance and ecological effects of alternative groundfish sampling strategies.

atlantic cod

Assessing the biological impacts of groundfish surveys- a metapopulation approach

The Gulf of Maine Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) fishery has suffered from stock collapse and an inability to recover. Managing cod stocks with regards to the biological scale of the fishery may have an impact on the recoverability of the stocks.