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Researchers for SCeMFiS include finfish and shellfish biologists as well as experts in marine mammal populations.


Jill Hendon
jill hendon
Jill Hendon in the field and office - Photos: USM

Jill Hendon, Research Scientist at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Jill Hendon is a research scientist in the Center for Fisheries Research and Development at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory (part of the University of Southern Mississippi).  She has a bachelor of science from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire and a master of science from the University of Southern Mississippi.  Her current work focuses on distribution, movement, population monitoring, and reproduction/age and growth of coastal shark species. She manages several long-term population monitoring projects focusing on shark and sport fish species, as well as seasonal trawl and plankton surveys funded by the Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program.  Ms. Hendon also serves on the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Advisory Panel for the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species, Southeast Data Assessment and Review board.  Recently, Ms. Hendon was recognized by the American Fisheries Society as a Certified Fisheries Professional.  She is currently working on the SCeMFis funded “Optimization of survey methodology for black sea bass” and “Design studies for additional research on the biology and sampling of monkfish and yellowtail flounder.”  Both projects will require a field survey component that Ms. Hendon will coordinate and manage in collaboration with the respective industry partners.

Robert Leaf
Dr. Rober Leaf - Photo: USM

Robert Leaf, Assistant Professor at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Dr. Robert Leaf joined GCRL in September of 2012 and has expertise in quantitative methods and computer-intensive modeling approaches. The goals of these analyses are to understand population regulation and appropriate and effective conservation and management strategies. Dr. Leaf received his Ph.D. in Fishery and Wildlife Sciences from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2010, where he studied how phenology of individuals in harvested populations were altered under size-selective fishing. As a post-doctoral researcher in NOAA’s “Fisheries and the Environment” program, Dr. Leaf examined how phytoplankton bloom phenology determined recruitment patterns in northeast Atlantic ground fishes. His current work involves assessment of Gulf Menhaden, Gulf of Mexico Blue Crab, and Mississippi’s Red Drum stock. He currently mentors two masters-level graduate students Robert Trigg and Stephanie Taylor. Ms. Taylor is partially supported by SCEMFIS funding.


Through innovative education of talented graduate and undergraduate students, the I/UCRCs are providing the next generation of scientists with a broad, industrially oriented perspective on research and practice.

kelsey lobster
Kelsey Kuykendall holds a large lobster - Photos: Kelsey Kuykendall

Kelsey Kuykendall: graduate student at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

My name is Kelsey Kuykendall and I am a Master’s student at the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. I began my degree in August of 2013 with Dr. Eric Powell studying area management of the Atlantic surf clam. I have experienced many new opportunities for both learning and expanding my understanding of the fisheries industry. I have had the chance to travel to many interesting places from Annapolis, Maryland, to New Bedford, New Hampshire. Along the way, I have seen a total of seven major cities in just my first semester. Not only has being a SCeMFiS grad student provided experience in travel, but it also provides a possibility to grow as a researcher by providing interactions with academic and industry leadership. I have met a variety of influences that help to clarify the many vague aspects of research from computer programmers to clam boat captains. SCeMFiS provides the opportunity to be a well-balanced student between experience and academics.  

Poster from Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Meeting, December 2013


Stephanie Taylor
Stephanie Taylor holding a small stingray - Photo: Leah Mathias

Stephanie Taylor: graduate student at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

I am a Master’s student and Graduate Assistant at University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and I will be graduating May 2014. I am currently working on my Master’s in Coastal Sciences with a concentration in fisheries. I am investigating the ichthyoplankton community composition of both the Loop Current and Sargassum in the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current and Sargassum habitats are thought to provide important habitats to ichthyoplankton by providing a refuge and serving to aggregate prey in an otherwise oligotrophic pelagic environment. The goal of this study is to characterize the density of ichthyoplankton and community composition within each habitat.

I am also currently working with my advisor Dr. Robert Leaf and Jill Hendon on modeling black sea bass populations in the North Atlantic. Working in this assistantship has given me the opportunity to learn more about black sea bass, the spatial statistics, and modeling of fish populations. I have not yet assisted in presenting this work but will be doing so soon. This grant is a great way for me to meet new colleagues, present our work on black sea bass, and my work as a graduate student. This opportunity has given me a chance to finish my research and graduate along with gaining experience concerning modeling and fisheries. After graduation, I am looking forward to a new career that I hope will be work concerning marine science or fisheries. I hope that in my new job I will be able to use my knowledge of multivariate statistics and the marine environment/biology to improve projects and provide evidence for those works. 

Poster from Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council Meeting, December 2013

Jessica Bergeron: graduate student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, Virginia

Jess Bergeron
Jess Bergeron with a gigantic lobster!

I am a Master’s student at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Co-advised by Dr. Roger Mann and Dr. David Rudders studying growth and shell morphology of the Atlantic sea scallop.  I enrolled as a student in August of 2012, but have been a part of the VIMS community since May 2011 when I started as a laboratory and research technician. During my time at VIMS I have had to opportunity to participate in many sea scallop survey and research trips on board commercial scallop boats through the Northwest Atlantic. Our most recent research trip, in collaboration with the University of Delaware, employed an autonomous underwater vehicle to access the impacts of a scallop dredge on the sea floor. As a student, I have also had the opportunity to travel to the UK to attend a workshop on methods in sclerochronology at Bangor University’s School of Ocean Sciences. I will be using the methods I learned there in my thesis project.