We are happy to welcome Trevor Branch (@TrevorABranch, @BlueWhaleNews) to Real Scientists! Trevor is an Associate Professor at the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, in Seattle. His professional focus is on solving biological problems through data synthesis and mathematical models as well as work on a whole wide variety of research projects, including the following: assessing the global status and future directions of marine fisheries, testing hypotheses about how fisheries affect marine food webs using stock assessments, catches, and surveys, and detecting factors that influence patterns in fishery development. The human side of fisheries, including fishing behavior and fleet dynamics, especially as related to the effect of individual transferable quotas (“catch shares”) on the environment, target fisheries, discards, and quota utilization. Research on large whales, especially blue whales but also minkes and humpbacks, which has led to papers on abundance estimation, changes in population size over time, maps of occurrence and the separation of subspecies.
Modeling herring in Prince William Sound, delving into explanations for their collapse and failure to recover. Citation analysis: the futility of scientific rebuttals, usage of fishers vs. fishermen, and a website with the most-cited fisheries papers, books and databases of all time, the most cited papers in each year, and current controversies in fisheries science.
Additional topics that he is working on are the effects of ocean acidification on marine seafood and how overlooking opportunistic depletion can lead to extinction in multispecies systems.
Even with this impressive collection of projects going on, Trevor found the time to sit down and tell us a bit about himself:
How did you end up in science? Zoology always fascinated me from an early age, since my parents are both naturalists and marine biologists, and also enjoyed computer science. I meandered my way through grad school and countries, and worked as a research scientist for six years before a faculty job opened in my city and I got the job.
What brought you to your current field? Mostly serendipity, fisheries stock assessment is the perfect combination for those interested in animals, programming, math, and statistics. There happened to be an opening for a MS student at the University of Cape Town in this field when I finished my undergraduate, and I had the right skills: majors in zoology and computer science.
Tell us a bit about your work I use computer models, meta-analysis, and data synthesis, to solve real life problems in fisheries and whale populations. Much of my work revolves around analyzing other people’s data in novel ways: they get to have fun collecting the data and I have fun finding interesting patterns.
Why should the lay public care about your work? Fisheries are worth hundreds of billions of dollars annually and employ hundreds of millions of people directly and indirectly. My work aims to improve how we manage fisheries, and to train people to get more accurate estimates of sustainable levels of catch.
Do you have any interesting extracurricular obligations? I have a family and two youngish kids, that’s all I have time for. And travel. Especially safaris to Kruger National Park…
Any interesting hobbies you’d like to share? I love reading, and playing and watching sport. I played university level volleyball in South Africa, and now focus on tennis. I love hiking, beaches, mountains, wild places and wildlife.
How would you describe your ideal day off? A long walk on a beautiful beach with my family, followed by reading a great book.
Please welcome Trevor to Real Scientists!