The Center for Stock Assessment Research

The Center for Stock Assessment Research (CSTAR) is funded by the Santa Cruz Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS-SCL) to the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). CSTAR was formed in 2001, as a collaboration between the NMFS laboratories in Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove, with the objective of undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate training in the basic science associated with the problems of assessing the numerical abundance, spatial distribution, size distribution and reproductive status of commercially important fish species. A broad and deep understanding of population processes is critical to the development and management of sustainable fisheries.

Finding means to conserve fish populations and to achieve sustainable fisheries requires understanding the effects of fishing on behavior, life history and population biology of exploited fishes. The work of the Center focuses on using mathematical, statistical and computer models to solve important environmental and ecological problems. The work is grounded in data, and also seeks to expand the base of basic knowledge that supports rigorous application of science to real-world problems. Furthermore, research on marine fisheries conducted in the Center allows testing theoretical predictions via natural and human experiments on a scale that is appropriate for understanding the dynamics of ecosystems. Such large scale experiments are rarely available to the scientific community.

The foci of research in the Center for the period 2001-2006 are

Spatially explicit population dynamics

This area of research includes studies of variation in population processes in space and time, including variability in demographic processes, movement of individuals and populations, and the genetic structure and dynamics of spatially structured populations, with applications to marine protected areas and understanding the causes and consequences of spatial pattern of fishing effort.

Environmental variability and population processes

This area of research includes studies of the relationship between environment, population dynamics, and life history parameters such as growth rates, asymptotic size and age at first reproduction, with application to understanding the relationship between climate variability and sustainable fisheries.

Risk analysis

This area of research includes studies of decision-making and investment under uncertainty, particularly within a Bayesian framework, and ecological detection, with application to adaptive management.

Fish population and community ecology

This area of research includes studies of the population dynamics of fish, particularly when population size is depressed and multispecies interactions, with application towards recovery of overfished stocks and development of ecosystem-based approaches to understanding natural and human impacts on marine systems.

Scientists at CSTAR are also involved in ecoinformatics, that sub-field of bioinformatics involving the application of mathematics, statistics and information technologies to the analysis of the large ecological data sets which arise naturally in the study of fisheries.

To achieve its goals, the Center supports graduate student research and undergraduate internships and senior theses when those students work in partnership with NMFS scientists and UCSC faculty advisors. Graduate students will participate as members of a stock assessment team in their second or third years of graduate school.

The Center will also provide support to departments that invest faculty positions in areas relevant to the mission of the Center. The Center will sponsor a Visiting Scholars Program, to bring outstanding scientists to UCSC and NMFS-SCL for seminars and short courses.

The research and training of first class fishery scientists at CSTAR is science done in the national interest and moves in the direction outlined by the National Research Council in its report Recruiting Fihsery Scientists: Workshop on Stock Assessment and Social Science Careers.


Current members of CSTAR

Cindy Bessey (Staff member, Pacific Fisheries Environmental Group)

Edward (EJ) Dick (Staff member, NMFS Santa Cruz Laboratory and PhD student, Ocean Sciences)

Xi He (Staff member, NMFS Santa Cruz Laboratory)

Jeff Hinke (Staff member, Pacific Fisheries Environmental Group)

Kai Lorenzen (Sabbatical Visitor from Imperial College of Science and Technology)

Yasmin Lucero (PhD student, Ocean Sciences and NMFS/Sea Grant Fellow)

Gloria Moran (Assistant to Marc Mangel)

Alec MacCall (Staff member, NMFS Santa Cruz Laboratory, Co-director)

Marc Mangel (Faculty UCSC, Co-director)

Steve Munch (Post-doctoral fellow UCSC)

Anand Patil (PhDstudent, Computer Science)

Kate Siegfried (PhD student, Environmental Studies)

Bruno Sanso (Faculty, UCSC)

Melissa Snover (National Research Council Post-doctoral fellow)

Andi Stephens (PhD student, Ocean Sciences)

George Watters (Staff member, Pacific Fisheries Environmental Group)

Nick Wolf (Scientist, MRAG Americas, working at UCSC)


Biographies of CSTAR graduate students and post-docs


Former members of CSTAR and current positions

Suzanne Alonzo (Post-doctoral fellow), Assistant Researcher, Institute of Marine Sciences, UCSC

Holly Kindsvater (Senior Thesis Student), Visiting Research Student, Imperial College of Science and Technology

Chris Wilcox (PhD, Environmental Studies) Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Adelaide

Teresa Ish (MS, Ocean Sciences and California Sea Grant Fellow), Chief Scientific Officer, Sustainable Fishery Advocates


UCSC Coures Related to CSTAR training:

Winter 2002

Environmental Studies 291: Stochastic Population Theory, I

Ocean Sciences 242: Ocean Ecosystems


Spring 2002

Environmental Studies 124: Fishery Conservation and Management

Environmental Studies 291: Stochastic Population Theory, II


Fall 2002

Computer Engineering 107: Mathematical Methods of Systems Analysis (Stochastic)

Environmental Studies 201A: Keywords and Concepts

Engineering 156: Linear Statistical Models

Ocean Sciences 200: Physical Oceanography


Winter 2003

Engineering 206: Bayesian Statistics

Engineering 215: Mathematical Biology

Environmental Studies 201B: Keywords and Concepts

Ocean Sciences 242: Ocean Ecosystems


Spring 2003

Biology 252: Community Ecology

Engineerng 207: Intermediate Bayesian Statistics

Environmental Studies 201 M,N: Research in Environmental Studies

Ocean Sciences 220: Chemical Oceanography


Fall 2003

Engineering 256 Linear Models

Ocean Sciences 200: Physical Oceanography

Ocean Sciences 280: Marine Geology




Presentations by CSTAR students, post-docs and faculty

Publications by CSTAR students, post-docs and faculty 

 Press Releases About CSTAR

General information

Article from the New Scientist (22March 2003) on Bayesian approaches to stock assessment

Article from the Monterey Herald (2June 2003) on CSTAR


CSTAR/AMS Lecture Series in Applied Theoretical Ecology 2002-03*

January 13: Per Lundberg, Lund University (currently on sabbatical at NCEAS): Of birds and benthos: on environmental variability, monitoring and community composition

February 10: Larry Crowder, Duke University: Quantitative approaches to sea turtle bycatch: Protecting animals with ocean-sized habitats

February 28: Sarah Newkirk, Stanford University: Property Righs in EEZ Fisheries.

March 10: Russ Lande, UCSD: Accounting for stochasticity and uncertainty in sustainable harvesting strategies

March 14 Daniel Promislow, University of Georgia: Thinking About Longevity; New evolutionary perspectives on an old age problem

April 8: Gunnar Steffanson, Univ. of Iceland and Marine Research Institute, Reykjavik: A statistical approach to multispecies models of the marine ecosystem

April 14: Colette St. Mary, University of Florida.Estimating: Population Demography. Considering Its Implications For Management

May 12: Elizabeth Marschall, Ohio State University, "Using optimality models to investigate patterns of energy allocation in fish"



CSTAR/AMS Lecture Series in Applied Theoretical Ecology 2003-04*

20 October: Jon Brodziak, NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center: What are appropriate rebuilding targets for overfished stocks?

27 October: Katriona Shea, Pennsylvania State University: Management of Populations Under Uncertainty

17 November: Jim Kitchell, University of Wisconsin: Food Webs and Fisheries

12 January: Simon Levin, Princeton University: Resiliency and the management of complex adaptive systems.

9 February: Robert Francis, University of Washington: Marine fishery management from an ecosystem prespective:Searching for a path.

23 February: James Brown, University of New Mexico

8 March: Enric Cortes, Southeast Fisheries Science Center: Assessment of coastal shark stocks off the U.S. east coast: recent

12 April: Mercedes Pascaul, University of Michigan

10 May: Pamela Mace, Northeast Fisheries Science Center


*The CSTAR/AMS Seminar Series in Applied Theoretical Ecology is sponsored by the California Sea Grant and the Center for Stock Assessment Research  


CSTAR Theses and Technical Reports


T. Ish. 2003. Conceptual Tools for Managing Two Monterey Bay Fisheries. MSc. Thesis, Marine Sciences, UCSC.















Marc Mangel and Alec MacCall (, NMFS-SCL) are co-PIs of the CSTAR grant. Either one can be contacted for further information.

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