Abigail Lynch

As concerns grow that climate change could undermine fishery protection efforts, Abigail Lynch says she wants to help resource managers make sound decisions about where and how to spend conservation dollars, “so they’re not throwing money into areas that won’t be suitable habitat in 50 years.”

Lynch, a doctoral student in Fisheries and Wildlife with an ESPP specialization, is working on a decision-support tool for managers that will be modeled on the Great Lakes, but applicable to other fisheries.

In addition to bachelor’s degrees in English and biology from the University of Virginia, she holds a master’s degree in population genetics from the College of William and Mary.

Her master’s thesis focused on menhaden – a small fish that plays a crucial role in ecosystems along the East Coast. Some feared that heavy fishing could wipe out what was thought to be a unique genetic stock of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay. Lynch allayed that concern by determining that there was one stock of menhaden along the coast, so the existing management practices didn’t threaten their genetic diversity.

Lynch was a Sea Grant Fellow at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when she met William Taylor, a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and associate director of Michigan Sea Grant. She says working with Taylor convinced her to come to MSU for her doctoral work.

“From that experience I learned how little impact science sometimes has on policy implementation,” she said. “Students who study natural resources generally have really good backgrounds in that, but applying it to policy isn’t necessarily their forte.” With an ESPP specialization, Lynch said, she hopes to be an exception.