Patterns of Dispersal, Spatial Ecology, and Population Genetics: Tracking Gag groupers (Mycteroperca microlepis) with Genetic Fingerprints

EPA Grant Number: F5E11175
Title: Patterns of Dispersal, Spatial Ecology, and Population Genetics: Tracking Gag groupers (Mycteroperca microlepis) with Genetic Fingerprints
Investigators: Jue, Nathaniel K.
Institution: Florida State University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 5, 2005 through August 8, 2005
Project Amount: $106,165
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Our knowledge of the directions and distances over which marine organisms disperse offspring, especially during their early life history, is often very weak, yet critical for the scientific guidance of important policy issues. This information is particularly needed in the implementation of spatially explicit management plans (such as the use of Marine Protected Areas) for fishery systems such as Gag grouper, Mycteroperca microlepis, which is the study species for my dissertation. The objective of my research is to assess and explicate the role of early life history dispersal patterns in species ecology and population dynamics by addressing two principal questions:

  1. who is contributing to successful larval recruitment
  2. and where are these individuals located.

This project will address principal questions about how and to where marine larvae disperse. This is a key issue in spatially-explicit management approaches such as Marine Protected Areas and Ecosystem-Based Management. This study will provide important information on the dispersal and recruitment in an important fishery resource in the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico, Gag grouper, or Mycteroperca microlepis. Funds from this fellowship will support molecular work and sampling efforts along the Gulf coast as well as allow me to work more fully on my research by giving me freedom from other teaching and research commitments.


To accomplish these objectives, I will first examine the spatial distribution of neutral molecular marker genotypes to analyze the level and scale of population genetic structure at specific life stages in order to infer an underlying relationship in dispersal patterns. Second, I will use spatially, and temporally, explicit information on the distribution of juvenile genotypes and additional information on the distribution of adult spawning mass genotypes to assign juvenile cohorts to adult “source” populations and identify likely dispersal patterns.

Expected Results:

I will be able to assess the role of chance in larval dispersal, in terms of variance in adult reproductive success, and determine whether the patterns found are consistent ecological processes. Also, by treating space explicitly, the scale of these ecological processes and the role of environmental factors in conferring structure to dispersal processes and life history strategies will be directly assessable.

Supplemental Keywords:

Population Genetics; Fisheries; Ecology; Marine Protected Areas; Mycteroperca microlepis; Larval Dispersal; Population Structure; Molecular Markers, Grouper,, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Habitat, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, habitat dynamics, fish, habitat use, animal responses, spatial ecology, population genetics, genetic markers, breeding habitat

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final