Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alabama
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Rabeni, C. F. and S. K. Brewer. 2014. Linking successful careers to successful fisheries. Future of Fisheries: Perspectives for the Next Generation of Professionals. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda.


The increasing understanding of the complex spatial and temporal scale of ecological interactions underlying most of the problems affecting fish populations has changed long-held attitudes among fisheries managers and researchers. Real progress is seen as resulting from collaborations from many disciplines with two emphases: partnering and accountability. Graduate students are increasingly a part of studies involving multidiscipline teams, more sophisticated analyses, and hopefully more relevance. With proper mentoring, the possibilities for real growth of graduate scientists are immense, without it we may be developing researchers and managers technically competent, but seriously flawed as problem solvers. What should the future hold for graduate education in fisheries? – particularly fish ecology? There will certainly be tradeoffs. More big picture understanding – an obvious plus, but which will likely leave less time for more specialized knowledge. More sophisticated technology and analyses will be required, likely resulting in less emphasis on conceptual understanding, and ecological principles. More understanding of associations, and less of causal mechanisms. Collaboration with other disciplines is certainly important, but can be a huge time commitment. Larger projects likely mean fewer projects, with fewer options for new students. More importantly, larger multidisciplinary projects will likely have well established objectives before the student is brought on, leaving less room for student creativity, and less need for student input. We outline the important relation between mentor and graduate student in this changing environment, and offer our opinions for a successful relationship.