John Manderson

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Voices from the Science Centers


Voices from the Science Centers is an oral history initiative dedicated to documenting the institutional knowledge of fisheries scientists and administrators in the labs of NOAA’s Fisheries Science Centers.

Collection doi
Date of Interview
Biographical Sketch

Interview contains discussions of: NOAA, NMFS, ecology, marine science, fisheries science, commercial fishing, recreational fishing, ocean modeling, habitats, climate change, winter flounder, Magnuson Stevens Act. 

In this interview, Manderson discusses his work experience as a scientist for the National Marine Fisheries Service. His first job with NMFS was running an experimental ecology program in the Navesink Sandy Hook Bay estuary on nursery habitats for winter flounder. He emphasizes that his extensive experience around boats and fishing helped him to get the job, and his interest in how habitats are defined by the dynamics that occur in the liquid, and how aquatic habitats differ from terrestrial habitats. His work on winter flounder had to end because of climate change: spring was occurring earlier and earlier, and now when the flounder hatched the water was warm enough that their predators had already migrated.

He also discusses the work he has done on integrated ocean observation systems that combine many metrics like temperature, salinity, and oxygen into one model. His research goal was to develop a dynamic ocean model, and this was greatly helped by advancements in ocean monitoring technology and working with the fishermen themselves. Mandersonstresses the importance of actually working with fishermen and talking to them to gain an understanding of their intuition of the ocean. He also discusses how when there was a lot of funding in the early 2000s, the research could be more academic and experimental, but now there’s pressure for research to only be applied and relevant to management. Funding and climate change are currently the major drivers for research.

In the last part of the interview, Manderson discusses his belief that scientists need to take information from the fishing industry into account because there’s a wealth of data that would allow them to learn about issues years earlier. He feels that the distance most scientists place between themselves and the actual fishermen is a major fault of academic culture. Also, he describes the disconnect he sees between the science centers and the regional offices, and how that negatively affects everyone involved. Finally, he describes his passion for the water and working in the field with fishermen and fishing communities.

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