I am involved in a range of research projects. My overriding interest is in trying to make natural resource management biological, socially and economically sustainable. My graduate training was in population dynamics and modelling, with my Ph.D. subject on cyclic microtine rodents done with Charley Krebs. However, I was also working closely with Carl Walters on modelling, and gradually moved to working on natural resources and primarily fish.
Currently most of my students work on some aspect of quantitative population dynamics. The topics listed are the major areas of current and past research, and should provide an overview of things that I and my students are interested in. At present I spend most of the summer in Alaska doing research and teaching. I have no teaching duties in our winter quarter and generally spend it in New Zealand, and when possible in the Serengeti. I try to get several of my students to spend time with me in New Zealand, and of course in Alaska.
In the late 1970s the concept of Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources emerged from a group working at the University of British Columbia. In 1976 Carl Walters and I published the first article on the subject “Adaptive control of fishing systems” and in 1978 the review article “Ecological optimization and adaptive management.” In 1978 a group of about 10 of us published the book “Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management” edited by CS Holling. Subsequently Carl Walters did the definitive book on the subject “Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources.”
In the intervening years Adaptive Management has been whole-heartily embraced by dozens of resource management agencies and the term is nearly as ubiquitous as sustainability.
A large portion of my work in the last 30 years has revolved around issues of adaptive management. The two primary areas have been in examining how (and if) organizations can learn from experience, that is can they actually manage adaptively, and secondly in developing statistical methods to be used in the process of adaptive management.
- C.S. Holling, ed. 1978. Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management. Blackburn Press.
- C. Walters. 1986. Adaptive Management of Renewable Resources. Blackburn Press.
- Walters, C.J. and R. Hilborn. 1976. Adaptive control of fishing systems. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada 33:145-159.
Since 1946 the University of Washington has maintained a series of field camps in western Alaska devoted to the study of the salmon resources and the fisheries that depend upon them. We have camps at 7 sites in the Bristol Bay and Chignik watersheds that involve about 60 different people in the summer doing research, teaching and taking course in field biology and salmon management, and working with local groups. The overall research themes include genetics, behavior, evolution, population dynamics, harvest strategies and the economics of subsistence and commercial fisheries. Funding comes from a wide range of sources including the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Pew Institute of Ocean Sciences, NOAA and Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
My own research projects include (1) intensive biological studies on two small streams in which all individuals are marked, resighted every day, and sampled for DNA, (2) analysis of optimal harvesting strategies and (3) analysis of the commercial fishing fleets and evaluating options for making the fisheries both biologically and economically sustainable.
Ryan Simmons is doing his thesis work at our Chignik site.
COLERAINE is a computer package to facilitate the use of statistical catch-at-age models in fisheries analysis. It was developed with funding from the New Zealand Government and New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, and has been used in the analysis of several dozen fisheries. COLERAINE is coded in AD-Model Builder and uses EXCEL as in input and output interface. The executable and codes are freely available from the web site given below, but anyone wishing to modify the code and recompile will need to buy a copy of the AD-Model Builder software from the manufacturers. Two other packages to perform statistical catch at age analysis that are available are the SYNTHESIS II available from Rick Methot of NOAA, and CASAL, developed by NIWA in New Zealand.
Arni Magnusson has used COLERAINE extensively in his Ph.D. work.
I have long been interested in the ecological study of fishing fleets, essentially looking at fishermen in the same way that an ecologist looks at animal predators. On my publications page you will find a series of papers in the 1980s examining the B.C. salmon fleet, and subsequent work on abalone and lobster fleets in Australia. Recently a group of us at UW have completed and submitted an extensive review article on the dynamics of fishing fleets, with my former student Trevor Branch, the lead author. Several articles from Trevor’s thesis on the dynamics of the British Columbia groundfish trawl fleet have appeared recently or are in press. Much of my current work on the Alaska salmon fisheries is involved in the dynamics of fishing fleets (see Alaska Salmon section of research page), and much of the work on the Flow-Fish-Fishing explores the fishing fleets.
Ever since I was employed by the Salmonid Enhancement Program of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans I have had a strong interest in the success and failure of hatcheries and artificial propagation, both for salmon and in recent years for marine fish as well. A number of us in the 1980’s raised concerns about the impact of hatcheries on wild fish, and I have published quite a few papers exploring the issues associated with artificial propagation. A group of us have a long review paper on hatcheries for salmon that is in press at Advances in Marine Biology.
None of my current students are working directly on this issue. Former students who looked at various aspects of salmon hatcheries in their thesis work include Miguel Pascual, Milo Adkison, John Winton, Claribel Coronado-Von Bockelman and Arni Magnusson.
This is a research theme that encompasses my interest in both aquatic and terrestrial systems. I have done several articles recently on marine protected areas as a fisheries management tool, and much of our work in the flow-fish-fishing project is associated with this issue. My work in the Serengeti ecosystem centers around a large protected area and we have explored the impact of human activity in the form of illegal harvesting on the animals within the protected area. The concept of community based conservation in terrestrial systems is closely related to the ideas of community control in fisheries management, and I hope to blend these two spheres in some of my work in the next few years.
Nicholas Gutierrez, Carey McGilliard, and Suresh Sethi are all exploring aspects of protected areas in their thesis work.
Much of my work in the last 20 years has been in the area of fisheries stock assessment, particularly the development of Bayesian methods. The New Zealand research project, which began in 1990 was the center of development of these methods, with students and post-docs and consultants such as Murdoch McAllister, Andre Punt, Ana Parma, Mark Maunder and Vivian Haist heavily involved. Of my recent students, Ian Stewart is looking at a number of assessment issues for flatfish on the west coast of the US, Arni Magnusson is exploring the relationship between data, models and knowledge in stock assessments, Juan Valero is looking at the dynamics and assessment of geoducks, Eric Ward is exploring a range of issues in assessment of marine mammal populations and Allan Hicks is examining assessments for orange roughy in New Zealand.
Work on marine stock assessment has been funded by NOAA, the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council, and the Canadian Sablefish Association.
Meta Analysis is the synthesis of many data sets to understand the nature of relationships that emerge from multiple sometimes conflicting studies. Martin Liermann and I published the first use of Bayesian hierarchic meta analysis in fisheries in 1997, and since then the field has grown considerably. Carolina Minte-Vera recently finished her Ph.D. exploring meta-analysis methods in the consideration of density-dependent growth, and Allan Hicks is using meta-analysis methods for analysis of orange roughy abundance estimation problems.
Since 1990 we have assisted the New Zealand fishing industry in developing stock assessment methods for the major commercial fisheries in New Zealand. This project proved the crucible for the development of Bayesian methods in fisheries stock assessment through the 1990s and several of the principle people involved, Murdoch McAllister, Andre Punt, Ana Parma, Mark Maunder and Vivian Haist have all gone on to be internationally recognized as leaders in the field. The methods we developed have now been accepted by the major research providers in New Zealand, and indeed adopted throughout much of the world. The Coleraine software is a product of this project.
Currently Allan Hicks works on New Zealand orange roughy, and over recent years I and usually 2-3 students spend several months in New Zealand in February to May involved in the stock assessment process. The intense period of weekly stock assessment meetings has proven to provide a good introduction for students to the realities of providing scientific advice to management, and other of my students including Arni Magnusson, Brandon Chasco, Eric Ward, Trevor Branch, Juan Valero and Carolina Minte-Vera have all participated in this project.
This work is funded by the New Zealand Seafood Industry Council.
In 1975 Tony Sinclair came to the University of British Columbia and introduced me to the problems of population dynamics in the Serengeti Ecosystem. The collaboration with Tony resulted in chapters in the first two books on the Serengeti he edited (published by U. Chicago Press). In 1991 Tony took me out to the Serengeti for 2 weeks, and I fell in love. I spent 6 months there from Sept 1993 to March 1994, which happened to coincide with the driest dry season yet recoded, and during this period nearly 1⁄2 of the animals in the park died. During this time Simon Mduma was completing his Ph.D field work in the Serengeti and we subsequently collaborated on a series of papers on the long term dynamics of the ecosystem.
I have been returning more or less each year for the last few years, and a NSF Biocomplexity project to Craig Packer, Mike Coughenhour, and Bob Holt has provided further incentives. In recent years I have been collaborating with Craig Packer on analysis of lion population dynamics data which resulted in a paper in Science, and with Sarah Durant on analysis carnivore census data and population estimates of cheetahs. I spent part of my sabbatical in December 2005 and January 2006 in the Serengeti looking largely at the analysis of poaching and did so again in January 2006. A paper in Science resulted from the work last year.
I am very interested in the nature of community based conservation in wildlife and the analogies to small scale community based management in fisheries. In the forthcoming book Serengeti IIII have worked with economists and sociologists on analysis of household dynamics on the edge of the park, and have a chapter on how ecological theory provides a framework for understanding long term changes in the Serengeti.
- Hilborn, R., P. Arcese, M. Borner, J. Hando, G. Hopcraft, M. Loibooki, S. Mduma, A.R.E. Sinclair. 2006. Effective enforcement in a conservation area. Science 314:1266.
- Packer, C., Hilborn, R., Mosser, A., Kissui, B., Borner, M., Hopcraft, G., Wilmshurst, J., Mduma, S. and Sinclair, A. R. E. 2005. Ecological Change, Group Territoriality, and Population Dynamics in Serengeti Lions. Science 307:390-393. (Note: access to the online article may be restricted to university/non-profit accounts; check with your campus library for further information [e.g., campus proxy connections for home computers]).
- Hilborn, R., Sinclair, A.R.E., 1979. A simulation of the wildebeest population, other ungulates, and their predators. In Sinclair, A.R.E., Norton-Griffiths, M. (eds) Serengeti: Dynamics of an Ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 287309.
- Hilborn, R. 1995. A model to evaluate alternative management policies for the SerengetiMara ecosystem. Pages 617-637 in A.R.E. Sinclair and P. Arcese (eds). Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management and Conservation of an ecosystem. sUniversity of Chicago Press.
- Sinclair, A. R. E. and Peter Arcese, editors. 1995. Serengeti II: Dynamics, Management, and Conservation of an Ecosystem. 673 p.
SHIRAZ is a framework for integrated analysis of habitat, hatchery and harvest impacts on salmon. The basic ideas and concepts go back to the early 1980s and the masters work of Elli Moussalli, followed up in the late 1990s by work with Rishi Sharma and Andy Cooper. The actual SHIRAZ model emerged from work with the Muckelshoot Indian Tribe. Currently a number of people at NOAA are using SHIRAZ and the SHIRAZ model is the computational framework for analyzing salmon impacts in the UW PRISM model.
The first paper describing the SHIRAZ model was published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.
- Scheuerell, M.D., R. Hilborn, M.H. Ruckelshaus, K.K. Bartz, K.M. Lagueux, A.D. Haas, K. Rawson. 2006. The Shiraz model: a tool for incorporating anthropogenic effects and fish–habitat relationships in conservation planning. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 63:1596-1607.
We all know the litany of fisheries failures of the last decades all the worlds fisheries are overexploited and fisheries management has failed. My perspective is different. I agree that most fisheries have failed to deliver anywhere near the potential benefits, and that many are overexploited. However there are fisheries that have achieved biological and economic sustainability. Rather than saying that fisheries management has failed, and calling for a new approach, I believe we should look at the fisheries that are successful and emulate what is working.
In recent years I have written several articles on this theme and am actively working in a number of places to try to implement change in the basic approach to fisheries. The central theme of my work is setting the incentives so that what is in the interest of fishermen is in the interest of society. This usually involves some form of “dedicated access” that is providing fishermen with a long term stake in the fishery. The most common form of dedicated access is Individual Transferable Quotas, although there are many other forms of dedicated access such as cooperatives, community allocations and community control, and even state ownership and auctions that can achieve solve many fisheries problems.
Currently I am working with sea-urchin fishermen in San Diego, and trawlers in Moro Bay California, to try to find ways of providing some form of dedicated access to improve the biological and economic sustainability of these resources. Several environmental NGO’s are also working with us in these areas and I am hopeful that there may be major progress in fisheries management in the next few years.