Stanislaw (Stan) Kotwicki (PhD, 2014)
I grew up in Poland far away from the ocean. I remember my mom often bringing home pollock fillets for dinner. During that time (early 1980s), pollock was often the only fish we could get in the store. Later, during my studies on biological oceanography at the University of Gdansk (UG), I found out that pollock in Polish stores came mostly from the Bering Sea. At that time, I had no idea that in the future I would study pollock in the Bering Sea, work for NOAA, and attend SAFS. After completing my MS degree, I got a job at the UG Hel Marine Station in Poland where I worked for three years studying the benthic fauna of the Baltic Sea. Then in 1994, my wife and I decided to immigrate to the US. After a year, I started working as an observer in the Bering Sea groundfish fishery. In 1998, I got a job with the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and in 2001 joined the Bering Sea bottom trawl survey group in the Groundfish Assessment Program (GAP) in the Resource Assessment and Conservation Engineering Division at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). I worked mainly on research on survey catchability and on how to improve survey protocols and estimation methods. Interestingly, most of my work concentrated on pollock from the Bering Sea. While conducting my research, I quickly realized that I needed more training to keep up with the new developments in fishery science.
In 2008 (18 years after earning my MS), I decided to go back to school and joined SAFS as a PhD student. This was one of most exciting periods of my life. I found the atmosphere in SAFS very stimulating, with both professors and students working hard on the most pressing issues of world fisheries at a time of unprecedented development in fishing and monitoring technologies and environmental change. The classes I took were challenging, but also exciting and stimulating. I learned a lot and received tremendous help from my professors and mentors: Nate Mantua, André Punt, Jim Ianelli (PhD, 1993), and John Horne.
Now, my job is managing GAP activities in the AFSC. Our main task is to conduct bottom-trawl surveys to assess the condition of groundfish and shellfish stocks in Alaskan marine waters. We plan, execute, analyze, and report results from the surveys to establish time series of estimates of the distribution and abundance of Alaska groundfish resources in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea Shelf, Bering Sea Slope, and Aleutian Islands. GAP work also involves taking part in the stock assessment process by providing survey-derived population estimates for stock assessment models, collecting data necessary to obtain ecosystem indicators, and performing research relevant to Alaska fisheries. Our research focuses on improving methods to estimate the abundance of fish stocks from data collected during bottom-trawl and acoustic surveys. We also perform research on estimating survey gear selectivity and catchability, and we evaluate the effects of the environment on fish distribution and seasonal migrations. We cooperate with other programs within the AFSC to improve assessment of shellfish and fish species distributed in untrawlable areas unreachable by the bottom survey trawls. We also perform habitat research to delineate essential fish habitat and the impact of trawling on the sea bottom. We also conduct research on improving estimates of abundance of semipelagic species, which involves the development of methods for obtaining abundance estimates from combined bottom trawl and acoustic surveys. Many projects conducted within GAP would not be possible without cooperation between AFSC scientists and SAFS professors, postdocs, and students. I am really thankful for this cooperation.