Modeling Sand Shoals and their Value as Fish Habitat

May 20, 2020

Modeling Sand Shoals and their Value as Fish Habitat

Marine environments are under increased pressure to accommodate multiple resource uses, yet fish distributions and habitat relationships are often not identified at the scale needed to assess potential impacts from human uses.

NOAA scientists classified sand shoals and developed species distribution models to inform planning and assessment of sand dredging on the US Atlantic Shelf. For the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, we modeled select fish species,including shrimp, red snapper, lane snapper, black sea bass, and six shark species. Predictor variable development aimed to untangle the role of geomorphology, nearby wetlands, prey species, and oceanographic conditions in shaping species’ distributions. A decision-support tool, ShoalMATE (Shoal Map Assessment Tool for EFH), was developed as an interactive mapping and reporting tool to aide in the EFH assessment to minimize impacts to habitats.


Dr. Brad Pickens received his M.S. in Biological Science from Bowling Green State University and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University with a focus on wildlife and landscape ecology. Bradhas worked over 15 years delivering applied science to nonprofit organizations,federal and state agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, state wildlife departments, and more. In 2017, he joined CSS-Inc. and the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) as a Post-doc to embark on a project with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Dr. Chris Taylor received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology from North Carolina State University. He is a lead scientist in the Habitat Mapping Team of NCCOS’s Biogeography Branch and specializes in underwater acoustic and optical remote sensing for ecological assessments and ocean planning. He joined NOAA in 2008 after research faculty appointments at University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University.