Discovering the Temperature Limits of Pacific Cod

Living in a lakeside cabin in Minnesota as a kid, Ben Laurel became interested in fishing at a young age. He learned that some lakes were generally warmer and some were colder, and as a result, they held different species of fish.

Today, Laurel’s research is based on the same principles he learned as a kid, that fish biology and where fish species live are heavily linked to water temperature. But instead of looking at Midwestern lakes, he now focuses on how rising temperatures driven by climate change are impacting marine fish populations in Alaskan waters.

When Ben isn’t in the field—catching Alaskan groundfish for scientific purposes—he researches young fish in the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s unique cold water lab. The lab allows scientists to successfully study species from all regions of Alaska, including the Arctic. One of the main species he focuses on is Pacific cod. Pacific cod is the second largest commercial groundfish catch in Alaska, which makes understanding its future geographic distribution and abundance all the more important. But more than ever, the intensifying effects of climate change are hurting this fishery.

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