Professor Checkley Recognized for Global Economic Impact of Innovation

At the recent Tech Awards for Innovation, David Checkley, Ph.D., Professor of Oceanography at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), Integrative Oceanography Division, was feted along with a prestigious group of Laureates that were honored by the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California. These awards honor innovators and visionaries from around the world who are applying technology to profoundly improve the human condition in the categories of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development. Dr. Checkley was recognized for his innovative technology solution to further economic development. His invention, the Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler (CUFES), is a fish population management tool that enables people and economies to better manage fisheries around the globe.

Animal protein is necessary for proper human development and in many countries, the population relies heavily on fish for their protein needs. This occurs especially for many people that live in developing areas of the world where other protein sources such as beef or poultry are too costly or are not available. Of all the animal protein consumed by humans, 16% comes from fish.

Pelagic fish receive a lot of attention since they are easily harvested, feeding primarily in the surface layers of the ocean, and travelling frequently in large schools, turning and maneuvering in close formation. Common examples are anchovies, mackerels, sardines, and tuna. These fish are important since they comprise a large portion of the fish diet and economies of many coastal regions; and are susceptible to ocean conditions and overfishing. Careful management of populations of these fish is critical to sustaining their future availability.

The ability to track and estimate fish population is important for local economies and fishermen, whose livelihood depends on good catches. The fish population data can also be an indicator of the health of our oceans. Dr. Checkley’s interest in the spawning and growth patterns of pelagic fish and how they are affected by ocean physics led to the development of CUFES. In conjunction with colleagues from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Canadian Bedford Institute of Oceanography, CUFES was developed over a five-year period and consists of a submersible pump, a concentrating device, and a sample collector. The sample collector is linked to computers and other electronic devices that record data such as chlorophyll fluorescence, salinity, and ocean water temperature.

Data collected by CUFES in a specific area is crossreferenced with satellite imagery for the same area. This feature allows the analysis of spawning habitat and to estimate spawning biomass. CUFES is currently being used to sample fish eggs off the coasts of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, France, Spain, Portugal, and South Africa. This innovation contributes to the knowledge of oceans and the management of fish populations. UCSD TechTIPS licensed the CUFES trademark to Ocean Instruments, of San Diego.

Dr. Checkley has been a professor with UCSD since 1992 and has also taught at the University of Alaska, the University of Texas, and North Carolina State University. He received his B.S. in Oceanography and Zoology at the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography from UCSD and SIO. His many writings have focused on the spawning and development of pelagic fish and zooplankton ecology. Currently, Dr. Checkley is the Co-Chair of the Small Pelagic Fish and Climate Change (SPACC) Executive Committee of GLOBEC International and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Fisheries Oceanography.