CSUN grant recipient uses award for research on sex-changing fish

Berlyn Reisenauer

With a $3,000 grant, CSUN graduate student Michael Schram is conducting research on the effect sex-selective fishing plays on sex-changing fish.

Since male and female fish are separated by size, fishermen who target one size of fish target one sex.

“Primarily, I’m looking at reproduction and growth, two important aspects for the maintenance of sustainable populations,” said Schram. “As most sex-changing species are large and mobile, I’m using a small goby [small fish] as a model to study these effects under stimulated selective harvesting.”

Schram is one of 32 recipients who received a share of a grant worth $85,500 earlier this year from the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST), a program that helps fund marine-related research among schools in the CSU system.

COAST offers awards for students to continue thorough research.

Prior to starting on his master’s degree, Schram took a one-year break.

“During that year I took a semester of courses on Catalina Island as a post-bac student and volunteered in the lab I’m currently in to gain more experience,” Schram said.

Santa Catalina Island is also where Schram’s current work is taking place. All of his boating and SCUBA diving needs are provided there.

The grant Schram received from COAST isn’t his first award. He said this is the fourth research grant he has received during his two years as a CSUN graduate student.

“Earlier this year I received Thesis Support from the Offices of Graduate Studies,” he said. “Last year I also obtained funding from Sigma-Xi, a highly competitive grant as part of a nationwide scientific association, as well as the CSUN Association of Retired Faculty.”

Currently, through the CSUN graduate program, Schram is able to work as a part-time teaching associate for Biology 100 labs. Between teaching, learning, research and occasional volunteer work, Schram doesn’t have much time for anything else.

The CSUN graduate hopes to finish his thesis by March or April 2014, but has yet to decide his path from there.

“Part of me really wants to pursue a [doctorate], other parts of me say that it’s time to step away from school for a little bit,” Schram said. “I haven’t decided just yet, but I know I would like to continue working on research in some aspect.”

Schram has a passion for the unknown.

“I can walk around all day, any day and see the same typical things that everyone else can,” Schram said. “But I can throw on a set of scuba gear and see things that maybe only 10 percent of anyone will see. Then, I can throw science into the mix and maybe see or do things that only 10 percent of that 10 percent will ever experience.”

With an appreciation for all the support, Schram is proud and happy about the award.

“This study is a collaboration of minds with input from colleagues, faculty members and my thesis advisor, Dr. Mark Steele, but at the end of the day it’s really my baby so to speak. For someone to basically invest in that is always a good feeling,” he said.