Fellows Highlight: Amanda Davis

Thursday, September 19, 2019
Amanda Davis holding a scup

Amanda Davis holding a scup

Amanda is investigating how climate change is challenging the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of New England's seafood industry and how consumers can offer support.

Current literature shows that warming ocean waters are redistributing fish species and increasing costs for fishers to reach shifting populations.  This economic and sustainability issue is magnified since fishers currently receive a low value for their catch, especially for lesser known yet abundant species, partially due to pricing pressure from cheaper imported seafood. Amanda is exploring how consumers are currently interacting with their local seafood options such as hake, scup, and Atlantic Pollock, and identifying which fish are both adaptive to climate change and have potential with consumers. Fishers are catching these species, but most are not making it to the consumer. 

Amanda became fascinated with New England’s seafood while working in a restaurant in western Massachusetts. Her employer began buying seafood from BerkShore, a seafood distributor that specializes in connecting chefs with their local sustainable seafood options. After learning about all of New England’s local seafood options and how many species are underutilized, she saw a significant sustainability issue - few restaurants sell local fish, especially underutilized species.  After exploring this issue more, she founded Our Wicked Fish, a nonprofit organization that connects consumers with their local seafood options by showcasing restaurants and marketplaces that offer underutilized species.” NE CASC’s Michelle Staudinger, familiar with Amanda’s work as a research assistant, heard about her efforts and took her on as a NE CASC Research Fellow to investigate climate change impacts on the New England seafood industry and potential pathways to climate-smart consumption.

Besides speaking with stakeholders, Amanda is surveying the seafood industry and consumers.  Survey results will allow her to infer “the extent these groups handle and interact with a suite of about 20 fish species and how the species flow through the chain of custody.” Using this information, stakeholders can decide which species need more support to get onto consumers’ plates. This step involves chefs’ input, valuable because their social standing enables them to influence consumers’ food perceptions and decisions.

Amanda is using reviewing literature to identify “which species are projected to adapt to climate change, which ones are projected to shift their populations, and which species are shifting into New England. Results of Amanda’s surveys, taste test experiments with the Department of Food Science, and literature review can “evaluate which fish species have the most potential with consumers while simultaneously supporting sustainable fishery and climate adaptation goals.”

Kate Masury, Program Director of Eating with the Ecosystem, is benefitting from Amanda’s efforts. She stated, “Amanda's research is incredibly relevant and helpful towards our work at Eating with the Ecosystem. As an organization who works to promote healthy ecosystems and fisheries through encouraging consumers to eat a diversity of local species in proportion to their natural abundances, this research provides information that we can use to build stronger local demand for many of the abundant yet lesser know local and emerging species. We are excited to see the results and share them with our consumer, chef, and retail market partners.“

The fruits of Amanda’s research can be so practically applied.  “I’m adamant about doing applied science,” Amanda says. “Which is why I value working within the NE CASC.” She relishes how the unique mission of NE CASC and it’s rigorous academic environment encourages and supports focus on applied science research aimed at informing stakeholders.

See Amanda's profile here >>