Benjamin Letcher

Affiliated Investigator
Section Leader (USGS)
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Environmental Conservation (UMass Amherst)

Consortium Institution: 

University of Massachusetts

Affiliations: 

S.O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center

Education: 

B.S.: Biology, Trinity College, 1985
M.S.: Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, 1990
Ph.D.: Zoology and Statistics, North Carolina State University, 1994

Website: 

Experience: 

Postdoctoral Researcher, SUNY Stony Brook, 1994

Research Interests: 

I am interested in how individual variation gets ramped up to population dynamics and to evolutionary processes. Does individual variation matter or does it get averaged out once it gets scaled up to population levels across years? Does the relative importance of individual variation differ across systems and species? Will habitat alterations like climate change and habitat fragmentation increase or temper the importance of individual variation?

Small streams represent an excellent system to address these questions. Since 1997, we have been conducting long-term studies with individually-tagged stream salmonids to explore spatial and temporal variation in growth, survival, movement, reproductive success and selection. We use these observations of individuals in the wild to understand specific processes (growth, movement, and survival) and to combine processes into projection models to evaluate effects of environmental variability and management actions. We are also currently extending these models to accommodate variation in reproductive success and lifetime fitness. By adding estimates of heritability for key traits, we hope to build more realistic