In partnership with other universities and organizations, the Aburto Lab tracks changes in the structure, function, and health of marine reef ecosystems by surveying fishes and invertebrates at numerous island and coastal sites. Through use of satellite tags, acoustics, and DNA analysis, researchers have established a baseline for different ecosystems and species as well as defined the genetic connectivity and spatial ecology of reefs and its inhabitants. With such results, members of the Aburto Lab have been able to delineate biological and temporal variances among areas and species of different levels of protection.
The Aburto Lab collaborates with scientists and students from UABC (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California) in Ensenada, Mexico, to monitor Baja California’s kelp forests. The Kelp Forests Ecology Group (KFEG) closely studies the spatio-temporal patterns and the roles of fish, macroinvertebrate, and macroalgae communities within those ecosystems with special interests in species of high ecological or commercial value. By collecting, analyzing, and disseminating this data, the Aburto Lab provides information to decision-makers to assist in management and conservation of Baja’s kelp forests.
PINboat is a citizen science effort that aims to enumerate the world’s fishing vessels and educate the public about fishing activities and impact. As an online platform, PINboat users count vessels anywhere in the world’s oceans by “pinning” boats within satellite images. Each image is roughly 10,000 square meters (one hectare), and users pin (mark) any boats that they may see. These pins are geographically tagged, allowing researchers to monitor boat traffic in a given area. PINboat is a tool to engage students in fisheries through lesson plans and teach the general public about the human impact’s on the ocean.
The Aburto Lab works with artisanal fishing communities in Mexico to understand the interactions between the ecosystem and the biological, economic, and social components of a fishery. By producing robust data from tracking fishing activities via GPS, logging landings, and biological data, students and staff of the Aburto Lab analyze the spatio-temporal trends of the Gulf of California’s key fisheries. The lab also trains and involves local fishers - instrumental to the design and implementation of sustainable management - in identifying and understanding interactions between artisanal fishing activities, target species, protected species and marine protected areas.
The ecological and economic value of mangroves and their ecosystem services are heavily studied by members of the Aburto Lab. Students and researchers investigate questions relevant to the ecosystem’s management at the municipal, state, federal, and international levels. The research encompasses using chemical and economic principles to document and gauge the value of mangrove-related activities, as well as the ecological and socio-economic consequences of losing these habitats. Through otolith and soil analysis, the Aburto Lab analyze how these habitats act as a nursery for fisheries, sequester carbon, and respond to climate change and human pressure.