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Sarah Hinckley Retires With 31 Years of Federal Service

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Sarah Hinckley receives her retirement certifcate from Recruitment Processes Program manager Jeff Napp.

Dr. Sarah Hinckley of the RACE Division’s Recruitment Processes Program retired from the Alaska Fisheries Science on 4 January 2013 after 31 years of federal service.

Sarah began her federal service in 1980 as a data analyst and field scientist at the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Center. As part of her Master’s graduate research (1984-86), she was responsible for designing and conducting a study of the fecundity and spawning dynamics of walleye pollock in the eastern Bering Sea. Sarah soon became interested in ecological and ecosystem modeling and returned to the University of Washington School of Fisheries and Aquatic Science for her doctorate. She received her Ph.D. in 1999 and since then has been active in the scientific modeling community. Her early work focused on biophysical models of walleye pollock recruitment in the Gulf of Alaska.  

Sarah was a pioneer in implementing individual-based modeling (IBM) in Alaskan waters. She developed one of the first complex biophysical models which coupled three separate models together to examine walleye pollock recruitment:  a hydrodynamic model of ocean circulation; a Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Zooplankton model describing lower trophic level production; a complex IBM model that described larval fish biology. The IBM model was an innovation itself because it explicitly simulated important life processes such as: egg development, growth, mortality, bioenergetics and movement for eggs, larvae, and early juvenile walleye pollock. Simulations from the model improved our understanding of biophysical processes that determine fisheries recruitment. Her methodologies formed the basis of future modeling work in the Recruitment Processes Program and in other research groups around the world because her methods could be applied to other economically important species in other large marine ecosystems.

In recent years, Sarah led a large study to model transport and survival of larval snow crab in the eastern Bering Sea using IBM models. This work resulted in significant advances in explaining life history patterns of snow crab and variability in recruitment as it relates to climate variability and change. In addition, she was an important member of the modeling teams for large multi-institutional programs such as the NE Pacific GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics), and the Gulf of Alaska IERP (Integrated Ecosystem Research Program).  The latter program is attempting to build coupled models for four new species:  Pacific cod, arrowtooth flounder, sablefish, and Pacific Ocean perch.

By Ann Matarese, Carolina Parada, and Jeff Napp.

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