Peter J. Auster

I am a Research Professor Emeritus of Marine Sciences and serve as the Science Director of the Northeast Underwater Research Technology & Education Center (NURTEC). I also hold an appointment as a Senior Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium. My research focuses on the ecology and conservation of fishes. This work has allowed me to participate as scientist or chief-scientist on over 60 major research cruises and a multitude of shore-based projects in the northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, Caribbean Sea, South China Sea, Indian Ocean, Sea of Cortez, and in the equatorial Pacific.

For the past 35+ years, I have conducted studies to define how variation across underwater landscapes mediates the distribution and abundance of fishes, understand the linkages between habitat level processes and population-community dynamics, and develop survey methods for fishes living in spatially complex habitats. From an applied science perspective, I have focused on understanding the ecological impacts of fishing and on developing a scientific basis for using marine protected areas as a conservation tool.

My basic approach to fieldwork has been to use the same types of techniques underwater that wildlife biologists use on land. That is, making direct underwater observations to study how individual animals react to variations in nature. I have used scuba, research submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous vehicles for this work. While studies in the field are used primarily to quantify patterns in nature, laboratory experiments are used to develop a mechanistic understanding of processes and collect data on rates of particular interactions (e.g., how habitat variability mediates rates of predation and predator recognition of prey). Computer modeling is then used to extrapolate results to population, community and regional scales.

I serve on a number of panels and committees that are focused on marine resource management and conservation and I am involved in several outreach initiatives that are targeted at informing the public about marine conservation issues.

Research Projects

The Long Island Sound Mapping and Research Collaborative – LISMaRC – Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Imaging Surveys of Northern Gulf of Maine/Jordan Basin Habitat Areas for Deep-sea Corals and Sponges – NOAA

CINAR: Investigating Coral Communities in the Gulf of Maine – NOAA

Exploration, mapping and surveys of the underwater habitats and ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve – NOAA

Oceanography Alumni

Kimberly Barber – M.Sc. 2007
Amy Ferland – M.Sc. 2007
Chiu-Yen Kuo – M.Sc. 2008
Victoria Price – M.Sc. 2012
Alison Tamsett – M.Sc. 2010

Honors Received

1999 – Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation

2000 – NOAA Environmental Hero Award

2001- Distinguished Conservation Scholar at Duke University Nicholas School of the Environment

2001 – American Oceans Campaign Ocean Hero

2005 – Fellow of The American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists

2007 – NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries Outstanding Volunteer Service Award

2010-11 – Mote Eminent Scholar in Fisheries Ecology at Florida State University

2010 – University of Connecticut at Avery Point Award for Excellence in Teaching


Watling, L. and P.J. Auster.  2017. Opinion: Seamounts on the high seas should be managed as vulnerable marine ecosystems. Frontiers in Marine Science 4:14. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2017.00014.

Auster, P.J. and J. Cortés.  2016.  Complexity in a facilitative behavior web of piscivores and associated species at Isla del Coco National Park (Eastern Tropical Pacific).  PeerJ Preprints 4:e2432v1.

Howell, P., J. Pereira, E. Schultz and P.J. Auster.  2016.  Habitat use in a depleted population of winter flounder Pseudopleuronectes americanus:  Insights into impediments to population recovery.  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 145:1208-1222.

Auster, P., A. Sánchez-Jiménez, A. Rodríguez-Arrieta, A. Quesada, C. Pérez, B. Naranjo-Elizondo, S. Blum & J. Cortés. 2016. Facilitative behavioral interactions between deepwater piscivores at Isla de Coco National Park and Las Gemelas Seamount, Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical/International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation, 64 (Supplement 1):187-196.

Koslow, J.A., P. Auster, O.A. Bergstad, J.M. Roberts, A. Rogers, M. Vecchione, P. Harris, J, Rice and P. Bernal.  2016.  Biological communities on seamounts and other submarine features potentially threatened by disturbance.  Chapter 51, p. 1-26 In: L. Inniss and A. Simcock (Joint Coordinators). The First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, World Ocean Assessment I. United Nations, New York.

Quattrini, A.M., M.S. Nizinski, J.D. Chaytor, A.W.J. Demopoulos, E.B. Roark, S.C. France, J.A. Moore, T.P. Heyl, P.J. Auster, B. Kinlan, C. Ruppel, K. Elliott, B. Kennedy, E. Loebecker, A. Skarke and T.M. Shank.  2015.  Exploration of the canyon incised continental margin of the northeastern United States reveals dynamic habitats and diverse communities.  PLoS ONE 10(10): e0139904.

Landi, A.A., J.C. Vokoun, P. Howell, P.Auster.  2015.  Resource selection of spawning horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) along a complex coastline: using field surveys and geospatial analyses to predict use of habitat patches.  Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems  25:380-395.

Stefaniak, L.M., P.J. Auster and I.G. Babb.  2014.  Loss of an erect sponge on a rock reef in Long Island Sound (northwest Atlantic).  Marine Biodiversity Records 7(e115):1-6. doi:10.1017/S1755267214001109.

Cook, R.R. and P.J. Auster.  2014.  Potential applications of simulated annealing to multi-species fish habitat conservation in the Gulf of Maine.  Chapter 9, p. 221-241 in: M. de Sales Guerra Tsuzuki and T. de Castro Martins (eds.), Simulated Annealing: Strategies, Potential Uses and Advantages. Nova Science Publishers.

Pereira, J., E. Schultz and P. Auster.  2014.  Geospatial analysis of habitat use by silver hake (Merluccius bilinearis) in the Gulf of Maine.  Endangered Species Research 23:219-227.

Kilgour, M.J., P.J. Auster, D. Packer, M. Purcell, M. Dessner, A. Sherrell and D. Rissolo.  2014.  Use of AUVs to inform management of deep sea corals.  Marine Technology Society Journal 48(1):21-27.

Travis, J., F.C. Coleman, P.J. Auster, P.M. Cury, J.A. Estes,  J. Orensanz, C.H. Peterson, M.E. Power, R.S. Steneck, J.T. Wootton.  2014.  Integrating the invisible fabric of nature into fisheries management.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111:581-584.

Auster, P.J., M. Kilgour, D. Packer, R. Waller, S. Auscavitch and L. Watling.  2013.  Octocoral gardens in the Gulf of Maine (NW Atlantic).  Biodiversity 14:193-194.

Auster, P.J., M. Kilgour, D. Packer and L. Watling.  2013.  Supplementary Comment:  Conservation of deep-sea corals off the northeast United States.  Biodiversity 14:195.

Cook, R.R. and P.J. Auster.  2013. The biodiversity value of marine protected areas designed for multi-species fishery management in the Gulf of Maine. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 23: 429–440.

Price, V.E., P.J. Auster and L. Kracker.  2013.  Use of high resolution DIDSON sonar to quantify attributes of predation at ecologically relevant space and time scales.  Marine Technology Society Journal 47(1):33-46.

Auster, P.J., L. Kracker, V. Price, E. Heupel, G. McFall and D. Grenda.  2013.  Behavior webs of piscivores at subtropical live-bottom reefs.  Bulletin of Marine Science 89:377-396.

Link, J.S. and P.J. Auster.  2013. The challenges of evaluating competition among marine fishes: who cares, when does it matter, and what can one do about it? Bulletin of Marine Science 89:213-247.

Auster, P.J., J.A. Estes and F.C. Coleman. 2013. Species interactions in marine communities: the invisible fabric of nature. Bulletin of Marine Science 89:3-9.

Heupel, E. and P.J. Auster. 2013. Eco-labeling seafood: addressing impacts to vulnerable seafloor species, communities, habitats and ecosystems in data-poor regions. Marine Policy 38:8-15.

Hare. J.A., J. Manderson, J. Nye, M. Alexander, P.J. Auster, D. Borggaard, A. Capotondi, K. Damon-Randall, E. Heupel, I. Mateo, L. O’Brien, D. Richardson, C. Stock and S.T. Biegel.  2012.  Cusk (Brosme brosme) and climate change: assessing the threat to a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act.  ICES Journal of Marine Science 69:1753-1768.

Pereira, J.J., E.T. Schultz and P.J. Auster.  2012.   Geospatial analysis of habitat use in yellowtail flounder Limanda ferruginea on Georges Bank.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 468:279-290.

Heinonen, K. and P.J. Auster.  2012.  Prey selection in crustacean-eating fishes following the invasion of the Asian shore crab Hemigrapsus sanguineus in a marine temperate community.  Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 413:177-183.

Howell, P. and P.J. Auster.  2012.  Regime shift in the finfish community of a Northwest Atlantic estuary associated with changes in thermal regime.  Coastal and Marine Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 4:481-495.

Auster, P., D. Grenda, J. Godfrey, E. Heupel, S. Auscavitch and J. Mangiafico.  2011.  Behavioral observations of Lilliputian piscivores: young-of-year Sphyraena barracuda at offshore sub-tropical reefs (NW Atlantic Ocean).  Southeastern Naturalist 10:563-569.

Auster, P.J., K.B. Heinonen, L. Watling, C. Parrish-Kuhn and J. Lindholm.  2011.  A rare deepwater anemone and its associates in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Gulf of Maine, NW Atlantic).  Marine Biodiversity Records 4(e19):1-4.

Auster, P. J., Gjerde, K., Heupel, E., Watling, L., Grehan, A., and Rogers, A. D. 2011. Definition and detection of vulnerable marine ecosystems on the high seas: problems with the “move-on” rule. ICES Journal of Marine Science 68:254–264.

Tamsett, A., K. Heinonen, P.J. Auster and J. Lindholm.  2010.  Dynamics of hard substratum communities inside and outside of a fisheries closed area in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Gulf of Maine, NW Atlantic).  Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series ONMS-10-05. 53 pp.

Kelly, N.E., E.K. Shea, A. Metaxas, R.L. Haedrich and P. Auster.  2010.  Biodiversity of the deep-sea continental margin bordering the Gulf of Maine (NW Atlantic): relationships among sub-regions and to shelf systems. PLoS ONE 5(11): e13832.

Kuo, C-Y., P.J. Auster and J. Parent. 2010. Variation in planning-unit size and patterns of fish diversity: implications for design of marine protected areas. Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series ONMS-10-03. 52 pp.

Semmens, B.X., P.J. Auster and M.J. Paddack.  2010.  Using ecological null models to assess the potential for marine protected area networks to protect biodiversity.  PLoS ONE 5(1): e8895.

Auster, P.J. and J.S. Link.  2009.  Compensation and recovery of feeding guilds in a northwest Atlantic shelf fish community.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 382:163-172.

Auster, P.J., J. Godfrey, A. Watson, A. Paquette and G. McFall.  2009.  Behavior of prey links midwater and demersal piscivorous reef fishes.  Neotropical Ichthyology 7:109-112.

Moore, J.A. and P.J. Auster.  2009.  Commensalism between juvenile cusk eels and pancake urchins on western North Atlantic seamounts.  Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 50:381-386.

Auster, P.J., K.B. Heinonen, C. Witharana and M. McKee. 2009. A habitat classification scheme for the Long Island Sound region. Long Island Sound Study Technical Report. EPA Long Island Sound Office, Stamford, Connecticut 06904. 83 p.

Auster, P.J. and J. Lindholm.  2008.  Variation in social foraging by fishes across a coral reef landscape.  Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium 1:286-290.

Auster, P.J., R. Fujita, S.R. Kellert, J. Avise, C. Campagna, B. Cuker, P. Dayton, B. Heneman, R. Kenchington, G. Stone, G. Notarbartolo di Sciara and P. Glynn.  2008.  Developing an ocean ethic: science, utility, aesthetics, self-interest and different ways of knowing.  Conservation Biology 23:233-235.

Auster, P.J.  2008.  Predation strategies of Atlantic trumpetfish in midwater.  Neotropical Ichthyology 6:289-292.

Stoner, A.W., C.H. Ryer, S.J. Parker, P.J. Auster and W.W. Wakefield.  2008.  Evaluating the role of fish behavior in surveys conducted with underwater vehicles.  Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 65:1230-1243.

Auster, P.J.  2008.  Variation in search and predatory attack behaviors of shark mackerel Grammatorcynus bicarinatus.  Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88:847-849.

Moore, J., P. Auster, D. Calini, K. Heinonen, K. Barber and B. Hecker.  2008.  The false boarfish Neocyttus helgae in the western North Atlantic.  Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History 49:31-41.

Auster, P., J. Lindholm, M. Plourde, K. Barber and H. Singh.  2007.  Camera configuration and use of AUVs to census mobile fauna.  Marine Technology Society Journal 41(3):15-18.

Waller, R., L. Watling, P. Auster and T. Shank.  2007.  Anthropogenic impacts on the Corner Rise Seamounts, NW Atlantic Ocean.  Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom.  87:1075-1076.

Auster, P.J.  2007.  Linking deepwater corals and fish populations.  Bulletin of Marine Science  81(Supplement 1):93-99.

Lindholm, J., P.J. Auster, and A. Knight.  2007.  Site fidelity and movement of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) at deep boulder reefs in the western Gulf of Maine. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 342: 239–247.

Cook, R. and P. Auster.  2007.  A bioregional classification for the continental shelf of northeastern North America for conservation analysis and planning based on representation.  Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series NMSP-07-03.  14 pp.

Auster, P.J., R. Clark and R.E.S. Reed.  2006.  Chapter 3.  Marine fishes.  p. 89-229 in: An Ecological Characterization of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Region: Oceanographic, Biogeographic, and Contaminants Assessment.  National Center for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA, Silver Spring, Maryland.  NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 45.

Cook, R. and P. Auster. 2006. Developing alternatives for optimal representation of seafloor habitats and associated communities in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  Marine Sanctuaries Conservation Series ONMS-06-02.  24 pp.

Auster, P.J. and K. Barber. 2006. Atlantic hagfish exploit prey captured by other taxa. Journal of Fish Biology. 68:618-621.

Auster, P.J., B. Semmens, and K. Barber. 2005. Pattern in the co-occurrences of fishes inhabiting the coral reefs of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 74:187-194.

Link, J., F. Almeida, P. Valentine, P. Auster, R. Reid, and J. Vitalano. 2005. The effects of area closures on Georges Bank. American Fisheries Society Symposium. 41:345-368.

Cook, R.R. and P.J. Auster. 2005. Use of simulated annealing for identifying essential fish habitat in a multi-species context. Conservation Biology 19:876-886.

Auster, P.J. 2005. Are deep-water corals important habitats for fishes? p. 747-760. In: A. Freiwald and J.M. Roberts (eds.) Cold-water Corals and Ecosystems, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg.

Watling, L. and P.J. Auster. 2005. Distribution of deepwater alcyonacea off the northeast coast of the United States. p. 279-296. In: A. Freiwald and J.M. Roberts (eds.) Cold-water Corals and Ecosystems, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg.

Auster, P.J., J. Moore, K. Heinonen, and L. Watling. 2005. A habitat classification scheme for seamount landscapes: assessing the functional role of deepwater corals as fish habitat. p. 761-769. In: A. Freiwald and J.M. Roberts (eds.) Cold-water Corals and Ecosystems, Springer-Verlag, Berlin Heidelberg.

Lindholm, J., P. Auster, and P. Valentine. 2004. Role of a large marine protected area for conserving landscape attributes of sand habitats on Georges Bank (Northwest Atlantic). Marine Ecology Progress Series 269:61-68.

Auster, P.J., J. Lindholm, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Variation in habitat use by juvenile Acadian redfish, Sebastes fasciatus. Environmental Biology of Fishes 68:381-389.

Auster, P.J., J. Lindholm, S. Schaub, G. Funnell, L.S. Kaufman, and P.C. Valentine. 2003. Use of sand wave habitats by silver hake. Journal of Fish Biology 62:143-152.

Lindholm, J. and P. Auster. 2003. Site utilization by Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in offshore gravel habitat as determined by acoustic telemetry: implications for the design of marine reserves. Marine Technology Society Journal 37(1):27-34.

Auster, P.J. 2002. Representation of biological diversity of the Gulf of Maine region at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (Northwest Atlantic): patterns of fish diversity and assemblage composition. p. 1096-1125. Managing Protected Areas in a Changing World. S. Bondrup-Nielson et al. (eds.). Science and Management of Protected Areas Association, Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

NRC. 2002. Effects of Trawling and Dredging on Seafloor Habitat. National Research Council, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. (co-author with 11 other panel members)

Auster, P.J. and J. Lindholm. 2002. Pattern in the local diversity of coral reef fishes versus rates of social foraging. Caribbean Journal of Science 38:263-266.

Lindholm, J.B., P.J. Auster, M. Ruth, and L. Kaufman. 2001. Juvenile fish responses to variations in seafloor habitats: modeling the effects of fishing and implications for the design of marine protected areas.Conservation Biology 15:424-437.

Auster, P.J., K. Joy, and P.C. Valentine. 2001. Fish species and community distributions as proxies for seafloor habitat distributions: the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary example (Northwest Atlantic, Gulf of Maine). Environmental Biology of Fishes 60:331-346.

Auster, P.J. 2001. Defining thresholds for precautionary habitat management actions in a fisheries context.North American Journal of Fisheries Management 21:1-9.

Auster, P.J. and N.L. Shackell. 2000. Marine protected areas for the temperate and boreal Northwest Atlantic: the potential for sustainable fisheries and conservation of biodiversity. Northeastern Naturalist 7:419-434.

Auster, P.J., and R.W. Langton. 1999. The effects of fishing on fish habitat. p. 150-187. In: L. Benaka (ed.).Fish Habitat: Essential Fish Habitat and Rehabilitation. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

Lindholm, J., P.J. Auster, and L. Kaufman. 1999. Habitat mediated survivorship of 0-year Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). Marine Ecology Progress Series 180:247-255.

Freese, L., P.J. Auster, J. Heifetz, and B.L. Wing. 1999. Effects of trawling on seafloor habitat and associated invertebrate taxa in the Gulf of Alaska. Marine Ecology Progress Series 182:119-126.

Moser, M.L., P.J. Auster and J.B. Bichy. 1998. Effects of mat morphology on large Sargassum-associated fishes: Observations from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and free-floating video camcorders.Environmental Biology of Fishes 51:391-398.

This list from over 160 peer reviewed, technical and public outreach publications.