Heather Moncrief-Cox

Heather Cox Vertically

Heather Moncrief-Cox has been working with CIMAS as a Senior Research Associate II since June 2021. She works within the Biology and Life History Branch at the NOAA Fisheries Laboratory in Panama City, Florida. Her current role is leading the reproductive biology research within the group, and her primary focus is on the reproductive ecology of reef fish and large coastal sharks in U.S. waters. The data collected and analyzed by her team supports regional federal stock assessments, known as SEDARs (SouthEast Data, Assessment, and Review). Understanding the reproductive patterns of fishes is vital for estimating their population and stock status. Fishing pressure, location and habitat characteristics can influence the length of spawning seasons and therefore overall fecundity (number of eggs produced), as well as age or length at maturity. Knowledge of these parameters helps us effectively manage fisheries within U.S. waters.

Heather attended the University of West Florida, where she obtained a bachelors in Marine Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies and masters in Environmental Biology. While in graduate school, she became a fisheries observer for the NOAA Fisheries Galveston Laboratory in 2011.  During her three years with this program she covered reef fish vertical line and longline vessels, as well as the shrimp trawl fishery, collecting vital commercial fishing effort data and biological samples. After a short stint with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conducting creel surveys for the marine recreational fishery, she returned to observing at the Panama City Laboratory with the shark, gillnet and reef fish commercial vessels. Heather then became an assistant observer coordinator and took on additional roles, including tablet application development for at-sea electronic data collection and shark life history evaluation for stock assessments. After 7 years with the observer programs, when the opportunity arose to move over to the Biology & Life History Branch, she jumped at the chance to focus solely on life history.

In addition to being a full-time CIMAS researcher, Heather is currently in the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences PhD program at the University of Florida. She will be evaluating the regional reproductive ecology of lane snapper across the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Atlantic, and U.S. Caribbean. Part of her research will also include investigating the use of Fourier Transformed Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (FT-NIRS) and Raman spectroscopy in determining the maturity status and reproductive phases of this warmwater batch spawner. Successful implementation of this type of technology will help expedite reproductive sample processing, while reducing uncertainty in samples analyzed. She's also active within the Women of Fisheries group, a Facebook-based group for women in the field, whose primary goal is to provide a place for women to discuss career aspirations, get professional guidance and have a place to discuss work experiences and lessons learned.

Heather dressed up as a marine biologist for her third grade career day, so her passion for the ocean has been life-long. She spent most of her summers pulling dip nets through the seagrass beds and snorkeling the jetties in Panama City Beach. She became a SCUBA diver at 13, and has dove across the Caribbean, including the British Virgin Islands, St. Lucia, and Bonaire, as well as Costa Rica and Fiji. She plans to provide a similar childhood to her son, who is currently two and a half and already loves sharks. She and her husband enjoy fishing, diving and riding their motorcycle together. 

Published March 4, 2022

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