2024 ACT Network Conference Award

Deadline to apply: closed

Rachel Roday

Rachel Roday is an NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Delaware (UD), currently studying the habitat use of American shad in the Delaware River Basin using acoustic telemetry. Her research aims to understand river recolonization following dam removal and significant environmental drivers for shad occupancy in dammed tributaries. Many of the tributaries of the Delaware River contain obsolete or abandoned low-head dams that prevent fish passage, especially for anadromous fish such as shad that require freshwater spawning habitat and have suffered historic population crashes within the last century. Ms. Roday hopes that her thesis work will be used to inform best management decisions regarding dam removal or modification. She will be using the ACT Network and MARACOOS Conference Award to present her research at the annual American Fisheries Society (AFS) meeting in Summer 2024.


Ms. Roday has bachelor’s degrees in biology and marine science and has worked in various research labs in the fields of ecophysiology and ecotoxicology. She has developed a love for data visualization and coding and often mentors undergraduate students in R. Currently, Ms. Roday also interns for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries on their communication team and has an active role in UD’s student subunit for the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of AFS. In the future, she hopes to continue working at the intersection of science, policy, and public extension.

Chase Wunder

Chase Wunder is a current graduate student at Rutgers University working with Dr. Thomas Grothues. Mr. Wunder’s research focuses on the ocean-estuary connections of summer flounder in the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Summer flounder are residents in estuaries of the Mid-Atlantic Bight from late spring through the summer growth period, but are also present on the continental shelf during this period. Understanding the dynamics of this habitat choice is confounded by recreational and commercial fisheries effort segregation, size-selective retention, and reporting requirements. It is unclear if the ocean-estuary distribution results from metapopulation differences or ranging of a continually mixing population. He employs acoustic telemetry methods to investigate habitat use and develop a better understanding of the ecological and physical drivers of these behaviors that will help predict both vulnerability and the nature of response to change. This research is cross disciplinary and involves collaboration with commercial and recreational fisherman. Mr. Wunder will be attending the Ocean Tracking Network Symposium in Halifax, NS.

Mr. Wunder has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology from the University of Delaware. Post graduation, he worked with Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and Rutgers University Marine Field Station on various marine and anadromous acoustic telemetry projects in the Mid-Atlantic region. After accumulating over 200 sea days in the Northeast Fisheries Observer Program, he decided it was time to enter a graduate program to fulfill his desire to investigate the drivers of movement and migration of ecologically and economically important species.

Past Awardees

2025 - 

2024 - Rachel Roday (University of Delaware) and Chase Wunder (Rutgers University)

2023 - Benjamin Marsaly (University of Delaware) and Michelle Proenca (University of Florida)

2022 - Nicholas Coleman (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science)