Ron is the program coordinator for snook in the state of Florida.
B.S. Marine Biology, Auburn University
1977-present Fisheries Biologist, FWRI
1969-1970 Gulf Coast Research Laboratory Advanced Studies, Marine
1968-1969 Auburn University, B.S. Marine Biology
1963-1967 US Army Intelligence Service, Cryptographer
1960-1963 Auburn University
What are you working on now?
I am currently the program coordinator for snook in the
state of Florida. We are in the ninth year of a program that
collects and analyzes fishery-dependent data. We are spearheading
three initiatives that will serve as models for future collection
of game fish fishery data: snook angler intercepts, snook logbooks,
and snook tournaments. The unique contribution of these data is
that for the first time, we will know what proportion of short,
legal, and lunker sizes of snook are caught and released. We will
also understand the size frequency distribution of the entire
catch. We will be able to better predict recruitment of sub-legal
snook into the legal slot, simply by knowing how many shorts were
caught and released. By knowing how many snook greater than the
legal slot-size were released, we will be able to predict the
success of closing the slot. We can also develop two independent
indices with which to tune the final assessment: a CPUE (catch per
unit of effort) and a yearly measure of the magnitude of the
I am also working on various other projects, which are listed
- East Coast Apex Predator Project-Cooperative project between
Marine Finfish Biology and Freshwater Fisheries Research looking at
the habitat and diet overlap of common snook and largemouth bass in
three east coast river; Loxahatchee, St. Lucie, and
- Collecting the smaller snook species for general life history
data (lengths, sex, age, spawning condition, etc).
- Collecting genetic information on all species with fin
- Collecting information on movements patterns of common snook,
fat snook, and largemouth bass using external dart tags and
internal acoustic tags.
- Finishing acoustic project in Caloosahatchee River examining
temporal use of the river by common snook in the river. This
project has provided some evidence of skip-spawning in snook and
was the partial template for the movement part of the east coast
- Examining lengths, sex, and age of snook caught on offshore
reefs from fish collected by St. Pete College staff.
Was work in your current field your original career
interest; why or why not?
Ever since my father carried me fishing before I was old enough to
walk, I always wanted to work with fish and fishing in some
capacity. As I grew into a teenager, fishing became an obsession.
We'd plan weekend trips to travel a hundred miles to fish in the
Alabama River, Henderson Lake, the Chattahoochee River, or catch
redfish and trout in Milton or Pace, Florida. We would spend
several weeks each summer in Panama City or Ft. Walton, where we
always went red snapper fishing, shrimping, or trolling for
kingfish. Dad was a master-no, a magician-at catching fish of all
species from the local rivers, creeks, and lakes. I grew up eating
fresh-prepared bass, brim, catfish, suckers, turtles, and snake. We
ate it all! And appreciated it all! Dad was a timber merchant and
miller, and whenever we would go to a new area to "cruise the
timber," we always carried our fishing gear in hopes there would be
a new creek or slough where we could try our luck. Fish are part of
my spirit; seawater is in my blood, and its rumored that I have a
lateral line down my side.
What would you say is your biggest
My biggest accomplishment is being a Dad. I'm probably not the
best, but my son loves me, and that's all that counts.
Professionally, I guess my biggest reward is understanding
something about fish reproduction. It is a humbling experience to
pass a line through your data and have nature show you one of her
secrets. Never forget, what we think is truth or a fact-nature has
a way of cloaking our findings in all kinds of variation. That's
what our job is as fish scientists-trying to explain as much
variation as possible that surrounds a natural system or organism.
I guess I'm proud of finding out that snook are protandric
hermaphrodites (change sex from male to female). That's a difficult
condition to diagnose. It took about seven or eight years to learn
enough to ask the proper question, at least question the right way.
And I had a lot of help; I didn't do it all by myself. We have
always been a team-the snook team. It was Jim Whittington, Harry
Grier, Iliana Quintero, Ruth Reese, Scott Willis-all of these
people helped me find that secret. I could never have done it
What do you like most about your career?
My favorite part of my career is the healthy exchange among the
staff here at FMRI-not only the professional exchange, but the
familial espirit 'd corps that exists among us. It's almost like we
are brothers and sisters. I dare say that I could approach any one
of the several hundred of us and receive the biggest portion of
whatever it was that I needed. The old grandmothers keep us all
safe! I'm no Philadelphia lawyer, no genius, but there is a respect
that I feel as I meet my fellow workers on a day-to-day basis that
I bet I could not get anywhere else. In fact, countless friends
that have worked here and left for other jobs or opportunities have
told me they really miss FMRI and wish they were back with us. You
have to have walked in my shoes, understand where I come from-I
like where I am. I enjoy my work; I enjoy the people I work with
and the people I work for. It's all a blast!
What do you like least about your career?
I don't care for the bureaucracy or the rigidity of some of the
rules. They tend to cubbyhole people. It also stifles scientific
thought and creativity.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenge is to be able to ask the proper
question so to arrive at the correct answer. After so many years of
studying a single species, snook, one should have all of the
answers. No such luck! After the correct question has been
proffered, then how does one garner all the answers? Sometimes it
is impossible for a single biologist to answer all the questions.
It requires a team, and it becomes difficult to know who will find
the proper solution and how the proper solution will be found.
Thankfully, we have a cadre of intelligent biologists who are
willing to share of their talents and stand ready to assist with
What advice would you give to someone interested in
pursuing a career in your field?
Just as it's true for a mathematician, chemist, or microbiologist,
education is the knowledge. If anyone reading this is interested in
a career as a fishery biologist, botanist, or mammalogist, an
advanced degree is almost necessary. In the 21st century, an
advanced degree is almost always a prerequisite to advancement or
salary increase. Study hard; somehow get comprehension. There are
too many of us who read things that we don't understand. University
subject matter is a prime example of this. Practice listening;
follow instructions, and keep an open mind. Above all else, enjoy
yourself. Find something you love and devote yourself to it. If you
enjoy pursuit of the subject then poor pay becomes less a
disappointment. Look at our office! The bays and oceans, the rivers
and bayous. I wouldn't swap a day of my yesterdays for all of the