Josef Hrabowski, a doctoral candidate in Environmental Science at Ball State University, is pioneering advancements in fisheries management through cutting-edge data collection techniques. With academic roots from Texas A&M and the University of Rostock, Hrabowski’s research at Ball State harnesses big data approaches to revolutionize the way we understand and manage fisheries. 

 “If you think about fisheries management, the goals are always the same. Management agencies want people to go fishing sustainably. For that, they need a lot of information, such as who is fishing, the number of fish caught, and what people want to catch,” Hrabowski said. 

 Traditionally, fisheries management relied on surveys with low response rates or resource-intensive on-site data collection. Hrabowski’s team, however, is exploring new avenues. 

 “We investigate new forms of gathering information, like using a pocket fishing app where users share details about their catch,” Hrabowski said. 

 At a recent conference, Hrabowski presented research comparing app data with traditional Creel surveys, local surveys conducted at boat ramps.  

 “We aim to determine if the app data can serve as a substitute for traditional surveys. Our goal is not to replace existing methods but to complement them,” Hrabowski said. 

 However, one challenge Hrabowski’s team faces is the potential bias in their data collection method.  

 “Not every angler uses the app, and our data tends to skew towards older rural white individuals,” Hrabowski said. “To correct for this, the team employs market segmentation systems based on age, income, preferences, and behaviors.” 

 Working alongside Hrabowski are several undergraduates and graduate students who are part of the same lab but focus on different research questions. The collaborative effort allows the team to dissect and interpret vast amounts of data effectively. 

 Reflecting on his research evolution over two years, Hrabowski shared an intriguing observation from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We noticed a significant increase in fishing license purchases among young, busy individuals during the pandemic,” he said. 

 Looking ahead, Hrabowski remains committed to ensuring user privacy. 

  “We don’t have the names of anybody we’re working with. We’re very conscious about data privacy,” Hrabowski said. 

 Looking ahead, Hrabowski plans to delve further into his research, exploring new patterns and insights to continually refine and improve fisheries management strategies.