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Holly Kindsvater

Assistant Professor Holly Kindsvater
Office: 114 Cheatham Hall

B.S., Marine Biology, University of California Santa Cruz (2003)
M.S., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University (2008)
Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University  (2011)


My research applies the science of evolutionary ecology to conservation and management of fisheries. I study the evolution of fish species with complex life histories. I use demographic models to understand how biological differences interact with fishing, including fishing intensity and gear type. This information is critical for managing species sustainably and identifying threatened species.

Inferring the status of Data Deficient species using ecological principles 
My group, along with colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, Simon Fraser University, and University of Glasgow are working to combine and analyze fish life history traits, survey data, and stock assessments from fisheries around the globe, which are increasingly available for large-scale analyses. These data offer a unique opportunity to use modern computational methods (e.g., Bayesian state-space methods) to infer the status of a population or species without traditional assessments – something that is urgently needed for many fish species. We received funding from the National Science Foundation to impute the trajectories of data-poor populations by using informative priors and information on species with shared traits (i.e., related species, or species caught in the same habitat). We are developing a hierarchical framework to assess the status of high-value marine fishes that have limited abundance data, such as tuna relatives, groupers, and sharks and rays.

This approach is only feasible because it takes advantage of our existing knowledge of life-history evolution to generate informative priors on the Bayesian models. However, for many marine species, we still lack a robust understanding of the relationship between life history, demography, and population dynamics. For example, we cannot yet predict how the population dynamics of an egg-laying skate will be different from those of a live-bearing stingray. I have a current project developing evolutionary models to predict the co-evolution of traits such as growth, body size, and reproductive traits (e.g., mating system). In this case I am focused on using state-dependent models to incorporate predation risk and prey availability – using marine size-spectra theory – into models predicting growth and reproduction

Interactions between fish mating systems and fishing 
Ecological models tend to assume reproduction is captured a single parameter, but fish biologists know there is so much more to it.  My research seeks to understand how social interactions among males and females affect growth, recruitment, and population dynamics. This question is especially interesting if fishing selects one sex (e.g., large males) more than the other. I have worked on this question in multiple systems, including small stream fish like swordtails and darters, as well as marine wrasses and salmon, which migrate between fresh and saltwater. These species all have multiple male mating behaviors, which can make male and female interactions very interesting. This research integrates fundamental concepts and techniques from population ecology, phylogenetics, and behavior.  

  • Horswill C, Kindsvater HK, Juan-Jordá MJ, Dulvy NK, Mangel M, Matthiopoulos J. 2019. Global reconstruction of life-history strategies for data-limited tuna populations. J Appl. Ecol. 2019, 1-11
  • Stiver KA, Kindsvater HK, Tamburello N, Heckman KL, Klein J, Alonzo SH. 2018. Intentional multiple mating by females in a species where sneak fertilization circumvents female choice for parental males. J. Fish Biol. 93, 324–333
  • Kindsvater HK, Dulvy NK, Horswill C, Juan-Jordá MJ, Mangel M, Matthiopoulos J. 2018. Overcoming the data crisis in biodiversity conservation. Trends Ecol. Evol. 33, 676-688
  • Kindsvater HK, Palkovacs E. 2017. Predicting eco-evolutionary impacts of fishing on body size and trophic role of Atlantic cod. Copeia. 105, 475-482 
  • Kindsvater HK, Reynolds JD, Sadovy de Mitcheson YJ, Mangel M. 2017. Selectivity matters: rules  of thumb for management of plate-sized, sex-changing fish in the live reef food fish trade. Fish and Fisheries. 18, 821-836
  • Pardo SA, Kindsvater HK, Cuevas-Zimbrón E, Sosa-Nishizaki O, Pérez-Jiménez JC, & Dulvy NK. 2016. Growth, mortality, and relative extinction risk of a data-sparse devil ray. Scientific Reports. 6, 33745
  • Pardo SA, Kindsvater HK, Reynolds JD, & Dulvy NK. 2016. Maximum intrinsic rate of population increase in sharks, rays, and chimaeras: the importance of survival to maturity. Can. J. Fish. Aq. Sci. 73, 1159-1163
  • Weir L, Kindsvater HK, Young KA, & Reynolds JD. 2016. Sneaker males influence sexual size dimorphism in anadromous salmon. American Naturalist. 188, 264-271
  • Kindsvater HK, Braun D, Otto SP, & Reynolds JD. 2016. Costs of reproduction explain the correlated evolution of semelparity and egg size: theory and a test with salmon. Ecology Letters. 19, 687-696
  • Kindsvater HK, Mangel M, Reynolds JD, & Dulvy NK. 2016. Ten principles from evolutionary ecology essential for effective marine conservation. Ecol Evol. 6, 2125–2138*
             * Recommended by Faculty of 1000
  • Kindsvater HK & Otto SP. 2014. The evolution of egg size in stage-structured populations. American Naturalist 184, 143-155
  • Kindsvater HK, Rosenthal GG, & Alonzo SH. 2012. Maternal size and age shape offspring size in a live-bearing fish, Xiphophorus birchmanni. PLoS ONE 7(11), e48473