Cynthia Jones Named Virginia Outstanding Scientist

Professor of biological sciences Cynthia Jones was one of two researchers selected to receive the annual Virginia Outstanding Scientist Award for 2003, as announced by Gov. Mark R. Warner and Science Museum of Virginia Director Walter R.T. Witschey.

Jones and Gordon Ginder, director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, were honored by the General Assembly Feb. 18.

A member of the Old Dominion faculty since 1986, Jones has established an international reputation for her pioneering work in fisheries ecology. In the 1980s she developed new techniques to determine the daily age of fish by studying their ear bones, or otoliths, which have daily and annual rings similar to those of trees. Based on this research, scientists can now determine the date of birth in young fish as well as track their growth and survival during their most vulnerable life stages.

In the 1990s Jones pioneered a chemical analysis technique that can determine where a particular fish was hatched and what waters it has inhabited since. Using this information, scientists can tell what environmental changes a species can tolerate, identify essential habitats and determine the advantages and disadvantages of a specific habitat.

Clearly, Jones’ work has significant implications for sustaining fish populations.

“This is of particular interest in Virginia, for the Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary and a major nursery ground for fish and shellfish,” said David R. Hager, vice provost at Old Dominion.

Currently, Jones is using her cutting-edge techniques to determine the importance of sea grass beds to the survival of the bay’s fish. To date, she has been able to discern differences in sea grass beds that are only 10 miles apart.

Gov. Warner recently appointed Jones to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission in recognition of her contributions in research. She is the first fisheries scientist to serve on the commission in its 125-year history.