Around the Pier: With a 'Lifelong Connection to Water,' Samantha Murray Takes Helm of Biodiversity Master's Program


Samantha Murray describes herself as having an “undeniable, inextricable, lifelong connection to water” that drew her to marine science.

That connection means she’ll be in her element with an office footsteps away from the Pacific Ocean on the campus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.

Murray was recently appointed as the executive director of the Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MAS MBC) program, a year-long intensive master’s course offered by Scripps to students interested in careers in marine conservation. The new position, she said, melds several of the interests she has pursued over the course of her 15-year career.

“After spending many hours in the field, I realized that my passion is really at the intersection between science, law, and policy,” said Murray, who had received a bachelor’s degree in biology.

As a result, Murray pursued a law degree at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she specialized in environmental law and received her J.D. in 2003.

Murray comes to Scripps with experience ranging from design and implementation of protected areas to oil spill response and restoration. She has directed ocean and water programs at the Ocean Conservancy, the Audubon Society, and the Oregon Environmental Council, and founded an ocean consulting business where she worked with clients on issues related to water quality and ocean acidification.

“Samantha brings a wealth of experience to the position of executive director of the MAS MBC, linking a legal background with practical field experiences across the West Coast,” said Stuart Sandin, a marine ecologist in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps who was involved in recruiting Murray to Scripps. “We are excited to have her join the Scripps team, providing great professional connections along with boundless enthusiasm for our MAS students.”

Started in 2004, the MAS MBC program has seen more than 200 students graduate. Murray said she was drawn to it because of its multidisciplinary nature. She hopes to continue developing the collaborative and innovative program that will provide students with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in careers focused in marine conservation.

“In the real world of ocean conservation, economics intersects with science, policy intersects with communications, and fisheries management intersects with principles of equity,” said Murray. “The program is always evolving and ever-modernizing to ensure that students are filling their toolboxes with the right knowledge and the most necessary skills to conceptualize and implement the solutions of tomorrow. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to work with bright students with big ideas, so that together we can ensure a thriving ocean and healthy coastal communities for the future.”

In addition to promoting a forward-thinking program in terms of study, Murray hopes to bolster the MAS MBC program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“To foster truly robust discussion in the classroom, diverse backgrounds and perspectives are essential,” she said.

Murray is optimistic about the future of the MAS MBC program, and its students.

“Now, more than ever, we need more bright and talented marine conservation professionals in the work force,” she said. “Now is the time for innovative, outside-the-box thinking from fresh minds and young professionals, and the MAS MBC Program lays the foundation for exactly that kind of thinking.”

– Samantha H. Jones is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Biomedical Sciences program at UC San Diego


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