MAS Students Shine at Year-End Symposium


Ocean enthusiast Oriana Poindexter has spent the past year immersed in sustainability studies at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, with a final, independent research project taking her to fish markets in cities throughout Southern California, Japan, and Mexico.

She conducted this research as a graduate student in the Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation (MAS MBC) program at Scripps, an intense, 12-month program geared toward professionals interested in marine conservation careers. This interdisciplinary program equips students with the knowledge they need to improve marine ecosystems from scientific, economic, and policy perspectives, while also providing them with important cultural and communications skills.

Poindexter and 19 other graduating students from the program presented the findings of their final “capstone” projects at the eleventh annual MAS MBC Capstone Symposium, held on June 4 at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.

“My understanding of the oceans, their processes, and the issues they face has expanded exponentially in the past year,” said Poindexter. “The wide-ranging curriculum of the MAS program, combined with the incredible breadth of expertise in the Scripps community, made it possible for me to pursue my existing interests while also discovering new ones that I hadn't previously considered.”

The results from Poindexter’s project, “The Fish Market Chronicles: A Pan-Pacific Survey,” showed that people in California, Japan, and Mexico prefer to eat high trophic level (high in the food chain) seafood species, and are willing to pay more for them. She also examined price premiums associated with eco-labeled seafood products and found that the profit margin for eco-labeled products also increased with high trophic level species, such as tuna or swordfish.

Poindexter concluded her presentation by suggesting a few market-based incentives and management policies that could be applied to improve the ecological sustainability of seafood harvests.

Other student presentations at the symposium featured topics such as community restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, best practices for sustainable and responsible whale watching along the Pacific coast, the possibility of using hydrophones to detect trawling activity of boats, educational tools and outreach techniques to inspire young students, and more. 

“Each class is special, but this class really highlights how disciplinary diversity can enrich the approach we take when studying marine biodiversity and conservation,” said Phaedra Doukakis-Leslie, academic coordinator of the MAS MBC program, during her opening remarks at the symposium.

The MAS program in marine biodiversity and conservation began in 2004, and Scripps recently launched a new MAS program in climate science and policy (CSP), which will welcome its inaugural class in August 2015.

Now that the students in the MAS MBC class of 2015 have completed their studies at Scripps, Doukakis-Leslie is confident that these ocean ambassadors will go forward and make a difference in understanding and protecting the planet.

“The people, the research, the atmosphere, and the proximity to the ocean provided them with so much opportunity to expand upon their knowledge base and learn new perspectives on framing their approaches to marine conservation issues,” said Doukakis-Leslie. “And I think it's a two-way exchange: during their time here, the students also broadened and informed the perspectives of many in the Scripps community.”

Congratulations to the following MAS MBC students, for their excellent presentations, and for obtaining a professional master’s degree from Scripps Oceanography:

Paloma Aguirre, Ana Luisa Ahern, Adnan Hassan Alalawi, Alicia Amerson, Natalie Blea, Chad Hamilton-Koll, Michele Heller, Nathaniel Hanna Holloway, Tom Holm, Taylor Maddalene, Johanna Marsters, Chase Martin, Nathalie Delherbe Martínez, Caroline McCandless, Mallory Morgan, Elizabeth Irvine Huntley Penniman, Oriana Poindexter, Canon Purdy, Marina Som, and Lauren Ward.

– Brittany Hook ­­

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