Scripps Biodiversity Center Awarded Grant for New Interdisciplinary Marine Program


Scripps Institution of Oceanography's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) has been awarded a multimillion dollar grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to train a new generation of scholars capable of confronting important societal issues concerning the health of the world's oceans.

The five-year, $3.5-million award was granted through the NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The centerpiece of CMBC's new program is interdisciplinary, team-based, problem-solving training to foster analytical and communication skills with a global outlook.

The IGERT program was developed in 1997 to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by promoting innovative new models for graduate education and training that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

CMBC's new program, titled "Marine biodiversity: Understanding threats and providing solutions," will involve interdisciplinary research on ecology (present and historical), conservation biology, physical sciences, genetics and genomics, informatics, economics, law, and policy. The program will build links outside academia-nationally and internationally-through internships and provide opportunities for students to apply their training to real-world problems under the mentoring of conservation practitioners whose organizations are partners in the program.

"We expect the result of these collaborative efforts will be creative solutions that overcome traditional problems arising from the lack of understanding between interest groups," said CMBC Director Nancy Knowlton, the grant's principal investigator and a professor at Scripps. "This is a truly inter-disciplinary approach, in which Scripps students work alongside social science Ph.D. students to learn how to have an impact on critical issues in a complex world. Our goal is to train professionals who not only can identify the problems, but also who can find practical solutions within ecological, social, and economic constraints."

In addition to Knowlton, coprincipal investigators of the grant include Enric Sala and Jeremy Jackson of Scripps; Michael Tillman of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SWFSC); and Richard Carson of UCSD's Department of Economics.

The investigators note that identifying the magnitude and causes of environmental change is a complex task, but this alone is not enough. They say the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of alternative policy responses must be evaluated and information conveyed to policy-makers and the public.

The new IGERT award is one example of how CMBC is creating innovation in the study of marine biodiversity and conservation.

"One of the greatest scientific challenges facing society today is understanding, protecting, managing, and restoring biodiversity in our oceans," said Knowlton.

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