Octavio Aburto-Oropeza’s passions include studying and protecting marine environments as well as portraying the beauty of these underwater worlds through science communication efforts.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego marine ecologist was recognized for his work in both areas recently with separate awards from the Mexican government and from the Blue Ocean Film Festival.
Aburto-Oropeza, a Scripps alumnus and assistant professor in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (CMBC) at Scripps, conducts research on the ecology and fisheries of reef fishes of the Gulf of California, as well as the management of marine protected areas in the region. He co-leads the Scripps/CMBC Gulf of California Marine Program, which provides resource managers and policymakers with scientific information to build a comprehensive understanding of connections between marine ecosystems and human-use activities.
In October, Mexico’s Minister of the Environment honored Aburto-Oropeza with the government’s 2014 Conservation of Nature Award for academic investigations. The award recognizes his research in several marine protected areas in the Gulf of California, the Mexican Caribbean, and the Mexican Pacific Ocean.
In November, a documentary film produced by Aburto-Oropeza and directed by Eliana Alvarez won the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the 2014 Blue Ocean Film Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Baja’s Secret Miracle” tells the story of Mario Castro, a fisherman who changed the destiny of Cabo Pulmo, his native community in Mexico, through marine protection. The week-long festival is held every two years to “honor the best in ocean filmmaking, to learn more about the issues facing our oceans, and to collaborate on improving the future of our oceans and humanity.”
“I am very honored to accept these awards, mainly because these efforts have created important societal benefits,” said Aburto-Oropeza. “I am convinced that we, as academic institutions, need to make more efforts to train graduate students in science communication, which is a powerful way to solve important problems in the field of conservation biology.”
In addition to filmmaking, Aburto-Oropeza is also recognized as a highly accomplished environmental photographer. His artistic photos are currently on display at Birch Aquarium at Scripps in the Mexican Seas / Mares Mexicanos exhibit, which takes visitors on an intimate photographic journey to four unique biodiversity hot spots in Mexican waters and offers stunning views of the marine life that thrives in these protected areas.
— Mario C. Aguilera