Scripps Student Spotlight: Mariela Rios

Graduate student seeks to find sustainability while promoting profitability for Veracruz, Mexico's sardine fishers

Mariela Rios is a graduate student in the Master of Advanced Studies program in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MAS MBC) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. A marine biodiversity and conservation major, she works under the helping hands of Samantha Murray and conducts research alongside Octavio Aburto to analyze the commercial sardine fishery's profitability in Mexico. She also volunteers in the labs of Jennifer Smith and Stuart Sandin working on the 100 Island Challenge. Having earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in finance at Endicott College in Massachusetts, she hopes to one day return to her hometown of Veracruz, Mexico, to restructure the commercial fishing industry.


explorations now: Why did you choose to attend Scripps?

Mariela Rios: I chose to attend the Scripps Institution of Oceanography as it is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean, earth, and atmospheric sciences. Most importantly, I chose the MAS MBC program for being so interdisciplinary, skills-based, and project-focused.


en: What are you researching at Scripps?

MR: I am interested in observing how our planet is changing, understanding impacts, finding solutions, and providing meaningful financial information to change how the world understands and manages its ocean resources.

I am developing a capstone project with Professor Octavio Aburto to analyze the commercial sardine fishery's profitability in Mexico. I want to create financial models that reflect the cost structure of the commercial sardine fishing industry and the costs of the impact to the sardine habitat and marine ecosystem. These models will aid organizations and policymakers in their initiatives to improve ocean resources management and avoid climate change catastrophes.


en: How did you become interested in science and your field of study?

MR: I grew up in Veracruz, a fishing town in Mexico. I was immersed in marine conservation through turtle nesting camps, beach clean-ups, scuba diving, and other recreational activities from a very early age. When working for HSBC Bank, I realized that I wanted to use my passion for science and my fondness for nature as a vehicle to support marine conservation. The ocean will forever be a part of who I am, and I want to help protect and preserve it.


en: What’s life like as a Scripps student? Describe a typical day.

MR: Despite COVID, I have had the opportunity to experience life at Scripps every other day, as my classes are both in-person and online. A typical day for me would be to wake up and go surf, run or ride my bike; then engage in Zoom lectures or in-person meetings at the Scripps Seaside Forum. In the evening, I cook a healthy meal and attend virtual lab meetings. I try to do outdoor activities as much as possible to cope with online learning. 


en: What’s the most exciting thing about your work (in the field or in the lab)?

MR: I am excited to identify ways to improve fishery management practices in Mexico, mainly because it is my home country. It is exciting to find solutions and provide meaningful financial information to improve the management of Mexican waters.


en: What are some of the challenges you face as a student?

MR: Some of the challenges that I face as a student right now are mostly related to COVID as it limits the availability of student resources, access to facilities, experiences, and work. Being an international student has its challenges, like maintaining visa status, access to funding, and work opportunities.


Dive into Mariela’s many aquatic adventures on Instagram @Marielarios.

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