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College of Science and Mathematics

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Cal Poly Biologist Receives Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation

Fish swimming graphicSAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly biologist Jennifer O’Leary has been awarded a prestigious Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. O’Leary will use her award to expand a program that combines science with policy in the management of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Indian Ocean.

"I am extremely honored to receive the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation,” said O’Leary, who is a California Sea Grant extension specialist at Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences. “The award will allow me to continue my work in East Africa and the Western Indian Ocean using science in effective marine management and launching active and engaged conservation initiatives."

Jennifer O'Leary photo
Jennifer O'Leary

Although much of her work takes place on the Central Coast, O’Leary is also the co-director of the Science for Active Management Program in East Africa, which helps fishing communities and managers of MPAs apply science to marine conservation efforts. The program has been adopted nationwide in Kenya, is expanding in Tanzania and the Seychelles, and has been used to train MPA managers from eight African nations. With her Pew fellowship, O’Leary will expand the program to other parts of the western Indian Ocean and evaluate any resulting changes to social and ecological systems.

The Pew fellowships support research to improve ocean conservation and management, and recipients receive $150,000 each for a three-year project designed to address ocean conservation challenges. O’Leary was selected via a rigorous nomination and review process in which a committee of marine specialists from around the world select the fellows based on the strength of their proposed projects.

O’Leary’s work at Cal Poly includes research on eelgrass decline, the ecological impacts of sea star wasting disease, and Dungeness crab recruitment. In her role as Sea Grant extension agent, she serves as a resource to the local fishing community.

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