DavidShiffman's picture

Meet the 2018 YPRF diversity scholarship winners!

This year, AES was pleased to offer Young Professional Recruitment Fund diversity scholarships to 20 applicants! These early career elasmobranch researchers and managers come from all over the world, and do all kinds of awesome science! Of our 20 applicants, 13 are women. Only 3 work in the United States. 4 are the first in their family to get a higher education, and 3 identify as LGBTQIA.

Thanks to the members of our diversity and equity commiittee who reviewed all these applicants, and thanks to Alberto Roca at MinorityPostdoc for his guidance and support!

Here are some snippets from their application essays! 

John Charles Altomonte, the Phillipines

As a researcher for Rare Philippines, I focused on the impacts of climate change on local fisheries and developed a toolkit to help mitigate these impacts…Growing up has shown me that most problems are rarely contained within a certain field- scientific issues are not limited to the world of science, but are tied in with sociological and economic issues as well. While my research work was focused on marine ecology, moving forward in the field of coastal and marine resource management, I aim to tie in scientific and sociological methods in an attempt to holistically solve the many issues the Philippines has regarding this field.

Diena Ardania, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia

I have done research about whale sharks in Kwatisore, Papua, Indonesia. There is still a lot of ignorance about whale sharks, in Indonesia especially. I want to know more about whale sharks in Indonesia, and in the rest of the world.

Fidji Berio, Institut de Génomique Fonctionnelle de Lyon, France

I am now focusing on the developmental constraints of the teeth and dermal denticles of elasmobranchs, related to physical parameters such as the jaw curve and to genetical ones, such as the factors controlling the size and shape of the same odontodes. In this Ph.D thesis, I am also involved in promoting the recognition of the small-spotted catshark as a model organism among sharks to have access to a comparative genetic and developmental base concerning sharks in the way of better understanding their ontogeny, phylogeny and behavior and so to improve their protection. I have been living in Reunion Island where shark attacks are part of the most touristic issues and where shark species are indifferently and independently of the environmental context considered by the population as human killers. I try to raise awareness about this biased global opinion to the people I meet, even to the people of the team I work in and that work on other model organisms. To me, my everyday life is not dissociated from my work as a large part of my hobbies and who I meet during my free time is about sharks, skates and rays biology and conservation. I would be proud to be a member of the AES that conveys both science and passion about elasmobranch fishes as much as I try to do.

Luz Carillo, Escuela de Ciencias Aplicadas del Mar, Venezuela

My Thesis work describes the size structure and the growth of Mustelus higmani from the northeastern region of Venezuela. I lived with fishermen and people who came to buy these sharks at the fishing port where I was doing the samplings and collecting the data. Many of these were interested in the subject, asked questions and were concerned about the situation of the M. higmani and of many other species of sharks that they also captured. Here in Venezuela we do not have many research societies or institutes specialized in sharks. Obtaining experience and knowledge through you would allow me to share it with my colleagues and colleagues from Venezuela in order to seek a better development of the subject in the country and promote scientific research work on the diversity of sharks we have.

Glorimar Franqui Rivera, University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, there is little to no knowledge on the distribution, ecology, species diversity, and fishing patterns of sharks. It is widely accepted in Puerto Rico to fish and eat shark meat due to the lack of education regarding the importance of these apex predators. In my project I use DNA barcoding methods to verify and quantify the presence of sharks being sold in local businesses or by freelance fishermen.  This going to provide for the first time, the sharks caught (accidental or targeted) and sold for consumption in Puerto Rico. These data will be used to create a database which will gives us an insight regarding the fishing of sharks. Growing up in a family of fishermen has given me the opportunity to contribute in my professional life, bringing this essential knowledge in the development of my academic and conservationist life. To be part of AES is vital to expand my network of scientists and shark experts globally, since in PR there is a lack of scientists specialized in this area.

Matthew Gilstrap, University of La Verne, United States

In the process of meeting people who lead lives differently than I lead my own, I have come to appreciate the importance of multiple perspectives and the idea that there are multiple ways to solve any given problem, and I always apply that notion to my own work and academic career. Besides that, though, I see the link between conserving our environment and the benefit it has for all the varying groups of people I've gotten to know over the years, and I feel that, through my own experiences, I can help propose solutions to our world's many ecological problems; solutions that benefit/appeal to not just the elasmobranchs, but also all demographics and across all social classes. By being a member of the AES, I know that I would definitely gain more experience and more insight on shark/ray science through being guided by those that have more experience than I do, and I would also gain more in-depth knowledge on elasmobranch science, conservation, and research methods, research methods that I could perhaps apply to other aspects of my life and future work.

Devanshi Kasana, India

I worked at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as a Senior Programme Officer with the Oceans and Coasts Programme. For three years, I managed various WWF projects, namely - the management of unsustainable shark fisheries, regulation of ecologically unsustainable marine tourism, and the promotion and propagation of community-led conservation models among coastal communities.  I led a pilot project to evaluate the status of shark fisheries (for a traditional shark-fishing community in southern India) where I combined shark biometric data and fishermen community surveys to assess livelihood dependency on elasmobranch fisheries. I would like my PhD research to focus on applying science to guide policy for shark conservation and acknowledging the critical role of communities in conservation.   Learning is a dynamic process, and my life experiences thus far have taught me the values of applying research and nurturing synergies between nature and people. An opportunity to become an American Elasmobranch Society Recruit would help me to build a strong foundation for my future academic pursuits. The multifaceted approach of the AES - using science, education and awareness to actively guide elasmobranch conservation is something I aspire to emulate in my professional endeavors. Given the opportunity, I stand to benefit immensely in terms of personal capacity building, mentorship and access to a global network of elasmobranch research expertise.

Kristina Loosen, Germany

I wrote my master thesis with Dr. Alison Kock and the well-known Shark Spotters program. The project investigated several predictors of increased white shark presence on inshore beaches of Cape Town during the summer months, which coincides with the peak in recreational water users. The travel and studies in South Africa where meant to increase my chances on working with great white sharks – which I eventually did with my dissertation. Being the first one in my entire family to graduate from a university and doing so in marine biology wasn’t easy. But I worked my way up from a small village in Germany where I also learned how to scuba dive in lakes with a water temperature of 11°C/52°F. In becoming a member of the American Elasmobranch Society I would get the opportunity to broaden my professional network, which is very important to further my career globally. I believe that especially America holds a lot of opportunities for shark research and marine conservation, which is why I would love to get in contact with brilliant scientist and students through joining the AES.

Elimear Manng, Ireland

I am also the only Irish ambassador for Jillian Morris-Brake's "Sharks4kids" program. I've realized that there is a huge interest in sharks across Ireland, but there is hardly anyone researching them, or teaching about them.  My experiences have allowed me to understand the importance of making research accessible, educating using the most up-to-date scientific findings, social networking with other shark researchers and/or charitable organisations. Working with elasmobranchii has always been the integral goal of my life; I just feel I need a little bit of help to get there.


Mariana Martins, Federal University of Rio Grande, Brazil

Despite having a great interest in life-history aspects of elasmobranchs I started wondering what has been done concerning conservation and threats this group are experiencing. I then decided to focus my PhD project in effects of contaminants, especially the emerging ones such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products in embryonic development of this group, in southern Brazil. My goal is also to characterize the contaminants influencing sharks and rays off southern Brazil. This topic is poorly studied in Brazil and South America, in general, despite it’s great impact in organisms.  My biggest motivation is to be able to bring light to the problematic of urbanization and it’s impacts in marine organisms and ecosystems, especially in early development stages.  Being a member in the AES is also the perfect opportunity to show how we do science in other developing countries, and perhaps get some advices from other researches, expanding the knowledge and also learning different aspects of this groups that I would probably not learn in my country. Finally, I hope I can be part of a scientific community to discuss important questions in elasmobranch conservation and management, getting to know examples of other people also committed to this theme.

Pedro Medina, Universidad de Oriente, Venezuela

I worked on the project of the batoids initiative, which consisted in characterizing batoid fishing on the island of Margarita, Nueva Esparta State, Venezuela, in order to identify the species that are caught and obtain the necessary data to determine its demographic status and be able to take the best measures for the conservation of these organisms. The membership will help me a lot because it will allow me to be up-to-date with the current research, conferences, courses, opportunity to carry out postgraduate studies and to be in contact with the global level experts of elasmobranchs.

Muddula Krishna Naranji, Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, India

My interests lie in the general area of molecular taxonomy and biology of marine organisms. My research program is multidisciplinary ranging from biological and biotechnological works.  I plan to form collaborations with people having very diverse background and constantly learning new things in other fields and refine my research.

Nosipho Phini, Mangosuthu University of Technology, South Africa

I've studied nature conservation and was fascinated by marine biology. Getting this scholarship will help me and guide me to proper research skills and exposure to a lot more than I currently am.

Christelle Razadindrakoto, Marine Sciences and Fishery Institute, Madagascar.

I am a junior sharks and rays officer with the Wildlife Conservation Society in Madagascar. My role includes: Contributing towards a national strategy for elasmobranch conservation in Madagascar with government, research institutions, management agencies, fishing and environmental management committees and NGOs as well. Many sharks and rays are endangered, however in Madagascar few people are interested in protecting them. Less people are interested in studying them. I chose to dedicate my efforts to their conservation. Membership of the American Elasmobranch Society will increase my confidence and expertise and enable me to better represent Madagascar in regional elasmobranch studies and conservation efforts.

Peter Reyes, University of South Florida

I hope to one day be a marine conservationist, focusing a lot of my time working towards the conservation of elasmobranchs. I plan to take the initiative and use these newly made connections provided to me by the society to put my foot in the door within the world of elasmobranch research and management — creating the foundation for my career in marine conservation, specifically that of elasmobranchs.

Fernanda Rolim, Sao Paulo State University, Brazil

I started working during my Biology degree with morphometry and reproductive aspects of the lesser electric ray Narcine brasiliensis. We are still working on age and growth aspects of the species. For my masters, I worked with fisheries management, analyzing the effects of the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) on fisheries dynamics. Now, at my PhD, I am analyzing the effectiveness of MPAs in Brazil for the fish assemblages using baited remote underwater video (BRUVs).  I’m pursuing my career with passion and determination because that is what I love to do. And, despite of the economic crisis Brazil is facing, with enormous financial cuts in research and education, we keep doing our best. If we truly want to advance in knowledge and conservation of elasmobranchs it is crucial that we all exchange and learn with others' experiences. Being part of AES as a member will provide me more opportunities of getting in touch with all the knowledge the USA produce every day about elasmobranchs and marine conservation, which will surely enhance our research here in Brazil. Also, being an AES member give Brazilians researchers visibility and increase our network, since we are displaying ourselves to other countries, showing that we are also available to exchange knowledge.

Zoya Tyabji, Adaman and Nicobar Environment Team, India.

For the past year, I have been assessing the biology and fisheries aspects of elasmobranchs in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Currently, I am working as a research associate with Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET), an NGO based in South Andaman, India. As the American Elasmobranch Society (AES) seeks to advance the scientific study of elasmobranchs, I will be contributing to its diversity by bringing my opinions and new perspective onto the table in order to show what the state of elasmobranchs is in India and specifically, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI). ANI is a biodiversity hotspot and is designated as a ‘Hope spot’ by IUCN and Mission Blue, and although it harbours a high diversity of elasmobranchs, there is a dearth of systematic studies conducted here. Through my studies, I will enable others to find out what research is occurring in this part of the world through publications, participation in discussion forums, etc. I will also help develop collaborations and networks benefiting both AES and myself.

Aylin Ulman, University of Pavia, Italy

For my MSc I studied and published on the unreported fisheries catches in several Eastern Mediterranean countries. I would immensely benefit from having a mentor to guide me through these endeavours, and ensure the best data are gathered and presented from such projects.  Another short term goal of mine is to devise strategies to minimize the bycatch of elasmobranchs, as local fishers in the Eastern Mediterranean (Greece, Cyprus and Turkey) have recently expressed their wishes in learning how to safely release live specimens. Now I am nearing the end of my studies, and eager to return to my true passion- elasmobranch conservation, where I would really appreciate a trusted shark guru to help ensure my work output is the best possible.

Dave van Beuningen, University of Cape Town, South Africa

After moving to South Africa at the age of 15, I soon found an affinity for the ocean and its inhabitants. A spate of shark attacks occurred in the early 2000s in Cape Town, and this was the first time my attention was drawn to sharks. With a strong interest in everything ocean-related I decided to study marine biology and ecology. A membership with the American Elasmobranch Society at this stage in my career will benefit me by keeping up to date with the latest elasmobranch research, particularity as I complete my masters thesis. It will potentially broaden my perspective of different career opportunities but above all it will connect me with other like-minded individuals who aim to make a difference in this field. In addition, I aim to contribute to the society through my research and will endeavour to be an active participant who provides value to the society through my work and involvement.

Fenella Wood, Plymouth University, United Kingdom.

I volunteered at the Bimini Biological Field Station for a year as part of my BSc. Here I carried out my first undergraduate project studying the movement ecology of Southern stingrays which I consequently presented at the European Elasmobranch Association conference. As a result of networking, I was able to intern for the Angel Shark Project this past Summer which has led to a collaborated project for my masters thesis. A years membership to the American Elasmobranch Society would provide me with an amazing opportunity to network with a wider group of people on a global scale. Additionally, on completion of my masters research, I would like to present my findings to as may audiences as possible, AES membership would enable me another occasion to do so by attending Sharks International