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Meet the Young Professional Recruitment Fund Diversity Scholarship Awardees!

This year, the American Elasmobranch Society is pleased to welcome 14 new members through our Young Professional Recruitment Fund Diversity Scholarship! 

Mahatub Khan Badhon, IUCN, Bangladesh

“Elasmobranch fishes are major by-catch in the marine fisheries in the littoral countries of the northern Indian Ocean like Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India; but we have very little scientifically credible knowledge on the habitat and biology of the local population to trigger necessary conservation measures.    As a conservationist I have planned to pursue a career in marine biology, I’ve decided to accept this challenge of knowledge gap, and am now preparing myself to pursue doctoral study in shark biology and doing voluntary works in community-based conservation as a research scientist.  Simultaneously with my job at the IUCN, I am affiliated with a national platform — ‘Save Our Sea’ to launch the ‘Bay of Bengal Shark Program’. Currently, we are reaching out to the stakeholders, collecting baseline data, and doing a few scoping studies. In addition, personally, I am trying to take advantage of opportunities at home and abroad to be trained and build a network.”

Alissa Barnes, Dakshin Foundation, India

“India ranks among the top three harvesters of sharks, but very limited biological data has been recorded. I am a young researcher who is looking for the best guidance she can get to continue her research on elasmobranchs. While conducting my earlier research, I realized that there wasn’t much research on elasmobranchs in India other than routine stock assessment surveys across the Indian coastline carried out by state fisheries departments. This opportunity will allow me to discuss with my peers globally and open avenues for future collaborations. I am currently in the process of initiating some work on batoids (focusing on mobulids) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the expertise AES offers will be of immense help to channelize my ideas and give me an exposure on the current research work being carried out around the globe.”

Aparna Biswas, Univeristy of Dhaka, Bangladesh

“My project is entitled 'Sharks and rays value chain structure in Bangladesh'. I am visiting the coasts and islands, interviewed related people and surveyed the processors,markets which provided me with interesting information about elasmobranchs. And I came to know that there is no data about their status, fishing or marketing so there is no law for sustainability of their population. But they are indeed very important for our country's marine and estuarine diversity and economy and so that I want to pursue my research to study and conservation of this wonderful marine creatures. Joining the American Elasmobranch Society would be a huge opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge about elasmobranch fishes. Above all, I am hoping to find a potential adviser or mentor with whom in future, I can pursue my research and possibly can do a PhD.”

Sydnei Cartwright, Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission

“I am an environmental office employed to enforce international conventions/protocols/programmes, national policies and regulations‚ manage and participant in environmentally related projects. I am also involved in a national project to conserve an additional 10% of marine and coastal ecosystems for marine protected areas. Personally I look forward to furthering my education and researching deep sea ecology in The Bahamas particularly the presence of elasmobranchs and the effect of climate change on their populations and the overall health of their habitat. I want to augment the general Bahamian public’s knowledge about elasmobranch fishes and showcase their importance globally and more specifically to The Bahamas.”

Ashley DeLeon, University of North Carolina Wilmington

“My thesis will include: (1) the analysis of shark muscle morphology using histological methods and (2) the use of enzymatic assays to measure citrate synthase and lactate dehydrogenase in shark muscle as indices of aerobic and anaerobic capacity respectively. In addition to current samples acquired from a male adult basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and a juvenile female great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), other shark species  (blue, thresher, mako, others) will be included for comparison across a range of shark feeding and locomotion modes. These data will be compared with existing data from other sharks to better understand the anatomy and physiology of the world’s second largest shark (Cetorhinus maximus), especially in relation to its closest relatives. As a female graduate student of Hispanic ethnicity, I am representative of a minority group in the field of science. I believe that it is imperative to support the inclusion of both women and minorities in science in order to catalyze the interest of younger members belonging to either, or both, minority groups. By seeing underrepresented scientists granted opportunities, such as the membership into the American Elasmobranch Society, the likelihood of motivating future scientists will increase. “

Jasmin Graham, College of Charleston

“I have conducted my own independent research project tracing the evolutionary history of hammerhead sharks using anatomical data and molecular data. I turned this research into a bachelor’s essay and plan to publish my work this coming year. In this investigation I employed various techniques to assess phylogenetic relationships including molecular gene capture of whole mitochondrial genomes and nuclear DNA. I also assessed anatomical characteristics through the innovative process of digital segmentation of CT scans of museum specimens. I hope to serve as a role model for future scientists. Being a Black woman in science, particularly in the marine sciences can feel isolating. I hope to show the next generation that the possibilities are endless for them and encourage more women and minority students to enter the STEM fields.”

Naiti Morales, Universidad Catolica del Norte, Chile

“I first began working on research and conservation projects of chondrichthyan fish when I was a bachelor student, where I participated on the First basic guidelines for the development of the Shark National Action Plan in Chile. After graduation, I joined the Laboratory of Biology and Conservation of Chondrichthyans at the Universidad de Valparaiso where I carried out research and teaching to university and school students.    Nowadays, I am a research scientist completing my PhD at the Ecology and Sustainable Management of Oceanic Islands (ESMOI), a non-profit organization located in Chile. My PhD research is related to biodiversity, migratory patterns and population genetics of top predators (coastal, open ocean and deep sea species) around Easter Island, the south-eastern coral reef system in the Pacific Ocean, with specific focus on the spatial ecology of the most abundant elasmobranch in the area, the Galapagos shark (Carcharhinus galapagensis). This project is the first study of top predators around Easter Island using non-destructive methodology. Chile is a developing country with an emerging but still insufficiently developed conservation sector. Additionally in Chile, research on elasmobranch has mostly been led by male scientists, leaving female scientists behind. To date, no other scientist has attempted research on the elasmobranch populations in this ecoregion.”

Fahmida Khalique Nitu, Beanibazar Government College, Bangladesh

“I will be preparing a ‘field guide’ for fishers so that we can use it to reduce the by-catch of shark.  So, now what do I need is opportunities to acquire more knowledge about elasmobranch taxonomy and scope for professional communication with shark biologist and other experts. I am a woman from a Muslim nation deep in south Asia, where it is difficult for an early career woman to going into field or off-shore for such kind of research or conservation program. The membership will give me the opportunity to take professional development training which will enhance my skill as a young shark researcher. I would be able to seek knowledge help from the senior biologist who are members of AES wherever I will be in need of that. Networking will give me the opportunity to share my views and ideas with the Elasmobranch scientists throughout the world.”

Joao Paulo Macuio, Lurio University, Mozambique

“Sharks are not a priority for Mozambique and it’s difficult to get opportunities to work with them. I would love to contribute to a change of mentality in my country. Presently, I’m interested in specializing in elasmobranch monitoring, specifically in the study of the structure and density of the elasmobranch population in Mozambique. “    

Flavia Petean, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

“I started my master’s by doing a taxonomic revision and morphological comparison of cookiecutter sharks. My expertise lies, so far, in morphological analyses; however, I started my Ph.D. in 2016, during which I plan on developing new skills in order to use distinct methods to research a group of rays. My aim is to do an integrative systematic analysis using both morphological, molecular, and ecological data to study the evolutionary history of a genus of rays (Hypanus, Dasyatidae, Myliobatiformes) that inhabit Brazilian coastal waters. As a PhD student from Northeastern Brazil, which is an under-represented region, I believe I can help improve the partnerships with researchers from other countries who aim to do some research with Chondrichthyans here.”

Rafid Shidqi, University of Jendereal Soedirman, Indonesia

“Indonesia is an archipelago country which comprises more than 17,000 islands. However, in term of ocean resources, Indonesia is facing some unique issues and challenges for its management practices which sometimes can be very difficult to achieve sustainability, especially for elasmobranch (sharks and rays). By my experiences as intern and junior researcher in different Indonesia's regions, I wish to bring the portrayal of conservation issues in Indonesia to AES.”

Lauren Simonitis, Texas A&M Galveston

“My doctoral dissertation project aims to explore the use of ink as an antipredation mechanism that adversely affects elasmobranch predators by blocking olfactory sensation. I will investigate how bonnethead sharks respond to three different ink stimuli (from sea hares, squid, and pygmy sperm whales). I am the first person in my family to pursue higher education. This is my greatest motivation to achieve my higher education goals: to serve as the role model that I didn't have.”

Sarah Viana, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil

“I started to work with comparative anatomy of species of Rhizoprionodon during my undergraduate studies at the Universidade Federal da Paraíba in 2007. Two years later, I undertook a Masters in Zoology at IBUSP and my project focused on understanding the taxonomic problems regarding species of Squalus from the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean. The genus is one of the most problematic group within Squaliformes due to morphological similarities between its species. Additionally, it is a Linnaean group with a complex systematic history due to lost types and succinct original descriptions of its nominal species. I studied its complexity in depth during my PhD where I undertook a global taxonomic and morphological revision. As a recent PhD graduate from Brazil, I represent a minority group of women in Marine Science of a developing country with research focus on traditional Systematics. This area of study has been listed as shortage skills in Brazil and other developing countries (e.g. South Africa), indicating that research involving diversity and evolution of elasmobranch fishes is still underestimated despite their extensive marine geographical area.”

Dawn Watson, United Kingdom

“My research for MSc focused on quantifying skin colouration change in S.canicula in response to a change in substrate colour. I developed methodologies for handling, shark photographing and photograph analysis for colour extraction. I was the first person in my family to go to university.  I have also inspired my husband and his 2 younger sisters to go to university, as a route to better their futures. I am the only one in my family to have achieved a Masters degree, and I would like to progress further and undertake a PhD.”