Dr. Jennifer O’Leary, a California Sea Grant Extension Specialist based in San Luis Obispo, has been awarded a prestigious Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. Dr. O’Leary will use her award to implement and assess a regional program to advance scientific management of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Indian Ocean. O’Leary is the first Sea Grant Extension Specialist to receive the fellowship in the award's 26-year history.
Although much of her work takes place in California, 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 use science in marine conservation efforts. The program has been adopted nation-wide in Kenya, is expanding in Tanzania and the Seychelles, and has been used to train MPA managers from eight nations throughout the Indian Ocean. With her Pew fellowship, O’Leary will continue the program evaluate the 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 holds a joint position with California Sea Grant and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where her work includes research on eelgrass decline, the ecological impacts sea star wasting disease, and Dungeness crab recruitment.
California Sea Grant Extension Specialists work in coastal communities across the state, identifying emerging marine resource problems and opportunities, conducting applied research, and sharing findings with stakeholders.