Meet MASNA’s 2019 Marine Science Scholarship Winners

27 Aug, 2019

The faces of future marine science: J. Alexander Bonanno and Lauren Block are recipients of the 2019 MASNA Student Scholarships.

The faces of future marine science: J. Alexander Bonanno and Lauren Block are recipients of the 2019 MASNA Student Scholarships.

via Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA)

Orlando, FL. – August 27, 2019. At MACNA 2019, MASNA will be awarding its annual student scholarships at the banquet on Saturday, August 31st, 2019. Two $4,000 scholarships will be granted, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student.

Lauren Block, Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, researching the co-culture of larval clownfish and copepods en route to a degree in Marine Biology.

Lauren Block, Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, researching the co-culture of larval clownfish and copepods en route to a degree in Marine Biology.

 

Lauren Block – Undergraduate Student Scholarship Recipient

The 2019-20 MASNA Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient is Lauren Block. Lauren is a full-time junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM).

Lauren Block - Undergraduate Student Scholarship Recipient

Lauren Block – Undergraduate Student Scholarship Recipient

Lauren got involved in the aquarium hobby while working at a local fish store in her hometown. Her freshman year at UHM, Lauren began working in the Lenz-Hartline Lab culturing copepods (Parvocalanus crassirostris and Bestiolina similis) and phytoplankton. Since then, she has had the opportunity to assist in other ongoing research in the lab, including behavioral studies of copepods, feeding experiments of a sub-arctic copepod (Neocalanus flemingeri) in Alaska, RNA extractions, and the investigation of diseased copepods in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. She has enjoyed learning a variety of scientific techniques through her involvement in various projects, and she loves the problem-solving that comes with culturing copepods. She is currently developing an independent project with Dr. Petra Lenz to create a co-culture that allows for larval clownfish (A. ocellaris) and copepods (P. crassirostris) to be timed and raised together in such a way that the age distribution of the copepods in the tank mirrors that of the feeding needs of the clownfish to maximize their growth and health.

Lauren’s passion for fish, culturing, and the aquarium trade has led her to pursue a career in marine ornamental aquaculture. In the future, she hopes to develop new, feasible methods for marine captive breeding, with the goal of providing a sustainable source of fish and invertebrates for the aquarium industry.

J. Alexander Bonanno, Graduate Student Scholarship recipient, University of Massachusetts Boston.

J. Alexander Bonanno, Graduate Student Scholarship recipient, University of Massachusetts Boston.

J. Alexander Bonanno – Graduate Student Scholarship Recipient

The 2019-20 MASNA Graduate Student Scholarship recipient is J. Alexander (Alex) Bonanno, a second-year masters-degree student studying Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts.

Alex received his B.S. in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University, where he gained several years of experience researching and caring for aquatic organisms by working in the Roger Williams University’s CEED Marine Laboratory and at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s Nature Center and Aquarium. Alex’s undergraduate research was focused on marine ornamental aquaculture; he worked on developing techniques to rear fish and invertebrates popular in the marine aquarium trade in captivity to reduce strain on wild populations and save them from exploitation. Alex was also able to study abroad during his time at Roger Williams University in Townsville, Australia, where he had the opportunity to assist in research on a local food fish called barramundi.

Alex’s current graduate research is conducted at the Intercampus Marine Science Graduate Program under his advisor Dr. Michael Tlusty of UMass Boston. Alex has dedicated his graduate work to preserving coral reefs by preventing a destructive fishing practice using cyanide. He has teamed up with Dr. Andrew Rhyne and Dr. Nancy Breen from Roger Williams University, along with researchers from Mystic Aquarium, to develop an efficient and reliable test to detect whether or not a fish was captured using cyanide. This test would allow for the screening of captured fish, giving law enforcement a way to crack down on the illegal practice.

To achieve this goal, he combined chemistry, toxicology, and genetics to study the toxico-kinetics of cyanide exposure and traces of exposure up to several weeks post-capture. The development of a cyanide detection test will not only help preserve valuable coral reef ecosystems, but will also significantly reduce the mortality rate of fish in the marine aquarium trade supply chain. Alex will continue to help answer questions critical to developing a verified detection method to combat cyanide fishing. While conducting this research, Alex will share his work through publications and presentations. After completing his M.S. degree, Alex is dedicated to advancing his efforts to protect and conserve the oceans, either through pursuing his Ph.D. or working in the industry.

Alex Bonanno, Graduate Student Scholarship recipient, working on cyanide detection testing.

Alex Bonanno, Graduate Student Scholarship recipient, working on cyanide detection testing.

About MASNA’s Student Scholarships

Over the past 11 years, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) has provided $68,000 in funding for undergraduate and graduate college students to help them continue their degrees in the marine science discipline. The MASNA Scholarship Program has grown significantly to include applicants from North America and abroad. It is a competitive, esteemed award.

Applications for the awards are judged based on the applicant’s enrollment in a marine science undergraduate or graduate degree program, a G.P.A. of 2.5/4.0 or greater, and their proven contributions and demonstrated commitment to the marine aquarium hobby.

This year’s scholarship selection committee was chaired by MASNA Director of Conservation Tim Lyons and MASNA President Dr. Kevin Erickson. The committee further consisted of Christine Rowe (MASNA treasurer), Dr. Roy Yanong (University of Florida professor and aquatic veterinarian), Dr. Liz Marchio (2015-16, graduate scholarship recipient), Mike Connelly (2018-19, graduate scholarship recipient), Liz Groover (2016-17, graduate scholarship recipient), Kory Enneking (2016-17, undergraduate scholarship recipient), and Zachary Ostroff (2012-13, graduate scholarship recipient).

This year, with sponsorships from LiveAquaria, Ecotech Marine, and Two Little Fishies, MASNA is able to again award both a $4,000 undergraduate student scholarship and a $4,000 graduate student scholarship, and provide all-expense-paid trips for both recipients to MACNA 2019 in Orlando, FL.

MASNA would like to thank LiveAquaria.com, Ecotech Marine, and Two Little Fishies. Without them, the two $4,000 MASNA Student Scholarships would not be possible.

More information on the MASNA Student Scholarship program can be found at http://masna.org/masna-programs/scholarship-program/

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Reef To Rainforest
Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL Magazine and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.

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