Ocean conservation leaders from 11 countries convene at Aquarium to share insights and research

Journalists invited to Global Conservation Day and symposium on Sept. 25 and 26

Photo/Reba Saldanha Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life Marine Conservation Action Fund symposium WBUR CitySpace Boston, MA November 2, 2019

BOSTON, MASS. (Sept. 14, 2023) – Fourteen ocean conservation leaders from 11 countries, all part of the New England Aquarium’s Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF) Fellows program, are participating, both in-person and virtually, in a summit to share their experiences with the public during a Global Conservation Day and symposium on Sept. 25 and 26.

The MCAF Fellows are visionary, accomplished, and internationally recognized ocean conservation leaders spearheading research and community-based conservation on marine species and habitats across the globe. They hail from Haiti to Indonesia and their work involves advancing protections for species of sharks, sea turtles, and whales through science, policy engagement, and education. The Aquarium invests in MCAF Fellows through a multi-faceted approach that includes financial, technical, and professional resources to support the success of their conservation initiatives and the sustainability of their organizations.

This year’s summit, which is being held Sept. 25-30, will showcase the innovation and entrepreneurship of the MCAF Fellows, nurture new collaborations, and highlight their role as key members of the Aquarium’s global conservation community. During the symposium, MCAF Fellows will present their research and conservation work and the lessons they’ve learned in community-based conservation. This event will have an audience Q&A component and will also be available via live stream with Spanish interpretation. For some one-on-one time with the Fellows, the public is invited to meet with these conservation leaders who will be stationed around the Aquarium showcasing their work through hands-on activities and stories from the field.

Key days and times are:

  • Monday, September 25
    • Symposium, Day 1 – MCAF Fellows from across the globe will be sharing presentations on their research and conservation work, followed by an audience Q&A.
      • Location: Simons Theatre at the New England Aquarium
      • Time: 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
      • Free and open to the public
    • Tuesday, September 26
      • Global Conservation Day at the New England Aquarium – Fellows will spend time inside the Aquarium, meeting with guests and staff members.
        • Location: New England Aquarium
        • Time: 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
        • Aquarium admission required
      • Symposium, Day 2 – MCAF Fellows from across the globe will be sharing presentations on their research and conservation work, followed by an audience Q&A. *Dr. Asha de Vos will be presenting this day along with other Fellows.
        • Location: Simons Theatre at the New England Aquarium
        • Time: 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
        • Free and open to the public

The participating Fellows include:

  • Francklin Barbier, Sea Turtle and Sea Bird Coordinator, Haiti Ocean Project *Presenting remotely
    • Barbier has been instrumental in conservation and education work in Haiti related to sea turtles and sharks, including tagging, data collection, and training of fishers as citizen scientists.
  • Tomas Diagne, Founder and Director, African Chelonian Institute; Rolex Associate Laureate, Tusk Award Winner for Conservation in Africa
    • Diagne is actively involved in freshwater and marine turtle research throughout Africa, including both field research projects and captive reproduction of threatened freshwater and tortoise species in order to return them to the wild.
  • Daniel Fernando, Co-Founder and Director, Blue Resources Trust; Associate Director, Manta Trust
    • Fernando is also the Co-Founder of Blue Resources Trust in Sri Lanka, where he oversees general operations in addition to running the elasmobranch projects. Apart from field research, he focuses on the development and implementation of policy to encourage a shift toward sustainable fisheries.
  • Kerstin Forsberg, Founder and Director, Planeta Océano; Rolex Laureate; Whitley Award winner
    • With Planeta Océano in Peru, Forsberg has led dozens of community-based environmental projects, fostered hundreds of citizen scientists, and founded participatory platforms as the Marine Educator’s Network of Peru, which engages over 50 schools in marine education.
  • Ani Henriquez, Executive Director, ProCosta
    • Since 2007, Henriquez has been working with local communities in El Salvador to create sustainable alternatives to improve their quality of life, promote environmental education to future generations in rural areas, and build alliances with government and non-government organizations.
  • Lucy Keith-Diagne, PhD, Founder and Director, African Aquatic Conservation Fund; National Geographic Explorer; Pew Marine Fellow
    • Keith-Diagne specializes in African manatee research and conservation studies, including status and distribution, threat assessments and mitigation, population genetics, and feeding ecology. Additionally, she focuses on African marine mammal strandings and bycatch reduction in Senegal and throughout West Africa.
  • Andrés López, Co-Founder, Misión Tiburón; Andrews Prize for the Environment awardee
    • López is a marine biologist promoting the conservation of sharks and marine life in Costa Rica. Through years of research and tagging studies, López has also engaged fishermen, communities, government officials, and schoolchildren in conservation efforts, growing a vital and broad base of support for the sharks.
  • Ariana McCarthy, Co-Founder and President, Costa Rican Alliance for Sea Turtles, Conservation and Science (COASTS) *Presenting remotely
    • McCarthy is dedicated to the research and conservation of sea turtles in Costa Rica. The main goal of her research is to study and safeguard the sea turtle populations in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge, as well as identify the connectivity that exists with other regions.
  • Anna Oposa, Executive Director, “Chief Mermaid,” Save Philippine Seas; Future for Nature awardee
    • Oposa is the Executive Director and “Chief Mermaid” of Save Philippine Seas, a movement to protect the Philippines’ coastal and marine resources by mobilizing seatizen-led initiatives for collective action and behavior change.
  • Issah Seidu, PhD, Founder and Team Leader, AquaLife Conservancy
    • Seidu has 10 years of experience in biodiversity research and conservation, coupled with providing training for local community members and university students in Ghana. He has researched and promoted the conservation of diverse marine and freshwater taxa in Ghana, which include amphibians, dragonflies, sharks, and rays.
  • Shah Selbe, Founder, Conservify; Founder, FieldKit; Founder, SoarOcean Conservation Drones, National Geographic Emerging Explorer *Presenting remotely
    • Selbe is a United-States based engineer, conservation technologist, and National Geographic Explorer and Fellow that works with communities, NGOs, and developing countries to identify and deploy technologies that can help with their greatest conservation challenges.
  • Rafid Shidqi, Co-Founder and Director, Thresher Shark Indonesia
    • Shidqi is a conservation leader from the city of South Tangerang, Indonesia. He led the Thresher Shark Project Indonesia, an initiative to transition communities from traditional shark-hunting to sustainable alternative livelihoods using research, stakeholder engagement, and education.
  • Florencia Vilches, Researcher, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas Argentina; Fulbright Scholar
    • Vilches is a researcher at the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas (ICB) in Argentina. She currently directs a project that seeks to integrate boat-based southern right whale photographs taken by whale watch operators with the 48-year aerial survey catalog curated by ICB, to improve the models that describe this whale population’s dynamics.
  • Asha de Vos, PhD, Founder and Director, Oceanswell; Pew Marine Fellow; National Geographic Emerging Explorer
    • De Vos established Oceanswell, Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education nonprofit. She leads the first long term study on blue whales, and the research conducted through this project has led to many key research publications and is used to inform policy at the local and global level. She has also been a powerful voice on the problem of colonial science and solutions to advance equity in conservation.


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