Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Latin Women in Science | John Lindsey | John lindsey

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I want to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans. This is the story of two Latino marine biologists who are making a difference in our understanding of our local and global marine ecosystems. They have also become role models for others in their field.

Let’s start by telling the story of the growing numbers of great white sharks along the California coast, especially north of Point Conception, drawn to their favorite food choice: seals. The population of elephant seals and sea lions has increased dramatically along the California coast, mainly due to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which allowed these pinnipeds to thrive. Not only has shark prey numbers increased, but they have also increased the size of their range, which has expanded north along the coasts of central and northern California due to warmer temperatures. sea ​​water.

Over the years, warm ocean water events have become more common along the California coast. “The blob”, a hot water event that began in 2013, was followed in October 2015 when sea water temperatures hit record highs along the central coast during a very strong event El Niño. A few years later, in 2018, the Scripps Nearshore Waverider buoy hit 81.3 degrees in Southern California Bright, breaking the old record of 80.4 degrees set during the 2015 El Niño event.

In other words, great white sharks seem to benefit from climate change. However, a study in the journal Current Biology published an article declaring that: “One-third of the world’s chondrichthyan fish – sharks, rays and chimaeras – are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

To better understand the great white shark population, I decided to ask Melissa Cristina Marquez, nicknamed the “mother of sharks”. She has studied chondrichthyan fish, including great white sharks, for years. She told me that while the numbers of great white sharks are increasing along the California coastline and around the world, sharks, rays and chimaeras are in decline.

“Chondrichthyan fish are exceptionally sensitive to overfishing as they tend to grow slowly and produce few young, compared to other fish. Overfishing has far outstripped efficient resource management for these species,” Marquez said. “They play an important role in our marine ecosystems, transferring nutrients from the high seas to coral reefs. Not only is their extinction leading to an imbalance of the oceans, but it” ruins opportunities for sustainable fishing, tourism and food security. long term”.

During our phone interview, I asked her why she became a marine biologist? Marquez told me that she was inspired by the study of sharks when she first saw a great white shark on Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”.

In 2011, she entered the undergraduate school of the New College of Florida in Sarasota. During one of her independent study projects at the Bimini Shark Lab in the Bahamas, she found her calling: sharks.

“The following [independent study project] I went to South Africa and studied great white sharks, ”she said. “This led to my graduation thesis, which focused on monitoring great whites; I am always interested in knowing why an animal is where it is and what it does. This is basically my slogan. People will say to me, “What are you, like a public relations shark? And I say, ‘Yeah, I can handle that description.’ “

Since then she has obtained a Masters degree from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and is currently pursuing her PhD at Curtin University in Australia.

Marquez is involved in multiple forms of public engagement and is passionate about making the science industry more diverse and inclusive, including making all of its educational content bilingual. His @mcmsharksxx Twitter account has nearly 25,000 followers. She writes monthly articles for Forbes Science; his work has been featured in the Washington Post and many other publications. It was recently announced that Marquez will be named to Fuse Media’s Hispanic Future History class of 2021.

Locally, Gaby Morales was born and raised in Santa Maria. Her parents immigrated to the United States in their twenties and began working in the fields.

“My parents only had a sixth grade education so they didn’t know the potential of what college can bring. Growing up I lived 30 minutes from the beach but never visited Ocean My parents worked Monday through Sunday and never had the chance to take my siblings to many places.

“In high school I had no idea what I wanted to be or what I could even dream of doing until my high school teacher took us on a field trip to the Central Coast Aquarium, and that day- there had an impact on my life because I saw the ocean for the first time in my life.

“During this field trip, we had the opportunity to board a research boat. We were moving forward, and I was so excited, nervous and I felt a lot of emotions; I even said to myself: is am i seasick? over there on that boat we saw a sea otter, and it was cleaning itself, and that’s when i decided i needed to know everything about the ocean. I decided at that point that I wanted to be a marine biologist, “said Morales.

She graduated from UCSB with a degree in Aquatic Biology and returned to the place that made the difference for her childhood: the Central Coast Aquarium. Today, she is the museum’s director of operations.

“I have many tasks, but the most important for me is to be a role model for students like me, minorities and under-represented students,” said Morales.

These women have overcome many adversities to make science more diverse and inclusive, enabling all of us, regardless of race and gender, to reach our full human potential.

John Lindsey is the marine meteorologist for Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant and a media relations representative. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @PGE_John.


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