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First Pew fellowship for McGill

Published: 24 May 2000

Biologist Amanda Vincent, the first scientist to study seahorses in their natural habitats, has just been given a prestigious Pew Fellowship, the world's preeminent award in marine conservation. Vincent is the first McGill professor and only the second Canadian to be named a Pew Fellow.

Biology professor Amanda Vincent receives prestigious award

The first scientist to study seahorses in their natural habitats has just been given a prestigious Pew Fellowship, the world’s preeminent award in marine conservation. Biologist Amanda Vincent has been awarded $150,000 U.S. from the American Pew Charitable Trusts to further her research, management and conservation work on marine life. She is the first McGill professor and only the second Canadian ever to be named a Pew Fellow.

"Obtaining the Pew Fellowship is a great honour that will provide McGill with a wonderful opportunity to build and enhance its world presence in marine research," says Vincent, adding her Pew is good news to the country, too. "Having a Canadian receive a Pew Fellowship will help our country become a more prominent player in international marine conservation research and management."

Note: Due to her tight schedule, Biology Professor Amanda Vincent will only be available for media interviews on May 25 and 26. Journalists wishing to contact Prof. Vincent should call her research assistant, amarsd [at] po-box [dot] mcgill [dot] ca (Dale Marsden) at 514-398-5112, or Sylvain-Jacques Desjardins, Communications Officer, University Relations Office.

Vincent has been named a Pew Fellow after obtaining worldwide recognition for her pioneering research on seahorses. The Fellowship also comes on the heels of numerous awards she’s obtained for her contribution to science including the 1998 Rolex Award for Enterprise for empowering fishers to conserve and manage seahorses, and the 1995 Whitley Award for Animal Conservation from Royal Geographic Society.

With the support of her Pew Fellowship, Vincent will apply her investigations and management efforts to what she calls "extraordinary fisheries," i.e., sea life that is non-food directed, using seahorse fisheries as focal examples. She will investigate and analyze the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of a wide range of extraordinary fisheries where marine life is utilized for: medicines, pets, bait and acquaculture startup.

The biologist will then mobilize the appropriate conservation and management efforts to mitigate damage to populations of marine wildlife. She also plans to write a popular book on seahorses and has already authored or co-authored two books on the subject including The International Trade in Seahorses (TRAFFIC International).

Vincent developed a scientific interest in seahorses in the mid-80s, during her PhD at Cambridge University. She was initially surprised to discover that almost no new research had been gathered on seahorses over the last half-century, but soon discovered how challenging they were to keep and study. During the early ’90s, when based at Oxford, Vincent learned the creatures were disappearing because of over-fishing, accidental fishing and the degradation of their natural habitats. Indeed, seahorses are used for everything from traditional medicines to aquarium fishes.

Faced with dramatic declines in many populations of the 32 species of seahorses, Vincent launched an international program for marine conservation in 1996. Called Project Seahorse, this team of about 40 biologists and social workers seeks to reverse threats to marine life by using seahorses as the flagship species to help save other less charismatic sea life.

Directed by Vincent, Project Seahorse collects biological research and undertakes conservation and management of seahorses, their relatives and their habitats. Project Seahorse collaborates with partners to empower local communities, establish marine-protected areas, manage subsistence fisheries, restructure international trade, advance environmental education, promote integrated policy and redress habitat loss. To date, Project Seahorse has prompted the creation of seven new marine protected areas in the Philippines and trade legislation in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia. Last month, signatories to the United Nations Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora agreed to cooperate on seahorse conservation measures.

Vincent’s Fellowship is being granted by The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation, which annually awards 10 fellowships of US$150,000 each that contribute to advancing solutions in fisheries management, marine contamination, coastal conservation and marine ecosystem health. The program seeks to foster greater public understanding of the direct and crucial relationship between life in the sea and life on land. By supporting the ingenuity and leadership of its distinguished Fellows, the program focuses attention on the critical state of our oceans and demonstrates viable solutions to some of the world’s most urgent conservation challenges.

The Pew Fellows Program is an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts in partnership with the New England Aquarium. The Pew Charitable Trusts are among the largest philanthropic organizations in the United States, supporting nonprofit activities in the environment, culture, education, health and human services, public policy and religion. Through its grant making, the Trusts seek to encourage individual development and personal achievement, cross-disciplinary problem-solving and innovative practical approaches to meeting the changing needs of a global community.

For more information on the Pew Charitable Trusts or to hear sound-bites from Prof. Vincent on her research, please consult the Pew web site. More information is equally available at the Project Seahorse site and the Amanda Vincent page.

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