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Professor Pete Mumby.

Exeter biologist earns international award for reef research

A bioscientist from the University of Exeter is one of five people worldwide to be named a recipient of the 2010 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation.

A member of the University of Exeter’s School of Biosciences, Professor Pete Mumby is a marine ecologist, best known for his research on coral reefs.

The award will allow him to identify which coral reefs have the best chance of survival, so that they can be identified as sites for marine reserves. He is the only UK recipient of the prize; the other four are from Australia, Sweden and Uruguay.

The Pew Fellowships in Marine Conservation fund science and other projects that address critical challenges in the conservation of the sea, including communication of project information to increase awareness of global marine issues. Each Fellow receives US$150,000 to conduct a three-year scientific research or conservation project designed to address critical challenges to healthy oceans. Through a rigorous nomination and review process, an international committee of marine specialists selects Pew Marine Fellows based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including their potential to protect ocean environments. Five unique and timely projects led by outstanding professionals in their fields are chosen annually.

“The recipients of this year’s Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation are among the most exceptional and innovative ocean conservationists working in their fields,” said Joshua S. Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group. “The 2010 Fellows are forging new ground in research that will help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our oceans.”

Professor Mumby will use the Pew Marine Fellowship to develop scientific models that integrate otherwise unrelated datasets, such as hurricane risk, ocean pollution, interactions between coral reefs and corals’ reaction to stress. He will use these models to identify coral reef systems with the greatest chance of long-term survival in order to create a number of marine reserves around the Bahamas.

Professor Pete Mumby of the University of Exeter's School of Biosciences said: “This prestigious fellowship will allow me to apply our latest research on coral reef health and help our conservation partners in the Bahamas identify a network of marine reserves that will help resist the effects of climate change. The Bahamas are very forward-looking when it comes to marine conservation so it's a fantastic opportunity to integrate the latest science into the conservation process.” 

The other 2010 Pew Fellows in Marine Conservation are:

  • Daniel Conley, Ph.D., is a professor in Biogeochemistry at the Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at Lund University in Sweden. His Pew Marine Fellowship will evaluate different methods for reducing chemical nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, in the Baltic Sea that cause oxygen depletion, threatening the survival of marine life. He will evaluate the effectiveness, cost and ecosystem impacts of several options for improving water quality and will compare them with traditional methods for reducing nutrients on land.
  • Omar Defeo, D.Sc., is a professor in the Marine Science Unit at the Universidad de la República in Uruguay. The fellowship will evaluate a co-management arrangement between fishermen, scientists and fisheries managers to better regulate shellfish fisheries. Over the course of three years, he will evaluate the success and merits of various co-management options and will promote the most successful alternatives throughout Latin America.
  • Beth Fulton, Ph.D., is a science leader at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia. The fellowship will enable her to develop scientific models that show how shifts in the number of species affects the broader ocean ecosystem and, by extension, the marine resources available to humans. Her goal is to use these models to guide environmental management decisions around the world.
  • Ben Sullivan, Ph.D., is an Australian-based coordinator for the BirdLife International Global Seabird Program. During his Pew Marine Fellowship, Dr. Sullivan will seek to reduce seabird “bycatch,” or the catching and killing of non-target species, in open ocean longline and trawl fisheries. His research will test devices to scare birds from behind fishing boats and develop and trial new technology to encapsulate baited hooks to prevent birds accessing them before they sink below the seabird danger zone. He will also test innovative line weighting to increase the sink rate of longline hooks as they leave the vessel.

Since 1996, the Pew Fellowship Program in Marine Conservation has awarded 115 fellowships to individuals from 30 countries. The program is managed by the Pew Environment Group, based in Washington, D.C.

The Pew Environment Group is the conservation arm of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-governmental organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improving public policy, informing the public and stimulating civic life.

Date: 24 March 2010

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