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MASNA Student Scholarships Awarded at MACNA 2017


August 23, 2017

At MACNA 2017, MASNA will be awarding its annual Student Scholarships at the MACNA banquet on Saturday, August 26th, 2017. Two $4,000 scholarships will be granted, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student.

Over the past 10 years, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) has provided $56,000 in funding for undergraduate and graduate college students to help continue their degrees in the marine science discipline. In the past 10 years, The MASNA Scholarship Program has grown to over 250 applicants from North America and abroad. It has become a very competitive and esteemed award.

Applications for the awards are judged based on the applicant’s enrollment in a marine science undergraduate or graduate degree program, a GPA 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 Industry & Conservation, Dr. Adeljean Ho. The committee further consisted of Dr. Kevin Erickson, MASNA President; Tom Lisciandra, MASNA Secretary; Christine Rowe, MASNA Treasurer; Dr. Craig Bingman, a biochemist at University of Wisconsin, Madison; and the following past MASNA Scholarship recipients:  Kristin Privitera-Johnson (2010 – 2011, Undergraduate), Tim Lyons (2015 – 2016 MASNA Undergraduate), Liz Groover (2016 – 2017, Graduate), and Kory Enneking (2016 – 2017, Undergraduate).

This year, with sponsorships from Doctors Foster and Smith LiveAquaria.com, 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 winners to MACNA 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The 2017 – 2018 MASNA Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient is Mathias D. Wagner. Wagner is full-time senior at the Ohio State University and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Evolution and Ecology with a minor in Spanish. At home, Wagner keeps a 30-gallon reef tank containing a pair of A. ocellaris anemonefish and a scarlet cleaner shrimp along with LPS and soft corals. He is also interning with Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, working at the Discovery Reef, which features an 85,000 gallon indo-pacific aquarium as well as a 5,000 gallon live coral system. The focus of his internship at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the advancement of captive breeding of aquarium fishes for both the public aquarium and hobbyist markets. At the university, Wagner volunteers in Dr. Andrea Grottoli’s laboratory, where they are investigating Hawaiian coral’s adaptability to levels of increased water temperature and acidity that are predicted to exist within 100 years. Wagner does this by measuring changes in coral photosynthesis and cellular respiration in Porites compressa and Montipora capitata specimens throughout experiments that induce bleaching and recovery. In the future, Wagner hopes to be able to continue contributing to captive breeding efforts either through a career within the field or pursuing new research in graduate school.

The 2017 – 2018 MASNA Graduate Student Scholarship recipient is Benjamin M. Titus, who is attending the Ohio State University for a PhD in Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology. His dissertation is the “Comparative phylogeography in a multi-level sea anemone symbiosis: effects of host specificity on patterns of co-diversification and genetic biodiversity.” Towards his dissertation goals, Titus is collaborating with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to study and understand patterns of gene flow and genetic diversity along the Florida Reef Tract and Greater Caribbean for ornamental sea anemone and crustacean species. Focal taxa include: Giant Caribbean anemone (Condylactis gigantea), corkscrew anemone (Bartholomea annulata), beaded/flower anemone (Phymanthus crucifer), sun carpet anemone (Stichodactyla helianthus), yellowline arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis), Pederson’s cleaner shrimp (Ancylomenes pedersoni), spotted cleaner shrimp (Periclimenes yucatanicus), and the Florida corallimorph (Ricordea florida). In addition, Titus is using DNA sequencing and molecular species delimitation techniques to determine whether the globally distributed sexy shrimp, Thor amboinensis, is a single circumtropical species or whether it is a cryptic species complex (i.e., multiple species). Titus has an extensive list of academic accomplishment including various funding awards, publications, and undergraduate mentoring. Titus’s ultimate career goal is to pursue an academic career as a university professor and establish a research program that focuses on the ecology and evolution of coral reef organisms harvested in the aquarium trade. Specifically, he’s interested in non-coral invertebrates for which there is very little molecular data.

MASNA, the MASNA Student Scholarship Committee, Doctors Foster and Smith LiveAquaria.com, EcoTech Marine, and Two Little Fishies would like to congratulate Wagner and Titus on their awards. The organizations stated that they are proud to name Mathias Wagner and Benjamin Titus the 2017 – 2018 MASNA Student Scholarship recipients, and wish them all the best in their future endeavors.

MASNA would like to thank Doctors Foster and Smith 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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