MASNA Student Scholarships to be Awarded at MACNA 2018

September 6, 2018

The Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) 2018 starts tomorrow, and the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) will be awarding its annual MASNA Student Scholarships at the MACNA Banquet on Saturday, September 8, 2018. Two $4,000.00 scholarships will be granted, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student.

Over the past 10 years, (MASNA has provided $60,000 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.

Applications for the awards are judged based on the applicant’s enrollment in a marine science undergraduate or graduate degree program, a G.P.A. 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 President Dr. Kevin Erickson. The committee further consisted of MASNA Secretary General Tom Lisciandra, MASNA Treasurer Christine Rowe, MASNA Director of Industry and Conservation Dr. Adeljean Ho, and the following past MASNA Scholarship recipients: Kristin Privitera-Johnson (2010 – 2011, Undergraduate), Ross DeAngelis (2014 – 2015, Graduate), Tim Lyons (2015 – 2016 Undergraduate), Liz Groover (2016 – 2017, Graduate), and Kory Enneking (2016 – 2017, Undergraduate).

This year, with sponsorships from LiveAquaria, 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 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The recipients of this year’s MASNA Student Scholarship are:

The 2018 – 2019 MASNA Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient is Gabrielle (Gabbie) Baillargeon. She is a full-time junior at Roger Williams University (RWU) and is pursuing a bachelor’s of science in marine biology with a minor in mathematics.crab labelling

In Baillargeon’s freshman year, she volunteered in the RWU aquaculture lab, specifically in the copepod and algae department, as an introduction to aquaculture at a research institution. Currently, she is working on an independent research project (with Dr. Andrew Rhyne) that aims to rank the sustainability of marine ornamental fish species in the aquarium trade which will culminate in the publication of this information in a user-friendly smartphone app. This will allow hobbyists to easily access species-specific sustainability information when choosing the next addition to their tank. In the future, Baillargeon hopes to continue to focus her research on population dynamics in an effort to inform management policy.

“I am very excited to immerse myself in the entire experience and come away with new knowledge on a variety of topics,” she said. “I am looking forward to seeing innovative technologies on display and hearing from many speakers about cutting edge research in the marine aquarium field. In particular, I am especially excited to listen to the renowned keynote speaker, Dr. Charlie Veron, as I have always had an interest in coral reef biology and restoration.”

The 2018 – 2019 MASNA Graduate Student Scholarship recipient is Michael (Mike) Connelly, who is attending the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, at the University of Miami, for his PhD in marine biology and ecology. Connelly also attended the University of Miami for his undergraduate studies and obtained his B.S. degree in marine science and biology in 2016. As an undergraduate student, he served as president of the University of Miami Aquarium Club (UMAC) for two years, where he increased club membership to over 60 members while organizing club field trips to the Mote Marine Laboratory, Georgia Aquarium, New England Aquarium and Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada. He also orchestrated the installation of a new 150-gallon display aquarium in UMAC’s main meeting room.

Connelly’s continued into the RSMAS Ph.D. program to work with his advisor Dr. Nikki Traylor-Knowles on research projects eOutletReef_2xamining the molecular and cellular mechanisms of cnidarian innate immunity using the cauliflower coral (Pocillopora damicornis) as a model species. He built an 800-gallon recirculating aquarium system in their laboratory in Miami that is now used for culturing coral fragments and conducting experiments that investigate interactions between corals’ innate immune systems and bacterial microbiomes. His Ph.D. research uses antibiotic treatments and heat stress to disrupt coral bacterial communities and examine the effects of bacterial community composition on coral immune gene expression patterns and stress response pathways. To further this project, Connelly travelled to southern Taiwan to complete research at the National Museum of Marine Biology Aquarium (NMMBA) during the National Science Foundation’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute (EAPSI) program last summer.

At MACNA 2018 he says is looking forward to meeting the MASNA scholarship sponsors and thanking them for their support of his research. He is also excited to meet Dr. Veron as well as all of the expert aquarists in attendance to learn how to improve the laboratory’s coral husbandry and experimental aquarium systems. Connelly will be using the scholarship funds to purchase equipment for coral flow respirometry measurements during antibiotic and heat stress experiments and also to present his research at the 3rd Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (GIGA III) meeting in Curaçao this October.


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