In honor of Women’s History Month, Ocean Conservancy will be publishing a three-part series highlighting some of the amazing women who study and protect our ocean.
Dr. Anne Salomon
Dr. Anne Salomon grew up right by the sea in Vancouver, British Columbia, and it’s where she fell in love with the coast and the outdoors. She studied general biology at the landlocked campus of Queen’s University. She missed the coast and went west for her master’s degree at the University of British Columbia where she studied marine ecology. After completing that degree, Salomon was U.S. bound and received her Ph.D. in zoology.
Salomon was born with a sense of adventure. She started sailing at the age of five. She credits catching her first fish as her inspiration for studying the ocean. “I think catching my first fish gave me an appreciation of the importance of ocean resources and the reality of it being part of our culture and economic system,” she said. She worked with coastal communities in Alaska and New Zealand to better understand the relationships between different species, including marine life and humans.
Currently, Salomon is studying how humans alter coastal ecosystems and how that affects the biodiversity of the ecosystems. Of all of her accomplishments, she’s most proud of her students. “I now have a lab and a whole team,” Salomon said. “I’m so lucky and so proud of creating this space for all these wonderful people to excel and learn and share knowledge.”
Dr. Nyawira Muthiga
Dr. Nyawira Muthiga, a marine conservation scientist, has dedicated her career to protecting coral reefs and advocating for sustainable fisheries management in Kenya and throughout the western Indian Ocean. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi. She is the director of the Kenyan marine program at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Prior to this, she was the head of the coastal and wetland program at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Muthiga improved the management of marine protected areas, places where regulations protect the natural habitat and native species, around the Indian Ocean by developing plans and trainings, as well as by building public awareness. She also oversaw a plan to reduce the effects of climate change on coral reefs in the region. She even uses her expertise to protect sea turtles by working with several local organizations in Kenya.
In a talk about Kenyan marine protected areas, Muthiga said, “Fishermen have started realizing what different kinds of fishing gear will do to their catches and that protection is a way of increasing their catches and a way of potentially improving their livelihoods. More and more communities are now coming up and saying we want to start some kind of initiative where we either restrict the gear or where we close the area.”
Dr. Lekelia Jenkins
Dr. Lekelia Jenkins, a Baltimore native, grew up fishing and crabbing with her family on the Chesapeake Bay. She studied biology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She went on to get her Ph.D. in marine conservation from Duke University. Jenkins originally wanted to study terrestrial conservation at Duke. After taking a couple classes in marine conservation and marine policy, she was inspired to study the ocean. “I came to understand how much progress needed to be made in marine conservation in comparison to terrestrial conservation,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins studies the effects humans have on the ocean through the invention and adoption of marine technologies. She is especially interested in bycatch reduction devices and tidal energy technology.
On how her research has changed her life, Jenkins said, “It has allowed me to travel the world, meet interesting people and do my small but important part to save the world. It has also made me a more conscious consumer and that ripple effect has spread to my friends and family.”
She does have some advice for young women who want to become scientists. “Talk to people who have the type of career you’d like. Find out how they got there, what skills and education they needed. Find out what their workday is like. Is it really as fascinating and glamorous as you think?” She also added, “A career as a scientist isn’t just about doing good science. It’s about the reputation you make for yourself, the positions that you hold, the grants you’ve received, the people you collaborate with and the awards you’ve won. You can do great science but without the other things your work is less likely to be recognized or to have impact.”
Read more from this series: