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ALUMNI 2021-06-10T20:07:34-07:00

ALUMNI

The Graduate Program in Coastal Science and Policy prepares future leaders to solve current and emerging challenges to coastal sustainability.

The program offers two programs of study, a masters of science and a Ph.D. designated emphasis for UCSC Ph.D. students. Coursework emphasizes interdisciplinary scholarship, project-based study, and developing practical solutions to real-world problems.

Below get to know our fantastic and innovative alums.

Class of 2021

Class of 2020

UC Santa Cruz welcomed its first cohort in Coastal Science and Policy in Fall 2018. Meet the members of the first cohort below:

Class of 2021

Faculty Advisors:

Anne R. Kapuscinski

Elena Finkbeiner

Partner Organization:

USAID Sea Project

Siti Indriasari Galuh Sekar Arum

Bogor, Indonesia

Galuh is passionate about effective policy development, conservation, advocacy, and communication. Galuh holds a degree in Forest Conservation and Ecotourism from IPB University. She served as the student delegate at various events including the United Nations Forum on Forest in 2004, 2005 and 2006. As an undergraduate she connected Indonesian students with various international institutions so that they could gain forestry experience from a world perspective. Later she worked as a research assistant at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and as a Forestry Officer at Tropenbos International Indonesia.

In 2008, she joined Rare Indonesia, an international conservation organization that specializes in locally-led behavior change initiatives to protect natural resources. Galuh helped establish the Policy Department at Rare in Indonesia to advocate for evidence-based policies at district, provincial, and national levels. As part of Rare, Galuh built inter-institutional partnerships to enhance success. Through her work, Galuh saw first hand the impact sustainable small-scale fisheries can have on global fisheries. While studying at UCSC, Galuh is eager to learn more about coastal science and policy, share her international experience, and learn new approaches to enhance the efficacy of policy and practices in Indonesia.

Read about Galuh's Year 2 Capstone


Galuh worked closely with the USAID Sustainable Ecosystem Advanced (SEA) Project team in Indonesia to highlight bright spots and lessons learned for integrating and sustaining successful activities in government programs. The result of this research will both highlight best practices for successful project integration but also ensure that future beneficial marine and fisheries projects can be sustained more successfully and result in government-led impact.

Faculty Advisor:

Anne R. Kapuscinski

Partner Organization:

Climate Cabinet

Patrick Cage

San Diego, California

Patrick is committed to transforming climate change policy and politics for a better future. Before CSP, Patrick worked in international climate policy and carbon quantification with the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute for nearly 4 years. During this time, Patrick worked at the science-policy interface to support governments in tracking progress and creating accountability under the Paris Agreement. Patrick developed curriculum and helped launch new academic programs in China, Indonesia, and Central Africa, relocated to the Caribbean to establish a 12-country technical “policy co-op,” developed guidance for sustainability managers to assess offset quality, and participated in five United Nations climate summits. Patrick believes that solving climate change is essential for the health of the ocean. Patrick is drawn to research approaches that blend qualitative and qualitative analyses to deliver insights and spur climate action. Through the CSP program, Patrick is aiming to expand his analytical toolkit and improve his systems thinking skills for strategic climate action.

Read about Patrick's Year 2 Capstone


Polling in the 2020 election cycle indicates that climate is a winning issue among key persuasion and turnout voters in the United States. Patrick is studying the role of climate and clear air in the 2020 elections, and how this political shift can be leveraged for effective policy change. To support this, Patrick will serve as the first Head of Impact for Climate Cabinet LLC., a startup offering open source climate data and election messaging to congressional candidates running for national and state office. Patrick will design and implement systems to capture Climate Cabinet’s impact and to improve internal program effectiveness. To do so, he is using Python to analyze how hundreds of political candidates message digitally on climate change and ocean issues.

Faculty Advisors:

Katherine Seto

Elena Finkbeiner

Partner Organizations:

Conservation International

Blue Ventures

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide

Tom Collinson

United Kingdom

Tom’s interest in coastal sustainability stems from his background in the Scottish commercial fisheries and aquaculture industry, marine predator research at the Marine Biological Association of the UK and a lifelong fascination with the sea. After graduating from the University of Bristol, Tom founded the education and outreach initiative Tom’s Rockpool Safaris which introduced the public to the ecology of the seashore. Before arriving in Santa Cruz, Tom worked with the international conservation NGO, Blue Ventures, to catalogue community-led fisheries management initiatives in the Western Indian Ocean. He is also a passionate fisherman himself.

Tom is driven by the knowledge that fishing is the cornerstone of food security, livelihoods and cultural identity for millions of the world’s coastal people. He believes that advocating for small-scale fishers’ rights to access and manage their local fisheries is critical to protecting coastal ecosystems from overexploitation. Through the CSP Program, Tom will work with coastal communities in Liberia to co-create innovative, cross-disciplinary solutions to sustainable fisheries challenges.

Read about Tom's Year 2 Capstone


For his capstone, Tom explored how the introduction of private property rights and new governance institutions for inshore fisheries in Liberia, in the form of Wealth-Based Fisheries and Co-Management Associations, are affecting wealth, rights and resilience in coastal fishing communities. Tom will also be working alongside Conservation International in Liberia to support the Blue Oceans Programme, which aims to promote a healthy ocean for human well-being.

Faculty Advisor:

Mark Carr

Partner Organization:

Wildlife Conservation Society

Maxwell Azali Kodia

Mombasa, Kenya

Azali has been involved in a variety of coral reef ecology and fisheries projects in Kenya, and has worked closely with local communities to build their capacity in adaptive management through training on simple coral reef monitoring methods. Until joining the CSP program, Azali worked with WCS Kenya Marine Program as an early career Research Scientist, where he participated in forums to disseminate research results to communities and fisheries practitioners. He is particularly interested in building local capacity for fish stock assessments by implementing participatory length-based assessment methods to inform management and encourage sustainable practices. With a degree in Coastal Science and Policy, Azali hopes to strengthen the connection between effective policy, natural resource sustainability, and coastal community livelihoods.

Faculty Advisor:

Anne Kapuscinski

Partner Organization:

Healthy Fire

Abel Mkulama

Malawi, Africa

Abel holds a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Management from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. He has four years experience working with local communities as a youth leader in conservation. In 2018, with a research grant, he worked on a cooking-briquette innovation to provide alternative source of cooking energy to minimize deforestation of coastal areas. His work on mobilizing coastal communities to preserve underwater heritage at Lake Malawi National Park received special recognition by UNESCO. His work volunteering at National Youth Network on Climate Change focused on empowering communities to adapt to climate change has earned him recognition at Global Youth Biodiversity Network, Young African Leadership Initiative and the Global Green Grants Fund. Abel represented Malawi as a youth delegate for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 25 and was recently published in Climate Impacts on Agricultural and Natural Resource Sustainability in Africa. Abel has also been named Small and Medium Size Entrepreneurs Role Model for African Union Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO) for establishing a model farm in rural Malawi for climate-smart agriculture practices. Upon completion of the CSP program, he hopes to open a research institute to tackle issues of sustainability as well as inform policies in Southern Africa.

Read about Abel's Year 2 Capstone


For his capstone, Abel conducted a comparative study of thermal properties and the cost-effectiveness of pellets and briquettes, to improve on his prior innovation of a deforestation-free, solid fuel made from recycled agricultural waste. Abel will explore appropriate designs of cookstoves and compute carbon offsets benefits of pellets and briquettes using the improved cookstoves. He will also develop a business plan and pitch deck for attracting investments to a new cooking technology startup that he plans to launch after graduation in Malawi. To contribute new knowledge to science,  he will publish the lessons learned from the capstone year in a peer-reviewed journal.

Faculty Advisor:

Don Croll

Partner Organizations:

Conservation International

Thresher Shark Project Indonesia

Rafid Shidqi

Indonesia

Rafid is an early-career conservationist from the city South Tangerang, Indonesia. He was the East-West Center fellow in Hawai’i and winner of the Future Conservationist Award from the Conservation Leadership Programme. After he graduated from university, Rafid moved and worked in the epicenter of marine biodiversity—the coral triangle region of Indonesia. His passion for sharks and rays was nurtured through volunteer work in Lamakera, East Nusa Tenggara—the biggest manta ray hunting community in the world. Rafid conducted ecology research on endangered sharks and rays, and is developing specific goals for solving the livelihood conflicts with Indonesian remote coastal communities who are dependent on these species. Until joining CSP he led the Thresher Shark Project Indonesia, an initiative to transition communities from traditional shark-hunting to sustainable alternative livelihoods using research, stakeholder engagement and education. He believes that endangered species protection and community livelihoods are mutually important. Through CSP he hopes to find the trade-offs of conservation policy, and find innovative approaches that could help conserve endangered species, while also maintaining livelihoods of coastal communities.

Read about Rafid's Year 2 Capstone


For his capstone, Rafid investigated the critical habitat of Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) using a combination of satellite and acoustic telemetry within Alor Marine Protected Area. The project also reviewed the potential of tourism as alternative livelihood solutions for shark fishing communities and produce a policy analysis for improving shark conservation in the region. Click here to watch a short video that highlights Rafid’s work.

Faculty Advisors:

Don Croll

Elena Finkbeiner

Partner Organizations:

Conservation International

World Wildlife Fund

Juan Carlos Jeri Vidal

Lima, Peru

Juan Carlos is passionate about the conservation of coastal ecosystems for the benefit of both wildlife and humans. During his undergraduate years he was involved with the Punta San Juan Program, working for the conservation and research of some of the most important breeding populations of seabirds and marine mammals in Peru. He recently joined WWF’s marine program, contributing to projects such as the reduction of bycatch of marine megafauna and developing environmental education tools for coastal communities. Juan Carlos is excited to collaborate with a diverse community of peers in the CSP Program. He aspires to lead efforts for the decision ­making process and implementation of protected areas that contribute to the conservation of coastal ecosystems and the development of local communities.

Read about Juan Carlos' Year 2 Capstone


Juan Carlos piloted a triple-impact approach for the evaluation of small scale fisheries within the scope of a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP), assessing environmental, social and economic performance. The evaluation tool will be tested for the Peruvian mahi-mahi longline fishery.

Class of 2020

Faculty Advisor:

Mark Carr

Partner Organizations:

Environmental Defense Fund

Belize Fisheries Department

Shakera Arnold

Belize City, Belize

After receiving her masters, Shakera joined the Belize Fisheries Department as its Marine Reserves Science Manager under the Ecosystems-based Management Unit. She is the Fisheries Officer in charge of planning and implementing environmental monitoring and research programs to ensure that changes in the general ecology of the marine and coastal environment are detected and that these environments are safeguarded. She is also responsible for ensuring the compliance with all monitoring programs implemented throughout the Marine Reserves Network. Prior to joining CSP, Shakera worked as a reserve manager for the Belize Fisheries Department and as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Belize teaching Environmental Conservation and Development, and as an Assistant Coral Watch Coordinator at Ecomar Belize for the Coral Watch Project.  Her passion for conservation compels her to protect and conserve her country’s natural resources, as well as educating others about the importance of sustainable development and conservation. With her degree in CSP and current position, her goals are to implement effective policies and practices for conservation and sustainable development, to help diverse audiences understand and appreciate the value of conservation, and to ensure that our rich biodiversity is protected for future generations to enjoy. Shakera is committed to strengthening the sustainability of the Belizean conch fishery by enhancing the fisheries management system and integration of successful management strategies.

Read about Shakera's Year 2 Capstone


For her capstone, Shakera evaluated standardized sampling programs to help inform creation of a protocol that will provide managers with accurate and timely conch data in Belize. Armed with accurate data, managers can make informed fisheries management decisions that ensure the sustainability of the conch fishery. Shakera is working with the Environmental Defense Fund and the Belizean government to facilitate the update of a proposed Adaptive Management Framework (AMF) program for conch in Belize that emulates FISHE (Framework for Integrated Stock and Habitat Evaluation). FISHE is a management approach developed for data-poor fisheries. Shakera’s capstone work resulted in development of recommendations for a conch monitoring program that will align the fishery management vision of the the Belize Fisheries Department and local monitoring partners of the status and trends of the conch populations throughout Belize. Shakera drew from FISHE and the proposed conch AMF to identify critical biological, social, economic and fishery-specific data for the Belizean conch management. Standardizing the sampling design and protocols will support more efficient data collection, comparability across sites, and trend analysis for predictive management. Improved analysis will help fishery managers assess whether management measures are having desired results in sustaining populations of the commercially exploited conch species and if not, whether there new adaptive management strategies should be adopted accordingly.

In July 2020, Shakera will return to work with the Belize Fisheries Department’s Ecosystems-based Management Unit where she will continue to support implementation of effective monitoring and promotion of sustainable fisheries in Belize.

Watch Shakera’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisor:

Kai Zhu

Partner Organizations:

Comon Solutions

UC Reserves

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve System

The Nature Conservancy

Ross Davison

Mountain View, California

Ross is a remote sensing specialist innovating tools to protect our natural capital and the communities that rely on them. He has a particular expertise in 3D reality capture technology methods and applications and has spent nearly a decade working with private, public, and multinational stakeholders to enact high tech, innovative conservation methods across 21 countries.

For his capstone, Ross focused on quantifying and assessing anthropogenic activity and environmental hazard effects on the natural world to better mitigate negative outcomes and improve the resiliency of vulnerable coastal communities. To accomplish this, Ross feasibility tested tools he helped develop prior to joining the program to monitor and assess natural capital with a variety of partners and in a diverse set of ecosystems. These partners included The Nature Conservancy, The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and Researchers at UC berkeley. Each partner provided Ross with a unique issue: With The Nature Conservancy, Ross informed invasive species removal strategy for The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve; at Elkhorn Slough Ross worked with site managers to quantify temporal distribution of harmful algae blooms and eutrophication in protected nursery habitats; and in at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve Ross quantified algae conversion rates in the Eel River watershed to inform research on algae’s impact on the surrounding habitats.

Since the culmination of the program, Ross has formalized these efforts into Comon Solutions, a company focused on remote monitoring and evaluation of conservation interventions and natural capital. Ross and his team were also recently accepted into the Tech Futures Group (read more here). By working with Comon, natural resource managers and conservation specialists can accurately monitor and assess their targeted interventions, understand the factors driving their success or failure, and allow them to make rapid adjustments to adapt to the needs of their specific ecosystem. Since completing the CSP Program, Ross was also accepted into the Wild Gift Fellowship as part of the 2020 fellow class. 

Faculty Advisor:

Anne Kapuscinski

Partner Organizations:

David and Lucile Packard Foundation

Qingdao Marine Conservation Society

Dingxi Safari Fang

China

Safari is an interdisciplinary scientist and ocean conservationist. Growing up next to a polluted Yangtze River, she aspired from an early age to work in environmental conservation. Safari has proven experience and passion for connecting people from diverse backgrounds to facilitate deep, meaningful collaborations to solve global environmental challenges. She is particularly interested in aquaculture and fisheries, environmental behavior, and community-based conservation. Her CSP capstone research identified strategies, high impact interventions, and a working Theory of Change for China’s sustainable marine aquaculture in partnership with local practitioners and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s China Marine Strategy. She used interdisciplinary methods to conduct field research in China, perform literature and policy analyses, and develop a working theory of change. Her fieldwork involved semi-structured interviews to determine social and market factors that obstruct a transition to sustainable aquaculture practices. After CSP, Safari will be pursuing a Ph.D. in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (E-IPER) at Stanford University. She is an alumna of the Blue Pioneers Program and sits on the board of directors of Demos Education Hub, an environmental education and community development NGO in Hainan, China.

Watch Safari’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisors:

Don Croll

A. Marm Kilpatrick

Partner Organizations:

Wildlife Conservation Society

Sea to Shore Alliance

Celeshia Guy

Belmopan, Belize

Celeshia is passionate about advocating for the protection of the environment for both humans and wildlife. She has been working in the conservation field for over eight years, with positions at the Belize Zoo, Belize Bird Rescue, and, most recently, Oceana Belize. Celeshia is a Climate Reality Leader and was awarded the Belize Youth in Conservation prize. Celeshia’s conservation platform is Endangered Species Protection, and her focal species is the endangered Antillean manatees.

Celeshia completed a summer internship with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory, through the Coastal Science and Policy Program. During the internship, she participated in live stranding response of manatees and pilot whales. She also assisted with necropsies of dead manatees to determine the cause of mortality and better understand the threats to the population. For her one-year capstone project, Celeshia worked alongside her faculty advisors: Dr. Donald Croll and Dr. A. Marm Kilpatrick, and practitioner partners: Mrs. Nicole Auil-Gomez (Wildlife Conservation Society Belize) and Mr. Jamal Galves (Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute Belize) to create the first model to assess the risk of watercraft collision to the Belize Antillean manatee population. The project aimed to analyze twenty-five years of aerial survey, stranding, and boat registration data to determine if there is a relationship between the number of boats and watercraft strandings, to identify spatial and temporal variations of watercraft strandings, and to estimate the density of manatees in Belize. The results of this capstone project were used to form the basis of a conservation strategy for the endangered Antillean manatees focused on reducing the threat of watercraft collision to its population. Celeshia is finalizing three project deliverables, including; a manuscript, a summary manuscript, and a Conservation Action Plan. Celeshia is now employed by her practitioner partner, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute Belize. She will partner with other stakeholders to implement the actions outlined in her Conservation Action Plan to help save the endangered Antillean manatees in Belize.

Watch Celeshia’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisors:

Gary Griggs

Borja Reguero

Partner Organizations:

Grenada Environment Division

Natural Capital Project

Andre Joseph-Witzig

St. Georges, Grenada

Andre Joseph-Witzig is from the Caribbean spice island of Grenada. He has been closely involved with climate change and coastal zone management on the island, working with international agencies and local government. He has supported the development of policy and legislation, data collection in the coastal zone, and work with schools and technical staff on community co-management, beach profiling, and ecosystem-based adaptation, including both coral reef and mangrove restoration projects. 

Read about Andre's Year 2 Capstone

As part of the CSP program, Andre completed a summer internship with the Central Coast Wetlands Group supporting their work on coastal adaptation for the City of Santa Cruz. For this work he reviewed adaptation strategies, policies, and triggers for pathways to adapt to storms and sea level rise. The work will inform the City’s Resilient Coast Santa Cruz effort. Andre also attended the DroneCamp program hosted by the Informatics and GIS Program of the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources division and developed skills in drone monitoring and the use of photogrammetry as a tool to monitor coastal ecosystems. 

For his capstone project Andre worked closely with the Natural Capital Project (NATCAP) to complete research on coastal vulnerability and ecosystem services on the island of Grenada. With the guidance of the team, led by Dr. Katie Arkema and supported by his advisors Dr. Gary Griggs and Dr. Borja Reguero, Andre used NATCAP’s InVEST coastal vulnerability model to conduct an island-wide assessment of the protective services provided by coastal ecosystems in Grenada. Andre integrated high-resolution aerial imagery and bathymetry provided by local partners, including the Land Use and Environment Divisions of the Government of Grenada, and new data gathered using drones and photogrammetry as a new method to monitor coastal change and erosion on Grenadian beaches. At present, Andre is finalizing outputs in the form of a set of drone beach monitoring guidelines for Grenada and a report sharing the coastal vulnerability model findings. The products of the capstone will directly to coastal zone management planning and implementation in Grenada. 

Over the course of the capstone year Andre was able to collaborate with many partners working on coastal adaptation in Grenada. This included working closely with consultants developing a marine spatial plan for Grenada and attending workshops and capacity building sessions under an ongoing National Ecosystem Assessment for Grenada. Andre was also able to contribute to a socio-economic coastal vulnerability assessment developed by the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science in the UK and is working to finalize a publication as a co-author.  Andre is aiming for these products and his future work to assist decision-makers and community groups with sustainable management of the coastal zone in Grenada and throughout the Caribbean region.

Watch Andre’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisors:

Kristy Kroeker

Don Croll

Partner Organizations:

The Nature Conservancy

Cascade/Pie Ranch

Mali’o Kodis

Volcano, Hawaii

Growing up in the rainforests of Hawaii laid the foundation of Mali’o’s passion for conservation science. Throughout high school and college, Mali’o conducted research in a wide variety of environments, from coral reefs to mountain forests. After graduating from Brown University, Mali’o was a Helen Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History for 2 years, where she conducted research on ecological niche modeling and coastal community resilience. During her time at U.C. Santa Cruz, Mali’o explored climate adaptation strategies including regenerative agriculture (with Pie Ranch) and floodplain restoration in urban and rural environments (with The Nature Conservancy). She won “Best Overall” at the U.C. Santa Cruz Graduate Research Symposium for her presentation on the role for conservation organizations in strategic retreat from at-risk areas.

Watch Mali’o’s Graduate Research Symposium presentation here.

Mali’o wrote a journal article (published in April 2021) in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences on her work with The Nature Conservancy. Mali’o is currently a Project Manager for the Climate Corps Fellowship team at the Environmental Defense Fund. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Watch Mali’o’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisors:

Anne Kapuscinski

Borja Requero

Partner Organization:

Innogy Consulting

Samruddhi Kothari

Mumbai, India

In 2013, after gaining eight years of experience in the corporate sector of banking and business, Samruddhi started her entrepreneurial journey in fashion jewelry manufacturing and retailing, incorporating sustainable practices and the work of local artisans. She began SCUBA diving, and witnessed two different worlds under the sea: from awe inspiring scenes to truly heart breaking moments. She decided to pursue a full time career in marine conservation and sustainability. The CS&P program will help her address the needs of coastal communities in developing nations in a sustainable and balanced manner.

Watch Samruddhi’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Read about Samruddhi's Year 2 Capstone

Harnessing the knowledge of business and finance Samruddhi is keen to understand 1) how climate risk impacts businesses and cities and 2) how insurance can support and inform business decisions ahead of these risky events. The insurance industry’s current climate risk strategies focus on short-term time horizons. However, given the unpredictability of climate and weather events the insurance industry is distinctively positioned to foster risk mitigations efforts. The industry is already using its current risk knowledge and level of awareness to make risk-based decisions but is also stimulating the energy and utility industries to adopt long-term decision-making approaches.

Samruddhi was interested in understanding the long-term risk management strategies that could be adopted by businesses in the energy and utility sectors based on the level of protection and affordability of insurance and regulations. Working with a private consulting firm, Samruddhi’s capstone explored actuarial implications of climate events on business decisions and policy regulations, with a special focus on the need for premium readjustments. Her capstone year was divided into 3 phases:

  1. Review current risk-industry analysis methods
  2. Identify forward-looking scenarios that can reflect future risk from hazards such as cyber-attacks, weather-related natural disasters and climate hazards such as sea level rise; and
  3. Review how premiums are set, based on baseline risk, and infer potential premium adjustments in the forward-looking scenarios, (e.g., premium with sea level rise adjusted risk)

Faculty Advisors:

Anne Kapuscinski

Bernie Tershy

Partner Organization:

Fishbio

Biraj Shrestha

Hetauda, Nepal

Biraj is an ardent amphibian lover from Nepal. Following graduation, Biraj contributed to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles in his home country of Nepal and was recently hired as a Regional Consultant for a USAID project, Linear Infrastructure  Safeguard in Asia (LISA). For the LISA project, he is helping assess Nepal’s capacity for adopting and implementing wildlife crossings at major highways, railways and transmission lines that currently fragment habitats and are contributing to deforestation. Biraj also created a tutorial video about Protecting Amphibians through community Engagement (PACE), watch it here. He has also been awarded a number of research grants and funding from different institutions for conservation of freshwater species. In June 2017, he was awarded the Future Leader of Amphibian Conservation Award at the Amphibian Conservation Research Symposium at University of Kent, UK. Biraj strongly believes that freshwater species are at high risks of extinction and highlights the destruction of freshwater ecosystems around the planet as the most pressing problem of the 21st century. With the knowledge and practical experience obtained from the CSP program, Biraj hopes to broaden his career horizons by working toward identifying solutions-oriented approaches of effective freshwater biodiversity conservation, characterized by improved ecosystem services of those freshwater systems.

Watch Biraj’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Read about Biraj's Year 2 Capstone

In Summer 2019, Biraj interned with the City of Santa Cruz Water Department as a Watershed Management Intern. In this role, he worked in the Loch Lomond Reservoir, adjacent watersheds and north coast watersheds. Biraj supported the department by:

  • Preparing a draft plan for invasive species management (American Bull frog, Canada geese) in collaboration with the City’s team
  • Supporting stream monitoring (gauging, flow measurement, water quality) at multiple sites including Loch Lomond Reservoir, Lower Newell and Upper Newell stream, San Lorenzo Lagoon, and North Coast Flow
  • Assisting ongoing fisheries population research in designated county streams.

For his capstone, Biraj worked on freshwater biodiversity conservation alongside FISHBIO’s Laos program and program leads from their Santa Cruz headquarters. For his capstone, Biraj worked on the Laos Fish Conservation Zone (FCZ) Network project which was being implemented along the Mekong River. FCZs are no-take fishing areas managed by communities that protect critical fish breeding and nursery habitats as well as limit overharvesting of target species. While there, Biraj learned about FCZ establishment, performance, management, evaluation, and adaptation. Biraj envisions applying some of his Lao-based aquatic resources management experience to Nepal as he sees ample opportunities for scaling the FCZ protected areas concept for its uniqueness and ability to address the ongoing decline of freshwater biodiversity.

Faculty Advisor:

Gary Griggs

Partner Organizations:

Lumina Decision Systems

Nature Services Peru

David Torres

Cuzco, Peru

David is a Peruvian Forest Engineer. In 2012 he moved to Cuzco and joined Peru’s National Park Service to support the management of Machupicchu Historical Sanctuary by researching the park’s ecosystems alongside park rangers. He began working at Nature Services Peru in 2014, designing and implementing “Payments for Ecosystem Services” strategies that connect indigenous communities from the Peruvian Amazon with companies in the main cities of Peru. Together these partnerships form Regenera, a nature stewards network working to reduce deforestation in key landscapes of the country.

To better prepare him for his capstone work, David pursued two trainings in Summer 2019 that centered on technology implementation to tackle complex XXI century challenges. These trainings included the Wolfram Summer School (Wolfram Research) and to the Global Sustainability Summer School (Santa Fe Institute). Through these programs and engagement with teammates, David completed two projects:

David’s capstone project focused on a climate action analysis for the city of Santa Cruz’ Sustainability Program using Analytica (a quantitative decision-support software). As a result, David decided to further explore the applications of technology to environmental issues and is now working with Lumina Decision Systems, Analytica’s developer, on the production of a climate action planning tool that can help organizations’ sustainable practices in California, Peru, and beyond.

Watch David’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Faculty Advisor:

Kristy Kroeker

Anne Kapuscinski

Partner Organizations:

Full Cycle Bioplastics

Casey Zweig

Malibu, California

Casey currently serves as the Head of Technology Deployment at Full Cycle Bioplastics where she brings its bacteria-powered technology to scale in order to disrupt defunct waste management systems and move towards circular, zero-waste solutions. She oversees the company’s first production facility in Mountain View and the scale-up to the company’s first commercial facilities. Casey has a knack for tackling major environmental issues through creative, impactful programs and building adaptable, high-performing teams. The urgency of the climate crisis motivates Casey to leverage her boots-on-the-ground experience in environmental programs with systems change thinking to create cost-effective, circular solutions. Casey Zweig is a graduate of the Duke University Environmental Science and Policy program and prior to joining the CSP program led environmental programs for the City of Malibu with a strong focus in coastal issues including water quality, waste management, and coastal adaptation. She is adept at building partnerships across sectors, which has proved successful in the award-winning “Keep it Clean, Malibu” storm water campaign, single-use plastic bans, and expansion of the Clean Bay Certified restaurant program. In 2020, Casey was accepted into the Ellen MacArthur Foundation From Linear to Circular Program.

Watch Casey’s Final Capstone Presentation here. 

Read about Casey's Year 2 Capstone


Plastic pollution and climate change are two of the most pressing environmental crises of our time. Current consumption trends and ineffective waste systems pose major threats to our climate, environment, and human health. Concern over plastic pollution is receiving unprecedented attention and support in public spheres as well as more focused effort by public and private sectors to address organic waste and recyclables, particularly in light of China’s decision to minimize importing waste. This comes at a time when waste companies are already struggling to keep their business models profitable and governments and communities are championing climate action planning to mitigate their impact and develop adaptive capacity for a changing future. Casey’s project aimed to change the status quo of waste systems by bringing to market a new technology that sequesters carbon from organic waste, creates a more valuable product from organic waste than only compost, and creates an easily compostable and marine degradable bioplastic that can serve as an alternative to plastic. Full Cycle Bioplastics’ circular economy technology has been proven at a pilot scale followed by the early planning stages for a commercial scale facility.

DESIGNATED EMPHASIS COHORT

UC Santa Cruz began the Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science and Policy in Fall 2019 for PhD students from departments across UC Santa Cruz’s campus. Meet graduates of the Designated Emphasis:

Karen Tanner

Bay Area, California

Karen Tanner is a student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with a Designated Emphasis in Coastal Science & Policy. For her research, Karen partnered with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to develop and test strategies to improve salt marsh restoration outcomes. During this time she also investigated the impacts of solar energy development on desert annual plants for the California Energy Commission.

Karen will graduate in June 2020 and will start a California Sea Grant fellowship at the San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission. While there she will work on the Regional Shoreline Adaptation Plan and the Adaptation to Rising Tides Program, supporting regional planning efforts intended to protect natural systems and infrastructure from sea level rise.

WELLS FARGO COASTAL SUSTAINABILITY FELLOWS

Senior Ph.D. students were awarded Wells Fargo Coastal Sustainability Fellowships for 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-2018, paving the way for the kind of work graduate students in the Coastal Science and Policy Program produce.

Abe Borker

PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Website: neverstopnerding.com

Sarah Beganskas

Ph.D Candidate, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department
Website: http://sarahbeganskas.wix.com/home

Zachary Caple

PhD Candidate, Cultural Anthropology

Cynthia Carrion

PhD Candidate, Ocean Sciences

Hamutahl Cohen

Ph.D Candidate, Environmental Studies
Website: hamutahlc.sites.ucsc.edu/

Melissa Cronin

PhD Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Ana Martínez Fernández

Ph.D Candidate, Earth and Planetary Sciences Department

Christie Hegermiller, PhD

Ocean Sciences
Website: coastalchristie.weebly.com/

Karla Knudson, PhD

Earth & Planetary Sciences

Kate Melanson

Ph.D Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Website: katemelansonresearch.wordpress.com/

Angela Quiros

Ph.D, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

James Shope, PhD

Earth & Planetary Sciences

Sarah Skikne

PhD Candidate, Environmental Studies

Dena Spatz

Ph.D, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Conservation Biologist, Island Conservation

Bronwen Stanford

PhD Candidate, Environmental Studies

Rachel Zuercher

Ph.D Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Website: rachelzuercher.com

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