Scholarships awarded for Ocean Leadership Practicum

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Robert Richmond, (808) 539-7331
Research Professor, Pacific Biosciences Research Center
Posted: Feb 15, 2013

Center for Ocean Solutions
Center for Ocean Solutions

Four graduate students with ties to UH Mānoa’s Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) were awarded scholarships to attend the Ocean Leadership Practicum held in January 2013 at the Center for Ocean Solutions in Monterey, California. The four students are all Pacific Islanders, including a Native Hawaiian (Narrissa Spies), a Chamorro student from Guam (Austin Shelton), a Chamorro student from Saipan (Sean MacDuff) and a Palauan (Jack Idechong).

The practicum was focused on strengthening the leadership skills of the brightest up-and-comers in the area of marine conservation, and included training in communicating science to diverse audiences, working through potential conflicts to achieve measurable goals and outcomes, and providing leadership through innovation and collaboration.

Spies, Shelton and MacDuff are PhD students performing their doctoral dissertation research at PBRC’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory; Idechong, presently a graduate student at the University of Guam Marine Laboratory, served as an undergraduate research assistant at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory as well.  In fact, three of the four students started their careers as researchers in PBRC’s undergraduate programs, which foster critical thinking, problem solving and leadership.

“These four students are actively engaged in marine conservation research and its application to sustainability in Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands,” said Dr. Robert Richmond, research professor at PBRC.  “They will undoubtedly serve as excellent ambassadors and role models of the expertise and passion that exists in Hawai’i and Micronesia for protecting our oceans as a legacy for future generations.”

PBRC has a long history of successfully engaging and mentoring under-represented minority students, particularly Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines.  The advancement of these four graduate students is an example of positive outcomes in instilling a passion for learning and the application of science to locally relevant, real-world problems.

About PBRC (
The Pacific Biosciences Research Center is an Organized Research Unit of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa that focuses research, training and service activities on issues of particular relevance to Hawai‘i and the Pacific Islands.  Research topics include a range of subjects from land-sea connections (the Ahupua’a approach to integrated land-use practices and coastal coral reef protection) and invasive species, to the behavior of local plant pollinating bees, chemicals from marine organisms of potential value to medicine, the linkages between environmental and human health, and island sustainability.

About the Center for Ocean Solutions
The Center for Ocean Solutions is a collaboration among Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment and Hopkins Marine Station, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.  Across these institutions, COS draws from about 80 scholars, researchers and educators who work on coastal and ocean ecosystems in the natural, physical and social sciences. COS also works with experienced conservation practitioners and policy experts. Located at Stanford and in Monterey, California, COS is uniquely positioned to leverage expertise and develop practical solutions to the most urgent and important ocean conservation problems.

For additional information, contact Dr. Robert Richmond, Kewalo Marine Laboratory, (808) 539-7331 or


Photo captions:

Aquarium (left to right): The four graduate students who participated in the Ocean Leadership Practicum are Sean MacDuff, Narissa Spies, Austin Shelton and Jacques Idechong.  Here they are pictured at the Monterey Aquarium.

Center for Ocean Solutions (left to right):  Dr. Larry Crowder, Adina Abeles, Jacques Idechong, Sean MacDuff, Meg Caldwell, Austin Shelton, Narissa Spies and Margaret Krebs