Gerard Capriulo, a Saint Mary's College marine biologist, was appointed to the board of directors of a major marine research center in Long Beach, giving him the chance to integrate his commitment to science research, environmental policy, and public education.
In May, Capriulo, the Fletcher Jones Professor of Biology, was named a member of the board of directors of the Aquarium of the Pacific's Marine Conservation Research Institute (MCRI).
Capriulo's expertise is in ocean sciences, especially marine food webs, coastal zone ecology, and the effects of pollution on marine environments. He has studied marine ecology in Atlantic and Pacific waters and in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and Sargasso Seas, as well as the Sea of Cortez. He also developed educational programs for the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut.
"It's an honor to be invited to be on the MCRI board," said Capriulo, "and it's exciting because the research institute is so new. This is a chance to influence change and help build the institute further."
One of the MCRI's research priorities is species propagation. The institute's work with corals particularly interests Capriulo, whose research includes the study of sea anemones, close cousins of corals.
"The goal is to appeal to collectors to acquire corals that are bred in captivity, in order to take pressure off the natural environment," explained Capriulo. "If we can do the science part of growing coral in captivity-not just with one species of coral but many-and do it in a way that could be priced similarly to that of the wild corals, then we could take off some of the pressure that is destroying natural coral reefs."
The connection between science and public policy in marine ecology is a timely issue, said Capriulo. Last year, the Pew Oceans Commission published a report titled America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change, and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report was released in November 2003.
"The Aquarium's Coastal America project is an outgrowth of those reports, and it will be one of the biggest initiatives of the next two years," he explained. "The Aquarium hopes to help figure out, first, what do we need to do to maintain the nation's coastal ecology and who should do it, and, second, what can we do to influence policy especially in the state of California." With its long coastline, said Capriulo, getting the state of California "on board" will be indispensable in implementing sound coastal ecosystem policies.
To Capriulo, his new post is as much of a joy as an additional professional responsibility. At the start of the summer, he was almost finished setting up a new lab in the College's J.C. Gatehouse science building. He seemed impatient for the end of summer, when his students who will help conduct research will return.
"I'm like a kid in a candy shop when it comes to marine biology," Capriulo said. "It's always been fun for me, ever since I decided to be a marine biologist in my freshman year in high school, and it still is. I've never lost that excitement."
-- by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch