The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has named Loren McClenachan a 2019 Marine Fellow. McClenachan, a marine ecologist and Colby’s Elizabeth and Lee Ainslie Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, will be awarded $150,000 over a three-year period for her project “Using historical data to maximize fisheries yields and recovery.” She is one of eight recipients worldwide to receive this prestigious award.

“I am incredibly thrilled to have been selected as a Pew Fellow,” McClenachan said. “It’s a huge honor to be part of this group, which includes many of the scientists and conservation practitioners I’ve admired since I started studying the ocean.”

McClenachan’s work utilizes historical data to identify long-term trends that inform marine management and conservation. Her research on coral reef loss, Bluefin tuna fisheries, and groundfish purchases in Maine has been widely published, and she involves Colby students in her research and publications.

Loren McClenachan diving at the Aquarius Underwater Habitat. Photo: Benjamin Neal

The Pew Fellowship will allow McClenachan to deepen her study of “shifting baselines,” a phenomenon that stems from humans inaccurately measuring ecosystem health against their own experiences, unaware of changes taking place over longer periods of time. Using data from historical sources, McClenachan will identify best practices for addressing shifting baselines in the Bluefin tuna and multispecies Mexican shark fisheries and will investigate how historical ecological data can make fisheries management more accurate and effective.

“This fellowship will allow me to scale up my research program and create a global network around applying historical data to improving fisheries sustainability, which is one of the things I feel most passionate about,” she said. McClenachan aims for that network to include historical ecology practitioners from 25 other fisheries who will develop an action plan specifically for their fisheries.

Loren McClenachan uses a historic photo to illustrate her work.

“I am so delighted for Loren that she has received this prestigious fellowship in recognition of her outstanding record of influential scholarship,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Margaret T. McFadden. “Her innovative approach to using historical ecological data to guide contemporary management of ocean fisheries has already had a significant positive impact in the world; this fellowship will enable her to amplify that impact and conduct research that will make an important contribution to vital marine conservation projects around the globe. And our students are so fortunate to be able to study and conduct research with such an exceptional scholar.”

Part of the Pew Charitable Trusts’ environmental research and science efforts, the marine fellows program acknowledges exceptional mid-career scientists and experts with a dedication to conservation and a strong record of achievement. Improving ocean health is the overarching goal of the program, and the selection of fellows builds a community of global experts who can address marine conservation issues.

The theme of climate change persists in all of the 2019 projects, noted Polita Glynn, who directs the Pew Fellows Program. “These individuals and their projects were selected for their significant promise in protecting a diverse group of marine species and habitats,” she wrote while welcoming the new class of fellows to the program. Since 1996, when the program began focusing on marine conservation, 172 experts from 39 countries have been recognized.

 

Read a Colby Magazine story about McClenachan that’s part of the Colby Climate Project.