Events & Media

Alumna Receives Major Award
Carissa Klein (MESM 2006) is recognized for work that balances conservation and human needs

Bren alumna Carissa Klein (MESM 2006), who went on to earn her PhD at the University of Queensland, Australia, has received a major environmental award for her body of work, which has addressed simultaneously the interests of fisheries conservation and the livelihoods of fishermen and others affiliated with the fishing industry.


Bren School alumna Carissa Klein (second from right) poses with dignitaries after receiving her award from Indonesian Ministry of Research and Technology Gusti M. Hatta (third from left).

Klein was awarded the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) on July 1 by Gusti M. Hatta, Indonesia’s Minister of Research and Technology, at a ceremony in the city of Medan, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. (APEC stands for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which is described on its website as “the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region.”)

“We selected Dr. Klein as the 2013 ASPIRE winner based on her approach to negotiating the fragile balance between ocean conservation and sustainable livelihoods,” Minister Hatta said at a ceremony honoring Klein. “This is at the heart of Indonesia’s 2013 APEC priority of sustainable development with equity.”

An APEC release praised her work for “striking a balance between [ocean] biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic viability.”

“It’s a huge award, and I never would have received it without my Bren Group Project,” she said from Australia, shortly after receiving the award at a ceremony held in the city of Medan, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

For her Group Project, Klein and fellow classmates Allison Chan, Amanda Cundiff, Nadia Gardner, Yvana Hrovat, and Lindsay Kircher worked with faculty advisor Bruce Kendall and their clients, Satie Airamé, who was then with the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) and is now the Bren School assistant dean for academic affairs, and the Scientific Advisory Team to California's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), of which Bren School dean Steve Gaines was a member. Their project involved assessing various approaches to designing marine protected areas (MPAs). The creation of MPAs was mandated by the MLPA, passed in 1999, to protect ocean habitats and allow overfished species to recover while minimizing the impact on commercial and recreational fisheries. Klein continued the work as part of her PhD.

Prior to enrolling at Bren, Klein was interested in marine conservation and working across multiple disciplines, but she didn’t know exactly what her focus would be or what her options were. It became clear, she recalls, when Airamé gave a guest lecture in the Coastal Marine Policy & Management course.

“She talked about some potential group project ideas and asked us to follow up with her if we were interested,” Klein recalls. “I was enthusiastic about her ideas, which involved integrating economic and biological information to design MPAs, and I spoke with her that week. Together we developed a Group Project proposal, which was accepted, and I did my summer internship with Satie at PISCO. She was a fantastic mentor and she had a big influence on the directions I took at Bren and after.

A few years later, the work was recognized by World Wildlife Fund Malaysia, which was interested in using a similar approach to designing MPAs and fishing areas in Borneo. Klein’s work on her Group Project and the Borneo project contributed to her receiving the award, as both supported the theme of Sustainable Ocean Development in APEC member economies, in this case, the United States and Malaysia.

Selection criteria for the award, which includes a $25,000 cash prize, include publications, citations, and scope of work.

Each APEC member economy (i.e. country) gets to select one person for the competition. Klein was nominated and selected as Australia's representative.

“That was a huge honor alone,” she says. “I found out a couple of weeks later that I was the international winner and was so excited. It was hard to believe, actually.”

Klein is currently working on several land-sea conservation planning projects in which she is studying how such land-based activities as farming, mining, and coastal development impact marine ecosystems and using the information to inform marine and terrestrial management decisions. (See an article about a related project in Fiji here.) She is also working to identify cost-effective management options for the Great Barrier Reef, which may lose World Heritage status if something significant is not done in the next year to protect it from a variety of threats, from agricultural run-off to rapid coastal development.