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Institute Assistant Director of Science, Demian Chapman, receives prestigious fellowship
Demian ChapmanMarch 12, 2014 — Demian Chapman, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and assistant director for science at the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, has been awarded a 2014 Pew Fellowship in marine conservation for a new research project to determine how recently enacted international regulations affect the trade in the fins of protected shark species. Sharks have been heavily fished to supply the international fin trade, depriving marine ecosystems of some of their most important top predators and endangering species dependent on them.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation awards recipients US$150,000 for a three-year project to address conservation challenges facing the world’s oceans. Chapman’s project will identify regions where more effort is needed to enforce protections for sharks listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

“Many shark species, including those listed on CITES, simply can’t keep up with the current rate of exploitation and demand,” said Chapman. “Protective measures must be scaled up significantly and enforced in order to avoid further depletion and the possible extirpation of some shark populations in our lifetime.”

CITES offers protection to more than 30,000 animal and plant species around the globe. In light of concerns about declining shark populations, countries voted in 2013 to list five threatened shark species on CITES Appendix II, which requires permits to trade specimens. The species—oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and three types of hammerheads—are among the most valuable and vulnerable sharks in international trade. If the Appendix II listings are effectively implemented, fins of these species should only come from regions where harvests are deemed sustainable by management authorities.

Chapman attended the 2013 CITES meeting with his wife and research partner Debra Abercrombie to demonstrate to delegations that the fins of the five proposed sharks are easy to identify on sight. This helped convince the delegates that trade restrictions would be enforceable, which helped secure the necessary votes for listing. He will use his fellowship to investigate the trade in the fins of these species after CITES listings take effect in September.

“We know from recent studies that an enormous number of sharks are being killed for their fins,” said Joshua S. Reichert, executive vice president and head of environment initiatives for The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Dr. Chapman’s research will help us learn more about the state of today’s global fin trade, so countries can better enforce international laws to protect the oceans’ top predator.”

Chapman is a research scientist at Stony Brook University's Institute for Ocean Conservation Science and head of the Institute's Shark Research Program. He is also a marine conservation fellow at the Blue Ocean Institute. His research expertise lies in molecular biology and telemetry tracking, which he integrates to address research questions related to the dispersal and reproduction of sharks and rays. He is particularly interested in how shark reproduction and movements affect population dynamics, genetic diversity and geographic structure, and their implications for conservation. Chapman is the author of more than 40 scientific articles and currently manages field research projects on sharks in Belize, The Bahamas, Fiji, New Zealand, and Florida.

The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation has awarded 135 fellowships to individuals from 31 countries. The fellowships fund projects that address critical challenges in ocean conservation. Through a rigorous nomination and review process, a committee of international ocean experts each year selects five marine fellows based on the strengths of their proposed projects, including their potential to protect ocean environments. Novel and timely projects led by outstanding professionals are chosen annually, targeting individuals in mid-career. The program is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. The four other recipients in 2014 are:

Stefan Gelcich, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Pontifica Universidad Catolica de Chile, for a new project that will examine the social and ecological incentives that enable the incorporation of no-take zones within territorial fishing areas along the Chilean coast.

Paul Greenberg, an award-winning journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, to prepare a book focusing on the human demand for Omega 3 fatty acids found in seafood and its impact on the sustainability of the world’s oceans.

Hoyt Peckham, Ph.D., a pioneer of social and marine stewardship based in La Paz, México, to expand on his work on incentivizing sustainable fishing along the coast of Northwest Mexico to other communities in the region and around the world.

Louisa Shobhini Ponnampalam, Ph.D., a scientist with the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to conduct new research on the country’s population of dugongs, a large coastal marine mammal that resembles the manatee.

More information about each of the 2014 Pew marine fellows, including photographs and graphics, is available at

Why Sharks Need Our Help Sharks have long been the sea's scariest creatures, but now they find their very existence threatened as scientists work to save these misunderstood monsters. Coverage in Hamptons Magazine. Read More.


A dead shark found Tuesday evening on the beach at Amagansett has been confirmed as a great white, according to Demian Chapman, assistant professor of marine science at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences of Stony Brook University. Read More. (photo credit: Joe Vish)


The ocean’s forage fish are worth $17 billion and deserve more credit and conservation.
Read More.

  forage fish

IOCS Assistant Director Christine Santora helps spearhead eelgrass restoration in Shinnecock Bay through a day of citizen volunteering Read More.


Congratulations to Natasha Gownaris for winning the Pikitch Family Endowed Student Research Award. She is the first recipient of this newly established scholarship Read More.

  Pikitch and Gownaris

Congratulations to IOCS students Konstantine Rountos, for earning his Ph.D., and Jessica Steve, for earning her Master’s of Science degree, both through Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Both were advised by IOCS Executive Director, Dr. Ellen Pikitch.

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Institute Executive Director and her family generously support Stony Brook University marine science students. SoMAS Professor Establishes Family Endowment Read More.

  Pikitch family

Institute for Ocean Conservation Science listed in Top 10 "Amazing Organizations Bravely Fighting for Marine Conservation" by One Green Planet. Read More.

  one green planet

Ellen Pikitch Testifies at Legislative Hearing in Washington. Ellen K. Pikitch, Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, was among a group of witnesses that provided testimony at The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources Legislative Hearing in Washington, D.C., on February 4. Read more.

  Dr. Ellen Pikitch

Female sharks return home to give birth. Research conducted in Bimini, spanning almost two decades, shows that female lemon sharks that were born there returned 15 years later to give birth, confirming this behavior for the first time in sharks. Dr. Demian Chapman, the Institute’s assistant director for science, started out 17 years ago as a volunteer researcher at the Sharklab in Bimini, and is a co-author, along with the Institute’s executive director, Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, of the resulting paper published in Molecular Ecology. Read more.

  lemon shark

The Institute's executive director, Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, is travelling to Ireland to present the findings of the Lenfest Forage Task Force. She was invited to make the presentation to be followed by discussion with members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine of Ireland’s National Parliament on Thurs., October 17, in Dublin. Her presentation can be viewed live as a webcast. . Read more.


Congratulations to Institute Ph.D. student Konstantine Rountos whose presentation at the recent American Fisheries Society (AFS) meeting was selected as the best student presentation in a Fish Habitat Section-sponsored symposium. Konstantine will receive both a cash award and a plaque for this accomplishment from AFS. His award-winning presentation, “The Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on Early Life Stages of Estuarine Forage Fish,” explained the research that he and a team of Institute and SoMAS scientists have conducted on the these algal blooms in Shinnecock Bay, which are caused by the dinoflagellate, Cochlodinium polykrikoides. Read more.

  Konstantine Rountos

WildAid and Shark Savers have announced their intent to merge, combining two of the world’s most successful shark conservation programs. The Institute’s executive director, Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, who is a Shark Savers’ Board Member will join WildAid’s International Advisory Board. Shark Savers’ programs and name will join WildAid’s portfolio of programs to protect endangered wildlife species. Read more.


Dr. Demian Chapman, the Institute’s assistant director for science, and SoMAS Ph.D. student Shannon O’Leary led a team of scientists in a study of winter flounder in six bays of Long Island, NY, one of the first that indicates the occurrence of inbreeding in a marine fish. The scientists also determined that the effective number of breeders in each bay was below 500 fish, suggesting that the spawning populations of this historically common fish are now relatively small in the area. These findings suggest the loss of genetic diversity presents survival risks for historically common marine fish and should be considered in fisheries management and conservation plans. Read more.


"People have had this idea for way too long that the seas are so vast and limitless that nothing we could ever do could hurt them,” remarked the Institute’s executive director, Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch in a Washington Post article about a conservation group’s effort to double the number of marine species listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Read more.


Dr. Ellen Pikitch, the Institute’s executive director, was interviewed by Jocelyn Zuckerman for OnEarth Blog about the importance of forage fish, and the impact that more human consumption of these fish might have on the current demand to use them primarily for animal feed. Read more.


Survival of the fittest plays out in wombs of sand tiger shark. Dr. Demian Chapman, the Institute’s assistant director for science, is the lead author of a paper published online by the journal Biology Letters on May 1. The paper, “The behavioural and genetic mating system of the sand tiger shark, Carcharias taurus, an intrauterine cannibal,” is the result of a multi-year study of these sharks to better understand their reproduction, which includes the killing of embryos by the most developed among them. And, although the female sharks mate with numerous male sharks, this cannibalism in the womb appears to result in “genetic monogamy.” Read more.


Institute and SoMAS Ph.D. student Mark Bond has been selected by the Stony Brook University Chapter of Sigma Xi for a Travel Award. Sigma Xi is an international research society that promotes the health of the scientific enterprise and honors scientific achievement. The Travel Award was awarded to Mark in recognition of the quality and importance of his research, and will be used to offset the expenses of traveling to the 26th International Congress for Conservation Biology to give an oral presentation on his research on southern stingrays in Belize. Read more.

  Mark Bond

The Institute Applauds Historic Action Taken By Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) To Protect Sharks and Manta Rays. The CITES 16th Conference of Parties meeting took a critically important step on March 14 to help prevent the extinction of five shark species, as well as manta rays, when the required two-thirds of the 177 member governments voted in plenary to grant them international trade protection. The oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, three species of hammerhead shark, and manta rays will now have a fighting chance to recover from the decimation of their numbers due to overexploitation. In order for this protection to be effective, however, the Institute strongly encourages that member nations work cooperatively to quickly develop international enforcement procedures of these trade regulations. Read more.


Five shark species and the manta ray gained international trade protection by CITES; however the agreement must still be formally approved by the CITES plenary session. Read more.

  shark fins

Representatives of 177 governments from around the world are expected to attend the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) March 3-14 in Bangkok, Thailand. CITES, which was agreed to in Washington, DC, in 1973, offers protection to more than 30,000 animal and plant species around the globe. It has been instrumental in preventing their extinction and is generally recognized as one of the most effective and best-enforced international conservation agreements. Read more.


New research on migratory behavior of endangered oceanic whitetip sharks can help shape conservation strategies. Dr. Demian Chapman, the Institute’s assistant director for science, was a member of a team of scientists who attached pop-up satellite archival tags to 11 mature oceanic whitetip sharks in The Bahamas, and monitored the movements of sharks for varying intervals up to 245 days. Read more.


"Give Shark Sanctuaries a Chance," a letter to the editor, was published in the February 15 issue of Science magazine. Written by Dr. Demian Chapman, the Institute’s assistant director of science, who also heads the Shark Research Program, and Dr. Ellen K. Pikitch, the Institute’s executive director, along with several of their colleagues, the letter explain why these sanctuaries are important for shark conservation and how they can be successfully managed. Read more.


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