top of page
Image by Hiroko Yoshii

Institute Highlights by Year

In the eighteen years since its founding, IOCS scientists have produced an impressive record of peer-reviewed publications and accomplishments, while also frequently working with policymakers at the local, national, and international levels. IOCS has employed and collaborated with many scientists, graduate students, NGOs, foundations, and other key groups to make a difference for the future of our oceans.

  • 2023
    IOCS moderated a session on MPA finance in Latin America and the Caribbean at the 5th International Marine Protected Areas Congress, submitted a related journal publication, and engaged in discussions on MPAs in China and scaling MPA finance. At the Stony Brook Gala in April, IOCS was highlighted in a tribute honoring Laurie Landeau and Bob Maze for their philanthropic support of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program and their impact at Stony Brook University. In May, Dr. Ellen Pikitch presented degrees at the SoMAS Convocation and, along with her sister Susan, awarded the 10th Anniversary Pikitch Family Endowed Research Award to Nathaniel Willse. During World Ocean Week in June, IOCS featured the Shinnecock Bay Hope Spot at The Explorers Club's 'Big Ideas' session and Dr. Pikitch spoke at the United Nations, co-organizing a side event on unmanned technologies in marine environments. On June 9th, IOCS celebrated the Shinnecock Bay Hope Spot with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Stony Brook Southampton, featuring Mission Blue’s founder Dr. Sylvia Earle, and other notable figures, spotlighting advances in underwater robotics and marine conservation. Dr. Ellen Pikitch co-authored a publication in Marine Policy, "Reconciling China’s Domestic Marine Conservation Agenda with the Global 30 × 30 Initiative," contributing significantly to global discussions on marine protected areas.
  • 2022
    Shinnecock Bay was designated as a global “Hope Spot” by Mission Blue, recognizing a decade of restoration efforts by Stony Brook University's SoMAS team to revive its biodiversity and health. Our ShiRP team at Stony Brook University published our science-based restoration work in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, showing how implementing successful strategies like spawner sanctuaries and eelgrass seeding enhance marine biodiversity and improve water quality in the bay. Dr. John Bohorquez and Dr. Ellen Pikitch led a study supported by the Lenfest Ocean Program, that​​ created the first-of-its-kind database on China's marine conservation areas. The study was published in Science Advances, and shows China’s progress towards the Convention on Biodiversity’s (CBD) goal of protecting 30% of oceans by 2030. Dr. Ellen Pikitch contributed to a national analysis of MPAs, highlighting the need for expanded marine protection in U.S. waters to meet conservation goals, as published in Frontiers in Marine Science. Dr. Ellen Pikitch spoke at the UN's sixth annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science, focusing on sustainable development and her work on the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program. IOCS scientists published a letter in Science, highlighting the importance of Egypt's heat-tolerant coral reefs and their conservation needs, coinciding with global climate discussions at COP27.
  • 2021
    IOCS initiated and published the first comprehensive study of China’s area-based ocean conservation efforts in Science Advances, released an online map of results, and presented findings on a public webinar. Ellen Pikitch is co-author of The MPA Guide, an authoritative synthesis published in Science and is featured in an article “New MPA Guide Maps Out Ways to Effectively Protect 30 Percent of Ocean by 2030” Stony Brook University highlights the work of the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program in “SBU Scientists Take a Multi-Faceted Approach to Restoring Shinnecock Bay” published in Stony Brook News. IOCS coauthors publications on the effects of South Africa’s fisheries closures on penguins, and on diet variability of the summer flounder in Shinnecock Bay, NY.
  • 2020
    IOCS helps secure over 200,000 oysters for the restoration of Shinnecock Bay as part of the SOAR (Supporting Aquaculture and Restoration) program, an initiative to provide economic relief to oyster farmers during COVID-19 that provides positive environmental benefits. Ellen Pikitch elected a Fellow of The Explorer’s Club and named Director of SoMAS’s Marine Conservation and Policy M.A. Graduate Program. IOCS PhD student gives OCTO webinar describing his dissertation work on financial sustainability of MPAs and co-authors study in Environmental Science and Technology.
  • 2019
    Current and former IOCS members publish a global analysis in Frontiers in Marine Science showing important areas of the ocean that are good candidates for marine protection. The results are presented in an online mapping platform, highlighted in Stony Brook news , and presented by the authors in an online webinar. IOCS publishes two scientific papers on global marine protected area categorization and financing in the journals Frontiers in Marine Science and Marine Policy. IOCS leads a 4-day workshop to immerse 20 of New York State’s Master Teachers in estuary science and the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program, with the goal of integrating local issues and marine science into their curricula.
  • 2018
    IOCS organizes session at 5th International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5) in Kuching, Malaysia on “Raising the Bar for Marine Protected Areas,” and attends the 2018 Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Ellen Pikitch publishes a foundational piece on environmental DNA in Science and earns an Endowed Professorship at SoMAS, boosting Stony Brook University’s leadership in marine science and conservation. IOCS members attend expert group meetings including IUCN’s workshop on crafting MPA Standards and the International Symposium on Assessing the Importance of Coastal Wetlands for Marine Ecosystems, Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Local Livelihoods in Shanghai, China. IOCS initiates a shell recycling program to support construction of four oyster reefs in Shinnecock Bay, NY
  • 2017
    IOCS attends and presents at the inaugural United Nations Oceans Conference. Ellen Pikitch is appointed by President Tommy Remengesau of the Republic of Palau to be his special advisor on Matters on Oceans and Seas Ellen Pikitch leads effort of over 100 scientists in support of ecosystem-based management of Atlantic Menhaden and reconvenes Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force to “correct the record” after other scientists mischaracterize their work.
  • 2016
    IOCS brings science directly to many United Nations Member States in support of SDG 14.5 including at the first “10 x 20” Steering Committee Meeting, at a briefing at UN Headquarters, and by co-hosting an event at the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly IOCS co-organizes a high-level, international conference on marine protected areas in Rome, Italy. The conference included developing scientific guidance to achieve effective MPAs as well as a science-policy dialogue with diplomats from 33 UN Member States. IOCS hosts a group of UN ambassadors at Stony Brook Southampton Marine Station, where ten countries tour marine lab and visit local marine protected area, underscoring importance of MPAs to local conservation. Ellen Pikitch receives prestigious Oscar Elton Sette Award from American Fisheries Society for sustained excellence in the areas of research, teaching, and administration
  • 2015
    IOCS convenes a panel of world-renowned scientists at the UN for One Ocean: Achieving Sustainability through Sanctuaries symposium, which leads to close working partnership with Ocean Sanctuary Alliance on Sustainable Development Goal 14 IOCS participates in high-level event on MPAs at UN that focuses on regenerating fish stocks to prepare for UN General Assembly vote on adopting 15-year set of Sustainable Development Goals American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) elects Ellen Pikitch as a 2015 fellow, honoring her “for distinguished contributions to the fields of fisheries and conservation science, particularly development and application of quantitative methods to sustainably manage exploited marine fishes”
  • 2014
    Dr. Ellen Pikitch receives the 2014 award for Excellence in Public Outreach at the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society. IOCS leads a study in the journal Fish and Fisheries on the value of forage fish as direct catch, as food for other commercial species, and as prey for higher trophic level species.
  • 2013
    IOCS study showed that ocean whitetip sharks travel far from the protected areas of the Bahamas, putting them in danger of exploitation Co-authored a paper showing that over 100 million sharks are killed annually, calling for stronger international conservation measures Developed a shark fin identification guide and app, making it easy to identify fins in a market and determine if they were taken from protected species
  • 2012
    The IOCS-led Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force issues its groundbreaking report, “Little Fish, Big Impact: Managing a crucial link in ocean food webs”, with original scientific analyses, case studies, and recommendations for ecologically-based forage fish management. This report immediately began to influence both US and global forage fisheries management and conservation Demonstrated that marine reserves are powerful tools for the conservation of Caribbean Reef Sharks The Shinnecock Bay Restoration Program is founded
  • 2011
    Published review paper “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth” in Science, confirming that apex predators are vital to marine ecosystem stability Demonstrated a method to trace shark fins by their genetic “zip code”, further refining methods to track shark fins from markets
  • 2010
    Found Caspian Sea sturgeon harvest rates to be highly unsustainable - four to five times higher than biologically safe levels Provided the first evidence that Atlantic Sturgeon travel vast distances in the ocean, using pop-up satellite tags Found virgin birth shark pups to be biologically viable, providing the first evidence that parthenogenesis is an alternative method of reproduction for sharks
  • 2009
    Showed that unadaptive evolution in fish - a result of overfishing that can weaken a whole species - can be revered with informed fisheries management Developed DNA testing techniques that traced hammerhead shark fins sold in Hong Kong to their geographic origin Demonstrated that lemon sharks stay near their home ranges, highlighting the importance of focused, localized conservation efforts
  • 2008
    Co-authored Sharks of the Open Ocean, a compendium focusing on the biology, conservation, and management of pelagic sharks Sponsored research that demonstrated that forage fish constitute a third of global fish catch, leading to the creation of the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force Authored a Newsday editorial about sharks and the necessity of stronger conservation efforts The Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force begins its 3-year program of work
  • 2007
    Documented a virgin birth by a captive hammerhead shark, the first demonstration that female sharks can reproduce without mating Received a Public Relations Society of America Silver Anvil Award for “Caviar Emptor: Let the Connoisseur Beware”, a seven-year public education program that spread awareness and understanding of the beluga sturgeon’s critically endangered status Demonstrated the cascading effects of shark overfishing, highlighting their importance for ocean conservation Demonstrated mixing of green sturgeon populations in the Pacific, helping to inform management practices and leading to a 5-year review of the green sturgeon’s status by the National Marine Fisheries Service
  • 2006
    Produced the world’s first global estimate of sharks killed, finding that the number of kills is likely three times higher than official estimates and spurring a number of shark conservation measures including the U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act and a number of state fishing bans Tracked the movement of the Caspian Sea sturgeon with satellite tags and informed the government of Kazakhstan’s conservation measures for the species.
  • 2005
    Published the first global review of sturgeon fisheries, helping influence 175 countries to enact a global, one-year ban on sturgeon trade Authored “The gathering wave of ocean extinctions” for the book State of the Wild Led a field trip to the Bahamas that raised awareness and media coverage of the threat of marine life extinction
  • 2004
    Demonstrated that beluga sturgeon were nearing extinction due to the caviar trade, helping to grant the sturgeon “Threatened” status, and leading the USA to ban beluga caviar imports the following year Led the first scientific consensus on ecosystem-based fisheries management, with a publication in Science
  • 2003
    Pioneered a new method of forensic DNA identification of great white sharks, giving enforcement agents the tools to fight illegal harvesting and helping to secure international protection for this vital species The Institute is founded in October 2003 at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
bottom of page