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Monmouth’s Ajmera Serves on Closing Panel of Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum

Riya Ajmera
Riya Ajmera answers a question at the Mid-Atlantic Forum on May 6.

Monmouth University’s Riya Ajmera provided a first-ever student perspective on the closing panel of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum, hosted May 5-6 by the Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean (MACO). The annual event gathers hundreds of professionals and stakeholders representing federal and state agencies, Tribal entities, marine industries, nonprofit research and advocacy organizations, and the public to collaborate on ocean planning issues.

In the video below, Ajmera shared her takeaways from the two-day event’s proceedings in a conversation with fellow panelists Mike Jones, environmental outreach program manager, U. S. Fleet Forces Command/U. S. Navy; Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean Chair Kimberly Cole; MACO Tribal Lead Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Indian Nation; Emily Shumchenia, director of the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind; Jerry Barnes, marine affairs manager for Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project; and Healthy Ocean Coalition Executive Director Sarah Winter Whelan.

A rising senior majoring in Chemistry with a Concentration in Biochemistry/Minor in Journalism, Ajmera authored a white paper in the fall that examined the nature and scope of risks to marine environments posed by offshore wind farm development in the Mid-Atlantic and science-based policy options that can mitigate harm to marine species and promote marine biodiversity. Her research was conducted with support from the Urban Coast Institute’s (UCI) Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program and guidance from Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate.

Monmouth Presenters at Forum

The Forum panels had several additional Monmouth connections, with presentations by alumna Tatiana Castro, UCI Postdoctoral Researcher Chris Haak and UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba. UCI Director Tony MacDonald also served as a facilitator throughout the event.

Castro and Haak
Tatiana Castro (top) and Chris Haak speak at the Forum.

Castro, who graduated with a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy in 2016, detailed her efforts with the nonprofit Billion Oyster Project to restore oyster reefs in New York Harbor during a poster session highlighting the work of early career professionals and students. Click here to watch a video of her presentation and here to view a PDF of her poster file.

Haak and Vilacoba both served on the Forum’s “Sustainable Ocean Ecosystems” panel (click here for video). Haak provided a presentation on fisheries habitat modeling research he is conducting with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Vilacoba, who serves as project manager for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal, offered a glimpse of new and upcoming GIS maps on the site that depict marine life distributions and habitats.

For more information on the Forum, including a full list of panel videos and presentation files, click here.