The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., announced its 2023 cohort of African American Scholars during the Aquarium’s annual African American Festival. The 2023 scholars were selected by a committee including Aquarium staff members and members of the community and include five undergraduate students, two masters students, and three Ph.D. students from eight different schools throughout California.
The African American Scholar Program provides a financial award of $10,000 to support each recipient’s studies and exploration of fields related to the work of the Aquarium. Beyond the monetary award they receive, each scholar has the opportunity to engage with the Aquarium to explore their career interests and learn more about the education and conservation efforts of the Aquarium.
The newly named cohort joins a community of program alumni with which they can connect, share resources, and further feel supported in their marine science trajectory. Since 2021, the Aquarium has named 31 recipients of this scholarship. Past recipients have volunteered, interned, and worked as paid staff at the Aquarium. Others have published in the Aquarium’s member magazine, created one-minute film clips for early childhood educators, met with the Aquarium’s Teen Climate Council, and coordinated a tour for students in The Diversity Project through the University of California, Los Angeles. This year’s cohort and program alums are invited to participate in the annual African American Scholar Symposium in November.
“When I was in high school, I began volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific, first as a VolunTeen and then as an education volunteer. My favorite part… being a diverse role model to the children there. As a volunteer, I could see in many of the children’s faces that I was doing more than making the ocean more accessible; I was making their dreams more attainable. I began to feel that by excelling in my field, I was sending a message that there is a place for everyone in the sciences,” said Bryce Barbee, 2023 African American Scholar.
This scholar program was made possible thanks to funding from supporters such as The Boeing Company, The Ahmanson Foundation, Lori Prince and Robert Hum, Kathie Eckert, David Cameron with City National Bank, Bob Foster, and the Schulzman-Neri Foundation.
Recipients of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2023 African American Scholar Funds:
Anthony McGinnis is a fourth-year undergraduate student at California State University, Long Beach studying marine biology. On campus, he is part of the Shark Lab, where he participates in research. McGinnis is currently working on his open-water dive certification and hopes to pursue scientific diving and attend grad school in the future.
Bryce Barbee is a first-year Ph.D. student in the ecology, evolution, and marine biology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Barbee grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and attributes his involvement in marine science partly to his time at the Aquarium of the Pacific. In high school, Barbee was a VolunTeen and then a volunteer in the Aquarium’s education department.
Danielle McHaskell is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Her research examines how non-native seaweed impacts subtidal, rocky reef ecosystems like the iconic kelp forests. She is excited to mentor and collaborate with undergraduates interested in marine biology research this summer. In the future, McHaskell plans to pursue a tenure-track faculty position within the California State University system so that she can share her passion for ecology while teaching future generations of diverse students.
Genece Grisby is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Davis pursuing a marine and coastal science degree. Grisby recently started a new job at the Bodega Marine Laboratory and began their divemaster training. Grisby looks forward to pursuing scientific diving this summer to gain relevant skills before applying to graduate school to focus on biological oceanography.
Gregory Smith is a graduate student pursuing a master’s in evolutionary biology at San José State University. Smith’s research investigates the Cassin’s auklet on the Southeast Farallon Island’s part of the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of San Francisco, Calif. Smith grew up visiting, working at, and being inspired by the Bronx Zoo and continues to appreciate the value of zoos and aquariums as a resource for the public.
Jada Alexander is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying environmental education and marine science. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a Ph.D. to continue her involvement in research. Alexander aspires to use her insight and experience as a black woman in the outdoors to help facilitate equal representation for people of color in the environment. She hopes to explore future opportunities to work in an aquarium as part of an education department.
Jahnita DeMoranville is a second-year graduate student enrolled in a marine biology M.S. degree program at California State University, Fullerton. DeMoranville’s research uses functional morphology and biomechanics techniques to answer questions about bite performance in squids. In the summer of 2022, she was a Eugenie Clark Fellow with Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS).
Jake Roth is a fourth-year undergraduate at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo studying marine science. Roth looks forward to gaining research experience after graduation, possibly working with whales in Puget Sound. Roth is an intern with the nonprofit Friends of the Elephant Seal, working onsite with the university research team and the docents.
Khalil Russell is a second-year Ph.D. student in the University of California, Davis population biology program. Russell’s research looks at the ecology, invasive biology, and functional morphology of freshwater fish within the Cichlidae family. Since he was young, Russell has kept and bred fish in aquariums. He now shares his knowledge with others through his YouTube channel called FNF Cichlids | Friendly Neighborhood Fishkeeper.
Kimberly Randolph is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in biology and specializing in ecology and environmental science at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Randolph is interested in microorganisms and bacteria in the ocean. She is also a proud member of the Land Hermit Crab Owners Society, which advocates for the proper care of land hermit crabs, education, research, and conservation.
African American Scholar Program Committee Members:
Ryan Ashton, vice president of development, Aquarium of the Pacific
Anthony Brown, chief operating officer/chief financial officer, Wildwood School
Sean Devereaux, executive director, Leadership Long Beach
Keasha Dumas Heath, executive director, The Museum of African American Art
Krista Kamer, director, California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST)
Alie LeBeau, director, STEM Pathway Initiatives, Aquarium of the Pacific
Alyssa Pacaut, director of membership, Aquarium of the Pacific
Steve Young, principal, Keesal, Young, and Logan and Aquarium board director
African American Scholar Program Committee Advisor:
Naomi Rainey, president, Long Beach Branch NAACP
Photo Credits: © Aquarium of the Pacific
Edited by Sarah Gilsoul, a writer and communications program assistant at AZA.
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