Dr. Jennifer O’Leary is a marine ecologist with California Sea Grant at California Polytechnic State University who works at the interface between science and management. Her research focuses on how human disturbance and environmental variability affect resilience of marine systems and managing complex human and ecological systems for long-term sustainability. She has worked for over 20 years designing research and management initiatives to address conservation challenges in kelp forests and seagrass meadows in the USA and coral reef, seagrass and mangrove systems in coastal East Africa and Pacific Islands.
She developed and co-directs the organization SMART Seas Africa, which works with national marine protected area (MPA) agencies and fishing communities to move from ad hoc MPA management to pro-active management based on scientific data. This program has transformed MPA management in Kenya, Tanzania and the Seychelles, leading to major changes in ecosystem status and human behaviors over the last 8 years. She was awarded a Pew Marine Fellowship for her work on MPA management in 2016, and has authored papers and book chapters on ocean health and ecosystem resilience. She is committed to doing science with fishing communities and managers to ensure that results are shared, understood and used. Her current research includes understanding seagrass declines, abalone recruitment dynamics and factors promoting and preventing co-management of marine ecosystems between communities and agencies.
We asked Dr. O’Leary why she joined the GLORES Science Council:
“Because MPAs are being created quickly but are not always demonstrating effectiveness. We need to develop careful criteria to ensure that MPAs deliver the promised ecological and societal benefits.”
To learn more about Dr. O’Leary’s work please visit:
- About J. O’Leary and her publications
- SMART Seas Africa and follow them on Twitter @SMARTSeas
- California Sea Grant