The 2019 – 2020 MASNA Scholarship Recipients

by | Aug 27, 2019 | Aquaculture, MACNA | 0 comments

MASNA will be awarding its annual MASNA Student Scholarships at the MACNA 2019 Banquet on Saturday, August 31st, 2019. Two $4,000.00 scholarships will be granted, one to an undergraduate student and one to a graduate student.

The 2019 – 2020 MASNA Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient is Lauren Block.

Lauren is a full-time Junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (UHM).

She got involved in the aquarium hobby working at a local fish store in her hometown. Her freshman year at UHM, Lauren began working in the Lenz-Hartline Lab culturing copepods (Parvocalanus crassirostris and Bestiolina similis) and phytoplankton. Since then, she has had the opportunity to assist in various other ongoing research in the lab including behavioral studies of copepods, feeding experiments of a sub-arctic copepod (Neocalanus flemingeri) in Alaska, RNA extractions, and the investigation of diseased copepods in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

She has enjoyed learning a variety of scientific techniques through her involvement in various projects, and loves the problem-solving that comes with culturing copepods. She is currently developing an independent project with Dr. Petra Lenz to create a co-culture that allows for larval clownfish (A. ocellaris) and copepods (P. crassirostris) to be timed and raised together in such a way that the age distribution of the copepods in the tank mirrors that of the feeding needs of the clownfish to maximize their growth and health.

Lauren’s passion for fish, culturing, and the aquarium trade has led her to pursue a career in marine ornamental aquaculture. In the future, she hopes to develop new and feasible methods for marine captive breeding with the goal of providing a sustainable source of fish and invertebrates for the aquarium industry.

The 2019 – 2020 MASNA Graduate Student Scholarship recipient is J. Alexander (Alex) Bonanno

Alex is a second year masters student studying Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts.
He received his B.S. in Marine Biology from Roger Williams University where he gained several years of experience researching and caring for aquatic organisms by working in the Roger Williams University’s CEED Marine Laboratory and at the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s Nature Center and Aquarium. Alex’s undergraduate research was focused on marine ornamental aquaculture mainly by developing techniques to rear fish and invertebrates popular in the marine aquarium trade in captivity to reduce strain on wild populations and saving them from exploitation. Alex was also able to study abroad during his time at Roger Williams University in Townsville, Australia where he had the opportunity to assist in research on a local food fish called barramundi.

Alex’s current graduate research is conducted at the Intercampus Marine Science Graduate Program under his advisor Dr. Michael Tlusty of UMass Boston. Alex has dedicated his graduate work to preserving coral reefs by preventing a destructive fishing practice called cyanide fishing. He has teamed up with Dr. Andrew Rhyne and Dr. Nancy Breen from Roger Williams University along with researchers from Mystic Aquarium to develop an efficient and reliable test to detect whether or not a fish has been captured using cyanide.

This test would allow for the screening of captured fish, giving law enforcement a way to crack down on the illegal practice. To achieve this goal, he has combined chemistry, toxicology, and genetics to study the toxicokinetics of cyanide exposure and traces of exposure up to several weeks post-capture. The development of a cyanide detection test will not only help preserve valuable coral reef ecosystems, but will also significantly reduce the mortality rate of fish in the marine aquarium trade supply chain. Alex will continue to help answer questions critical in developing a verified detection method to combat cyanide fishing. While conducting this research, Alex will share his work through publications and presentations. After completing his M.S. degree, Alex is dedicated to advancing his efforts to protect and conserve the oceans whether that be through pursuing his Ph.D. or working in the industry.

Over the past 11 years, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) has provided $68,000 in funding for undergraduate and graduate college students to help continue their degrees in the marine science discipline. The MASNA Scholarship Program has grown significantly to include applicants from North America and abroad. It has become a very competitive and esteemed award.

Applications for the awards are judged based on the applicant’s enrollment in a marine science undergraduate or graduate degree program, a G.P.A. of 2.5/4.0 or greater, and their proven contributions and demonstrated commitment to the marine aquarium hobby.

More information on the MASNA Student Scholarship program can be found at

  • xeniaforever

    As senior editor here at reefs, I get to work with scientists from all over the world, and have made some wonderful friends in the industry! I also write for the site, and am the office manager at FRESH New London and the mother of two brilliant, talented young women.

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