The Science of Marine Reserves Team

Scientific evidence shows that marine reserves usually boost the abundance, diversity, and size of marine species living within their borders. To bring this evidence to audiences around the world in innovative ways, the Science of Marine Reserves team has developed a range of tools.

The first step towards producing the Science of Marine Reserves tools is to synthesize the most up-to-date scientific information available in peer-reviewed publications. This large body of work, describing the effects of marine reserves through field-based research, presents a wealth of information that can be useful to guide decisions about whether to establish a reserve, how to do so, and how to evaluate their success. This information has been used in synthetic studies including meta-analyses of reserve effects across the globe, impacts of marine reserves versus partially protected MPAs, and spillover from reserves. 

The team, working with a Science Writer, translates information from technical scientific papers into a format that is accessible to broad audiences. Working with a Graphics Designer, Design Staff, and Web Developers, the team has created engaging and easy-to-understand graphics that communicate general concepts about the effects of marine reserves. These resources use actual data from peer-reviewed research presented in unique ways.

The graphics, including both static images and interactive animations, and the accompanying text developed by the team form the basis for the most recently developed tools: the Science of Marine Reserves web resources. Along with a range of other partners, the Science of Marine Reserves Team has provided the scientific information about marine reserves in the newly released Ocean in Google Earth Marine Protected Area (MPA) Layer. The data and graphics are connected to geographic locations, allowing users to dive from reserve to reserve across the globe. Interactive graphics in the new Ocean in Google Earth MPA Layer illustrate the results of research inside marine reserves, revealing how communities of animals and plants respond to full protection.

The goal for all of these tools is to provide an easily accessible and engaging resource for those who are asking questions about marine reserves by connecting scientific information to educate scientific, public, and political audiences.

Kirsten Grorud-Colvert


As the director of the Science of Marine Reserves (SMR) Project, Dr. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the PISCO educational tools that communicate the science of fully protected, no-take marine reserves to diverse national and international audiences. This scientific information forms the basis for a number of resources, including the most recent versions of The Science of Marine Reserves booklets and the geospatial reserve data viewed in the MPA Layer of Ocean in Google Earth. With a background in field research, Kirsten actively works to bridge the gap between scientific findings, policy implementation, and public understanding of marine reserves as a conservation tool, both in the US and internationally. She is involved in both research studies and syntheses of the effects of marine reserves, which have led to peer-reviewed publications and outreach materials aimed at diverse audiences.

Steve Gaines


Dr. Steve Gaines, a Primary Investigator of PISCO, provides guidance for the Science of Marine Reserves Team as a convening lead author of the 2002 version of The Science of Marine Reserves and all subsequent resources developed from this large-scale synthesis. Steve has a special interest in making scientific information more accessible in web-based formats, and through work with Google and other web partners, has provided leadership in tailoring science for the web. Steve has led the way in scientific studies of marine conservation, biogeography, effects of climate change on coastal ecosystems, effects of ocean circulation on dispersal, and sustainable fisheries. He is the director of the Marine Science Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara, where he oversees UCSB studies of coastal ecosystems in southern and central California and around the world.



Dr. Phillip Fenberg is the EU Marine Reserves Science Coordinator and the Project Director of the European version of the Science of Marine Reserves educational booklet. This booklet applies global lessons to a European context and features case studies from relevant marine reserves in the region. As part of this work, Phil leads the research and production of the booklet, development of associated online case studies and animations, and is conducting a regional meta-analysis aimed at investigating the effects of EU marine reserves and associated data gaps.




Satie Airamé

Satie Airame

Dr. Satie Airamé is a founding co-author of The Science of Marine Reserves booklet series and served as a production advisor on the most recent booklet versions. Satie works with policy makers, managers, and the public to listen, learn and share information to support science-based policy and management. The primary avenues for communication are public meetings, workshops, booklets and brochures, popular articles, web-based resources, and video. She also serves as an internal resource for PISCO scientists by tracking policy issues and working with PISCO scientists to provide relevant information to policy makers and managers, identify information gaps, and adapt or augment PISCO’s research to address management priorities.

Monica Pessino


Monica Pessino has been part of the Science of Marine Reserves Team since the first version of The Science of Marine Reserves was published in 2002. As creative director she is responsible for the design and production of the booklets and collateral material. Monica works closely with the team to communicate scientific information by creating enticing visuals. She handles the interaction with printers for estimates, production issues, and quality control in order to reach superior final products. Monica is the Creative Director of Ocean o’ Graphics, the Marine Science Institute graphic design and production studio, at University of California Santa Barbara. Ocean o’ Graphics is a full graphics studio, meaning the projects may start from conceiving an original idea to developing it. The studio offers a wide gamut of services: print material, website design, video production and editing, signage, and wearables.

Sarah Lester


Dr. Sarah Lester is a Project Scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sarah joined the Science of Marine Reserves team when she conducted, with the help of numerous colleagues, the most recent global synthesis of scientific studies of biological effects within marine reserves. The data from this synthesis is the foundation of the interactive graphics in the Google Earth MPA layer. Sarah was also a contributing author on the 2007-08 Science of Marine Reserves booklets. Sarah enjoys helping to find innovative ways to connect scientific information to diverse audiences and believes the internet and Google Earth offer exciting new opportunities to reach more and more people. Sarah is actively involved in studying the effects of marine reserve protection, in addition to conducting and coordinating research on ecosystem-based management, ecosystem services, and sustainable fisheries.


Michaela Clemence is a graduate student at the Bren School of Environmental Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying coastal marine resources management. She joined the PISCO team as the Assistant Project Director for the European version of the Science of Marine Reserves booklet, where she worked to translate complex scientific information into accessible figures, case studies, and content for the booklet.  Michaela has previous experience working with the National Marine Fisheries Service investigating the role of marine protected areas in resource management in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Her graduate work is focused on marine spatial planning, and she is interested in using this approach to bridge communication gaps and reduce conflicts between resource user groups.

Chad Burt


Chad Burt is a Web Developer for the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a graduate of its Biology program in the College of Creative Studies. Chad was responsible for programming the original interactive animations that make up the Science of Marine Reserves content in Google Earth. This involved developing code that translates data of reserve effects into accurate visual indicators such as the size, number, and diversity of fishes in a scene. Chad also contributed artwork for the California Channel Islands animation. Beyond serving as a technical advisor to the Science of Marine Reserves Project, Chad is involved in developing applications to visualize ecological monitoring data, and tools used to plan new marine protected areas along the California coast.

Peter Taylor


As the science writer for the Science of Marine Reserves booklets, Peter H. Taylor integrated and distilled pertinent scientific information to make it accessible and useful for policymakers, managers, and stakeholders. He worked closely with SMR’s team of science and policy experts to ensure that the best, most up-to-date science was communicated accurately. Peter is the principal of Waterview Consulting in Yarmouth, Maine. His primary interest is finding and implementing innovative methods for transferring science from the knowledge realm to the action realm. For more than a decade, Peter has planned and produced communication resources (printed and interactive) for non-profit, government, academic, and commercial organizations at local to international scales. His writing and photography have also been published in Outside, National Wildlife, Sierra, and other magazines. 



Molly Thomson is a graphic designer at Ocean o’ Graphics, the graphic design studio within UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute (MSI). She works with the Science of Marine Reserves team in order to create visuals of marine life and their habitats, which are used to illustrate collected data in Google Earth’s MPA layer animations. 





Tom Rassweiler is a game developer and ex-coral reef researcher.  Tom is the Web Developer in charge of updating and creating the Science of Marine Reserves animations visible in Google Earth, with a special focus on animations created for the European marine reserve case studies and booklet.


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