August 23, 2004
Biology alum wins Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship
for his efforts to protect marine life in Patagonia
By Tim Stephens
The waters of the southwestern Atlantic off the coast of Patagonia
in Argentina host a tremendous diversity of marine life: five species
of penguins, elephant seals, sea lions, fur seals, dolphins, whales,
albatrosses, plus a great abundance of fish and squid. Along the rugged
2,000-mile coastline of Patagonia there are enormous colonies of penguins
and other seabirds, the largest mainland breeding colony of the southern
elephant seal, and some 70 breeding rookeries of the South American
sea lion. In the sheltered waters along the Peninsula Valdes are breeding
grounds and nurseries for the highly endangered southern right whale.
|Claudio Campagna. Courtesy of C. Campagna
Protecting this remarkable ecosystem has become the mission of Claudio
Campagna, a research biologist for the National Research Council of
Argentina who earned his Ph.D. in biology at UC Santa Cruz. Campagna
was awarded a coveted Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship this year to
support his efforts to establish a protected "marine park"
encompassing the area known as the Patagonian large marine ecosystem.
His project, founded in 2001, is called Sea and Sky ("Mar y Cielo"
"The area is about five times the size of California. It works
as an integrated ecosystem and has a spectacular associated fauna,"
Campagna said. "There is no time to lose if we are to save the
Patagonian large marine ecosystem."
Threats to this extraordinarily productive marine environment include
overfishing, pollution, coastal degradation, and loss of habitat.
Campagna's conservation work grew out of his research on Patagonia's
marine mammals, including studies of South American sea lions as a UCSC
graduate student in the 1980s and subsequent research on southern elephant
seals as a research associate with UCSC's Institute of Marine Sciences.
While studying seals and sea lions along the coast, Campagna realized
the important ways in which coastal ecosystems are linked with the open
"Some of the most extraordinary coastal wildlife spectacles, such
as the extended colonies of penguins, sea lions, and elephant seals,
are dependent on the productivity of very few localized areas of the
ocean away from land. Not surprisingly, these most productive areas
of the ocean also attract national and international fisheries of considerable
importance," he said.
Those fisheries include the world's largest squid fishery. Campagna
is concerned that the fisheries are not being managed in a sustainable
way. He is a strong believer in the role of science in guiding and supporting
management decisions and also in the need to manage the oceans at the
ecosystem level, rather than focusing on individual species or populations.
Campagna will use his Pew Fellowship to strengthen the Sea and Sky project's
scientific groundwork and increase collaboration among stakeholders
for the purpose of sustainable management. He faces many challenges
in pursuing the goals of Sea and Sky, including international tensions
and the lack of a strong tradition of conservation in Argentina. But
Campagna believes it is possible to build the necessary political will
and to inspire new attitudes toward the natural world.
"I believe that we can change the way we think about the ocean
and derive from that new thinking decisions and actions compatible with
a holistic understanding of nature, one with a less utilitarian view
of the world," he said.
Campagna has maintained his connections with UC Santa Cruz over the
years, particularly with his thesis adviser, Burney Le Boeuf.
"He's a remarkable guy," said Le Boeuf, research professor
of biology and associate vice chancellor for research. "I'll never
forget when he first came to Santa Cruz and we met in my office. He's
very vivacious and outgoing, and he said he had six papers he wanted
to write in the next three weeks. His attitude was if you wanted to
do it, it could be done. Well, you can't get publications that quickly,
but Claudio always got more out of you than you thought you could give.
He's a charmer."
Campagna has also worked with Charles (Leo) Ortiz, professor of ecology
and evolutionary biology, who has been studying southern elephant seals
for many years. Ortiz directs UCSC's Minority International Research
Training Program, through which many UCSC undergraduates have traveled
to Argentina to conduct research with Campagna and other scientists.
Before he began studying marine mammals, Campagna earned a medical degree
from the University of Buenos Aires and practiced medicine for a few
years. As a physician, he became interested in psychiatry and animal
behavior. For his Ph.D. thesis, he focused on the social behavior of
the South American sea lion.
"My interest in conservation is linked to my interest in animal
and human behavior," Campagna said. "Conservation problems
are caused by attitudes translated into behaviors. At the same time,
conserving a species is also keeping the diversity of behavioral repertoires
alive. Finally, observing behavior requires a close connection with
the studied species, and that creates ethical links. Conservation is
more about philosophy than about biology."
Campagna argues that part of the value of nature to humanity is aesthetic
and that aesthetic concerns are relevant to conservation issues. Speaking
of one of his favorite spots on Peninsula Valdes, he said, "Punta
Norte is a place in my mind nourished by a place in the world. If the
beauty of the latter is gone, I will have more to lose than just a place."
Campagna has been associated with the National Research Council of Argentina
since 1981, working at Centro Nacional Patagónico in Puerto Madryn.
He has also been affiliated with the Wildlife Conservation Society since
the 1980s. In 1989, Campagna helped establish the Fundación Patagonia
Natural, a nongovernmental organization for conservation of the Patagonian
environment and wildlife. More recently, he cofounded EcoCentro Puerto
Madryn, an educational, environmental, and cultural center similar to
Long Marine Lab's Seymour Center. EcoCentro's exhibits on the Patagonian
large marine ecosystem attract tens of thousands of visitors each year.
The Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation is a program of the
Pew Institute for Ocean Science
in partnership with the University of Miami.
The Pew Institute for Ocean Science strives to undertake, sponsor, and
promote world-class scientific activity aimed at protecting the world's
oceans and the species that inhabit them. The Pew Fellows Program annually
awards five fellowships of $150,000 each that contribute to advancing
solutions to the oceans' most pressing problems.
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