Barbara Block, the Charles & Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station, has been awarded a Rolex Award for Enterprise for her plan to monitor large predators off the coast of California. The biennial awards "foster a spirit of enterprise and advance human knowledge and well-being."
The award comes with a prize equivalent to approximately $104,000.
For more than two decades, Block has led a cadre of scientists from around the world in two large-scale tagging programs in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, monitoring a menagerie of marine animals, including bluefin tunas and white sharks, while serving as an advocate for ocean conservation.
Block and her colleagues have pioneered the use of electronic tags, including implantable archival tags, which are surgically implanted in tunas, and pop-up satellite archival tags, which automatically detach from animals and transmit collected data via satellite.
Building on the tags' success, Block and collaborators also launched the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program, now in its 12th year. The TOPP team deployed more than 4,600 electronic tags on a variety of species in the North Pacific and collected nearly 300,000 days of animal tracking data, revealing previously unknown marine hotspots, migratory highways and details of ocean physics.
One of TOPP's most remarkable findings was that large predators from areas as diverse as the waters off New Zealand, Indonesia and Alaska congregate in the California Current a productive, cold oceanic current that flows along North America's west coast from Canada to Baja. Although they may make journeys of thousands of miles into the Pacific basin, they return to the California Current repeatedly, year after year. Block has labeled the almost pristine environment "a blue Serengeti."
"It's bursting with predators," said Block, "and it's right in our own backyard."
With the Ro
|Contact: Max McClure|