Thursday | June 22, 2017
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Ocean scientist from Hawaii earns fellowship

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To learn more about the L’Oréal For Women in Science Program, visit

To learn more about Anela Choy’s research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, visit

Hawaii native Anela Choy, a postdoctoral fellow in biological oceanography and marine ecology at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, was among five recipients of the prestigious 2016 For Women in Science Fellowship, which awards $60,000 grants to exemplary female scientists to advance their postdoctoral research.

Choy’s research focuses on how food webs within the open ocean work, including how they are impacted by plastic pollution, fisheries and environmental change. The fellowship announced Sept. 26 by L’Oréal USA will allow Choy to extend her research tenure at MBARI and explore the chemical fingerprints of plastic in marine food webs of the Pacific Ocean.

Choy became interested in the relationship between plastic and marine food webs when conducting diet studies on large open-ocean fish around Hawaii. Her work seeks to better understand how all life within the open ocean fits together into complex networks of feeding interactions. Human activity, such as fishing and ocean recreation, are key contributors to these important networks, especially those that rely on the ocean for sustenance and economic livelihood.

“Growing up on an island, we are inherently more aware of what we use, where it comes from, and how all of these materials need to be disposed,” Choy said. “This grant will allow me to expand my research to understand how plastics in the ocean, a complex and important issue, move through open ocean food webs.”

Choy was raised on Oahu and spent many summers on the Big Island. She received her B.A. in environmental sciences, M.S. in oceanography and Ph.D. in oceanography from the University of Hawaii. After spending nearly a decade training in science in Hawaii and traveling widely, Choy recognized a clear lack of diversity and representation of Hawaiians and kama‘aina in science.

During the last year of her Ph.D., Choy co-founded and managed the SOEST Maile Mentoring Bridge program at the University of Hawaii to support Native Hawaiians and other underrepresented ethnic minorities in ocean and earth sciences. Choy remains deeply committed to increasing the participation of ethnically diverse women in academic, stakeholder and resource management positions in Hawaii and beyond.

“Young people growing up in and around the ocean in Hawaii may not be aware that you can make a career out of understanding and protecting this special place,” said Choy, also an avid surfer. “Science — particularly oceanography — may not be the most traditional line of work, but it has given me the chance to see the world, answer burning questions and quench my curiosity. I would be so happy to see others from Hawaii have these same opportunities.”


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