Grants in Historical Marine Ecology

Funded through a partnership between Marine Conservation Institute and Holland America Line, the program supports efforts of promising young scientists and graduate students to study the history of ocean ecology to predict future impacts from human interactions.

Sorry, we are not accepting proposals at this time.

Marine Conservation Institute awards grants to promising young scientists studying what our oceans were like before humans began significantly altering marine ecosystems. This information is essential for helping us set appropriate targets for marine conservation efforts.

We know that our oceans are not the same as they once were, but we don’t always know what they should be. Over time, we can forget what a healthy ocean ecosystem is supposed to look like. Things may look like they were in better shape 20 years ago than they are today, but what did they look like 100 years ago? Were they healthy ecosystems when we started studying them, or were they already in a state of decline? These are the types of questions Tegner grant recipients are trying to answer.

Winning proposals are selected based on the quality of research and the impact the study may have on conservation efforts in the sea. We award several grants each year in amounts up to $10,000. We focus our dollars where they will have the most impact and value: young and early career scientists. We hope that this award will give these individuals the support they need now, and encourage them to continue unlocking the secrets of our ocean’s past well into the future.

We are grateful to Holland America Line for their generous support of this program.

About the Research Grant

In the face of increasing evidence that the world's oceans are in trouble, Marine Conservation Institute established the Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grant in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology. This grant is among the first in the world awarded specifically to help scientists document the composition and abundance of ocean life before humans altered marine ecosystems. This information is crucial for helping lawmakers, regulators, managers and activists set appropriate targets for marine conservation efforts.

Dr. Mia J. Tegner, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, lost her life in January 2001 while carrying out research off Southern California. She studied the ecology of kelp forest communities and abalone populations, and was particularly interested in understanding how marine populations and ecosystems have changed as a result of human activities. This pioneering research earned her appointments as a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was an author of the cover paper in the July 27, 2001 issue of the prestigious journal Science on "Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems" which showed that life in the sea was vastly more numerous until spreading human populations and improved fishing technologies devastated marine species and ecosystems.

Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grant was started to honor her memory by Marine Conservation Institute. We welcome applicants from all around the world, regardless of nationality.


To fund studies that develop ecological baselines for our oceans, and help policymakers and conservationists better conserve and restore marine biodiversity.


The program supports natural and social scientists seeking to uncover interactions between natural and human history in marine and estuarine environments worldwide. We are particularly interested in studies describing systems prior to large-scale human impacts and industrialization. Research may draw on sources ranging from culturally and geographically derived information to biological and physical data (e.g., fishery data, letters, journals, oral histories, historical documents, maps, photos, field surveys, etc).


For 2012, we particularly encourage novel project proposals that relate to existing or proposed marine protected areas around the world. We have a strong interest in projects that clearly connect the establishment of historical ecological baselines with current conservation measures.

How to Apply

Sorry, we are not accepting proposals at this time.

2012 Mia Tegner Grant Recipients Announced!

Holland America Line and Marine Conservation Institute are proud to announce the recipients of the 2012 Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grants in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology.

Our congratulations to:

  • Canan Çakırlar, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences - “Confronting the ‘myth of the bitter sea’: pre-historic exploitation of the eastern Mediterranean seascape.”
  • Jock Currie, University of Cape Town - “Reconstructing baselines prior to industrial fishing in South Africa — supporting the implementation of offshore marine protected areas.” 
  • Luis A. Huckstadt, University of California Santa Cruz - “Is a century of human intervention enough to change the ecology of an Antarctic marine top predator:  the Weddell seal?” 
  • Alexis M. Jackson, University of California Santa Cruz - “Molecular approaches to better monitor population sizes and the impact of Marine Protected Areas on commercial species lacking baseline fisheries data.”

“We are proud to be advancing the science of marine conservation biology and historical marine ecology by supporting these efforts to better understand the history of our oceans,” said Dr. Lance Morgan, President and CEO of Marine Conservation Institute.  “We received ninety-one applications for research ranging from Antarctica to the Bering Sea.  The four projects we funded will help establish historical baselines for ocean and coastal environments to better manage and protect imperiled ocean resources for the future.”

“I am impressed with the passion and dedication of these researchers whose work covers a wide variety of disciplines,” said Richard Meadows, executive vice president, marketing, sales and guest programs, Holland America Line.  “I am proud that Holland America Line can help support these important programs again in 2012."

2011 Mia J. Tegner Grant Recipients

We are happy to announce the recipients of the 2011 Mia J. Tegner Grants in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology:

  • Yulia Ivashchenko, National Marine Mammal Laboratory: “Soviet illegal whaling in the North Pacific: reconstructing catches, preserving memories.”
  • Dr. Merry Camhi, Wildlife Conservation Society: “A Four-Century Retrospective of Marine Fauna and Fisheries around New York City.”
  •  Shaleyla Kelez, Duke University: “Historical baseline of Diversity and abundance of Peruvian marine mega-vertebrates to disentangle climate from fisheries effects.”
  •  Telmo Morato, Universidade dos Açores: “The historical impacts of fishing on seamount ecosystems: Applying an Ecosystem Evaluation Framework for seamount ecology, fisheries and conservation.”