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Interdisciplinary Integration

Stefanie Senkow
November 19, 2018

Africom group shotSolving a global problem using interdisciplinary strategy ‒ that’s what a team of government and marine and environmental sciences (MES) majors are hard at work on this semester at the Coast Guard Academy.

“The cadets are studying illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa for the U.S. Africa Command. Typically a project for government majors, this year’s addition of an MES student will bring a wealth of knowledge on marine and coastal environments, key to finding appropriate 'zoning' and other science-based solutions to fish stock depletion,” said Dr. Christopher LaMonica, academic advisor overseeing the study, along with Dr. Karina Mrakovcich of MES, a fisheries management expert.

Government majors and aspiring lawyers, 1/c Megan Jolivette and 1/c William Stephens are researching the fishing laws of two specific regions, Ghana and Senegal, to create a matrix in order to analyze the regulations currently in place and how best to go about implementing a closed fishing season.

“We both want to attend law school during our Coast Guard careers and this project gives us the opportunity to compare the legal and political framework of these regions and present a real, legal solution to the U.S. Africa Command,” said 1/c Jolivette.

Complementing the policy-making portion of the project, 1/c Valentina Giraldo-Torres, the first MES major to partner on a government research project, brings her geographic information systems (GIS) skills to the table, mapping crime and piracy attacks, tracking fishing vessels and much more to better showcase hard evidence of IUU fishing.

“I didn’t even think involvement in the project would be a possibility, but I knew I could offer crucial data using GIS,” said 1/c Giraldo-Torres. “Supplying this mapping information will be able to show the problem, and we will be able to educate the regions’ law enforcement.”

As part of their research, cadets will visit Ghana and Senegal and will submit a final report to J59 of Africa Command. Not only will they have policy-making insight from the government side, but they will have tracking data from the MES side.

“We can use this data to show them where they can go during what times of the year to regulate their closed fishing season and we can suggest exactly where they should go to patrol,” said 1/c Giraldo-Torres.

Besides combining interdisciplinary forces, positively impacting a global problem and fulfilling their pre-graduation capstone project requirement, the lessons learned from this advanced research study transcend the Academy classroom out into the real Coast Guard.

“Learning about maritime policy problems such as IUU fishing is something the Coast Guard is heavily invested in and understanding how to approach maritime problems is something every Coast Guard officer should be aware of,” said 1/c Stephens.