Levine Family Foundation supports graduate study in marine conservation at Oxford

The Levine Family Foundation is generously supporting a graduate student as they undertake doctoral research on sustainable fisheries conservation aimed at protecting sharks, rays and skates in our oceans. This group of predators, known collectively as elasmobranchs, play vital ecosystem roles but are threatened by overfishing.

DPhil scholar Trisha Gupta’s research will focus on India, one of the top three elasmobranch fishing nations in the world and a hotspot for marine biodiversity, but where the impacts of fishing on shark populations remain virtually unknown.

Outright fishing bans on these species are unfeasible and unethical: elasmobranchs contribute to the livelihoods of vulnerable fishers and small-scale traders, and provide a cheap and important protein source for much of India’s coastal population. Elasmobranch management in India therefore requires a delicate balance between sustainable fisheries and conservation, in order to safeguard the livelihoods and food security of millions of people while also maintaining species populations and ecosystem health.

Thanks to support from the Levine Family Foundation, Trisha will work to address a number of critical data gaps, with a particular focus on assessing management measures for more sustainable elasmobranch fisheries. Her research will be supervised by Professor E J Milner-Gulland, Tasso Leventis Chair of Biodiversity at Oxford.

Noting the importance of supporting doctoral students who will become the conservation leaders of the future, Professor Milner-Gulland says: ‘The support from the Levine Family Foundation will pay dividends in terms of academic impact, but will also contribute to wider marine conservation efforts, whereby our DPhil students go out into the world and bring their new expertise to bear on the most pressing issues of ecosystem management and protecting biodiversity.’

Trisha, who will begin her research in January, says: ‘Sharks are invaluable components of our marine ecosystems and I’ve been researching these species and their interaction with fisheries for the past three years. I was interested in taking my work further through doctoral study, however, PhD funding has always been a major obstacle for overseas students. I was lucky to get funding and a scholarship from the Levine Family Foundation and I would like to use this not only to complete my own research, but also to help build local capacity and create opportunities for further work in ocean conservation.’

Established in 2018, the Levine Family Foundation works to strengthen ocean protection and regeneration by partnering with organisations that address its key concerns. By doing so, the foundation seeks to contribute to coordinated global action and the move to greater transparency.

The Levine Family Foundation (LFF) says: ‘Trisha’s proposed work highlights the urgent need to address the growing threat to elasmobranch biodiversity in India and indeed in the rest of the world. LFF is very happy to be in a position to support Trisha in her ongoing research into this particular area of marine conservation and also in her intention to build local capacity in the longer term.’