SEA Currents: News
Building Bridges for Conservation
SEA Alum Meghan Jeans Brings Multidisciplinary Approach to SEA
As a biology major turned lawyer, Meghan Jeans (W-144) has been working across disciplines, geographies and issues areas to build bridges throughout her career. She brings that approach to SEA this fall as a visiting faculty member for Class C-276, Caribbean Reef Expedition.
According to Meghan, a multi-disciplinary approach is critical to both solving problems and preparing students for the real world. She says it’s an approach that’s been critical in her own work. “I use my science training to inform and inspire the implementation of market-based and policy solutions to marine conservation challenges.” Whether stimulating public-private partnerships in support of conservation, building capacity within communities to manage resources sustainably, collaborating with researchers and resource managers to translate science into action, or working with decision makers to enact meaningful policy reforms, her multidisciplinary background has proven to be an asset.
After studying biology at Colby College, Meghan taught SCUBA diving and marine science, before attending law school to pursue a career in environmental law and policy. That led to her work as Director of the Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum at Stanford University, and later Director of Conservation at the New England Aquarium. She’s also worked as a consultant on projects relating to sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, tuna conservation, plastic pollution, and international marine mammal conservation. When her teaching assignment at SEA is over, Meghan will join The Ocean Foundation, a DC-based NGO and grantmaking organization, as their first Program Director.
Throughout her career, she’s stayed close to SEA.
Meghan serves as an advisor to Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC) students, and, through the New England Aquarium, collaborated with Professor Jan Witting on SEA’s Protecting the Phoenix Islands Program. She was instrumental in facilitating a collaboration between SEA, the Aquarium and the government of Kiribati focused on data collection and research to support the conservation and management of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.
Still, she says, “I was always interested in getting more involved with SEA.” When the opportunity arose to return to SEA as a visiting faculty member, she leapt at the chance. “When you’re stuck behind a desk day after day, it’s easy to lose sight of what motivated your career in conservation. SEA is an opportunity to get re-inspired by getting back on the water and engaging with students whose energy, curiosity and idealism inspire hope for the future of our blue planet.”
Meghan is teaching Ocean Science & Public Policy and Marine Environmental History (the latter co-taught with Prof. Witting.) She’s also overseeing the Advanced Ocean Policy Research elective course where students are exploring topics ranging from the feasibility of aquaculture in Grenada to economic valuations of Barbuda’s natural capital, to how Caribbean countries are meeting their obligations under international treaties.
“We’re trying to de-silo some of these courses, connect them in a inter-disciplinary way,” explains Meghan. It’s an approach that fits in perfectly with SEA’s educational philosophy.
When she was a student at SEA, she recalls, cruise tracks varied, but curriculum did not. Back in those days, she says, “I don’t know that there would have been a place for me as a faculty member, because I’m not a scientist.”
But times have changed.
“It’s evolved in a way that aligns well with the real world,” says Meghan. SEA’s multi-disciplinary curriculum allows students to explore their passions, gain exposure to new skills, disciplines and fields of inquiry, and apply their learning in a solutions-oriented real world context..
“SEA’s focus on leadership and teamwork further underscores this idea that engaging diverse perspectives and expertise in a collaborative fashion can stimulate innovation and impact,” says Meghan.
In her office at the Madden Center, Meghan keeps a photo album from her own days as a student at SEA. Her cruise track took her from St. Petersburg, Florida, through the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and eventually to Key West. Soon, she’ll be joining Class C-276 for its sea component, which will take her from Grenada through multiple port stops in the Caribbean and end in San Juan.
Asked if she’s looking forward to it she replied without hesitation.