Considering the Future of the World’s Oceans
THE FUTURE OF OUR OCEAN

Nereus Fellows Travel to Tohoku in a Bid to Safeguard the Ocean’s Future


The Nippon Foundation’s Nereus Program fellows recently made a trip to the Tohoku region, which was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The Nereus Program aims to support research by promising international young researchers, predict the state of the oceans a decade into the future, and propose solutions for problems impacting the oceans.

2013.07.05

“I think scientists are often cold-hearted; by the book, by the numbers. . . But there’s a lot more to life than cold-hearted facts. And I really hope that as I grow, my heart softens a little bit, and I get a little bit more sensitive about the things I say.” Ryan Rykaczewski, a researcher at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in the United States, reflected on the experience of visiting Tohoku.

Rykaczewski is one of a group of researchers taking part in the Nippon Foundation’s Nereus Program. The program brings together eminent young scientists at such prestigious universities as Princeton and Cambridge for joint, interdisciplinary research projects, and then disseminates information regarding those initiatives. The ultimate goal is to forecast the future of the oceans and formulate concrete measures to deal with current and future ocean-related problems.

The trip took shape in response to a request by the Nereus fellows. Some asked what they could do to help rejuvenate the coastal waters impacted by the tsunami. Other fellows wanted to share what they had learned with people working in the fishing industry and local residents, or witness the true scale of the tsunami’s destructive force and its impact on people living in the area and then incorporate this into their own research.

During the trip, which took place in November 2012, the fellows visited the Tohoku coastal region to see for themselves the impact of the tsunami. They also gave lectures on the oceans at local junior and senior high schools in the area and met with people in the fishing industry, whose actions will have an impact on the future of the oceans.

Daniel Dunn, a fellow from Duke University’s Marine Geospatial Ecology Laboratory, says that the trip had a huge impact on his way of thinking. “I can’t begin to express my gratitude . . . for the opportunity that was presented to us to visit the Tohoku region and visit the schools and visit the fishing communities there. It has fundamentally altered how I feel about the Japanese people, about what tragedy is, and about what resilience of people and life in general can be . . . I know that everybody in the Nereus program would like to express their gratitude in the same way for the opportunity to have come and learned such an incredible lesson. So from all of us, arigato gozaimasu.”

The Nereus fellows brought home from Tohoku a wealth of experiences and ideas. The trip will likely be instrumental in the development of new approaches to research the oceans, which is at the heart of the Nereus Program’s founding vision of protecting the future oceans through a broad-based, multidisciplinary analysis of today’s conditions.

Nereus Program fellows who traveled to Tohoku

Wilf Swartz
Affiliation: University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre (Canada)
Area of expertise: Fisheries economics

Audrey Valls
Affiliation: University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre (Canada)
Area of expertise: Marine ecosystems

Andre Boustany
Affiliation: Duke University (United States)
Area of expertise: Marine geospatial ecology, with a focus on large fish (Bluefin tuna)

Daniel Dunn
Affiliation: Duke University (United States)
Area of expertise: Marine geospatial ecology, with a focus on the bycatch problem

Ryan Rykaczewski
Affiliation: Princeton University (United States)
Area of expertise: Effects of climate change on marine ecosystems

Kelly Kearney
Affiliation: Princeton University (United States)
Area of expertise: Oceanography, with a focus on climate change and ecosystem modeling

Chris McOwen
Affiliation: UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre / University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Area of expertise: Effects of changes in costal environment to marine biodiversity

Jan Laurens Geffert
Affiliation: UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre / University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Area of expertise: Endangered marine species, with a focus on mapping species distribution

Marc Metian
Affiliation: Stockholm University Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden)
Area of expertise: Aquaculture and resource management

Andrew Merrie
Affiliation: Stockholm University Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden)
Area of expertise: Global governance/policy of fisheries resource management

Video and editing by Shogo Kido