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NOAA Recognizes ‘Hero’ Helping Save White Abalone From Extinction: Kristin Aquilino

Jul. 11, 2017
Category: Recognition

Not all heroes wear capes, but scientist and alumna Dr. Kristin Aquilino (BS ’05) recently received one along with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s “Species in the Spotlight Hero Award” for her work helping to save the endangered white abalone. Once considered a delicacy, the large California sea snails were fished to near extinction in the 1970’s. In 2001, the species became the first marine invertebrate to be federally listed as endangered. Through a combination of mood lighting, spa treatments, and a great deal of collaboration among scientists, aquarists, and aquaculturists to help get the animals “in the mood” for spawning, and Aquilino and her team have increased captive reproduction of this species to the point where there are now more endangered white abalone in captivity than remain in the wild. While this sadly highlights the critical state of wild white abalone, it also demonstrates the tremendous success of the white abalone captive breeding program housed at University of California, Davis, Bodega Marine Laboratory. Aquilino hopes that by placing her precious, captive-bred snails into the ocean, they will help snatch their species back from the brink.

Aquilino strongly believes that her education at UW Madison formed the baseline of the knowledge and experience she needed to help restore this species, “from the classroom, to the laboratory, to Lakeshore Path, I learned so much science, restoration, and the importance of working diligently and collaboratively to make a difference. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I received as a student at UW Madison.”

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