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You are here: /main/research expeditions/August/September 2007/Sean Corson

Interview with Sean Corson, Chief Scientist

by Carlie Wiener

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Sean CorsonBiography
Mr. Corson became interested in environmental management early on; he was always attracted to marine science as a kid and recalls fishing and tide pooling at a young age. He studied bottom fisheries in his earlier research before working with the Monument. He began teaching environmental education on boats right after college in California’s Channel Islands. It was through that position that he became familiar with the NOAA Sanctuaries Program. Mr. Corson has been with the Monument for many years, and came out to Hawaii for the purpose of working with the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. He started working with the area when it was a reserve, through the sanctuary process, until present day Monument designation. This is Mr. Corson’s fourth time visiting the Monument.

Role on the research trip
Mr. Corson will be working to assist the Maritime Heritage Group with Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Dr. Kelly Gleason and Tane Casserly. He is really excited about working in this area as he has always had a fascination with older boats, and comes from a family that worked building wooden boats. Mr. Corson is also acting as the chief scientist on this expedition, which is a critical role to the trip. He is coordinating the research activities on the boat, and working with the principal investigators to ensure the research and general ship life run smoothly. Mr. Corson also has the difficult job of determining the locations of the daily research excursions, working with the scientists to ensure everyone meets their research goals in a safe manner.

What he hopes to find
Mr. Corson is interested in capitalizing on the opportunity to work with the co-trustees and other research partners to develop best management practices. He articulates that there have been groups working closely together for a long time at the Monument. “Over twenty years of work and shared field research have been conducted collectively.  However, the Monument designation has brought this work together as a formal connection, improving cooperation to help preserve this special place”.

What do you find challenging about your role
Mr. Corson has been very pleased with the way the research expedition has run so far. He is impressed with how easy the crew has made the trip. He states that “the congeniality of the group is outstanding; people are here to help one another”. Mr. Corson found the most difficult part was to get the trip up and running, ensuring both the crew and scientists got what they needed to achieve their goals.

How the science helps to inform Management
Mr. Corson is enthused by the possibilities of the research currently occurring at the Monument. Using science to inform management is one of the underpinnings of the work, with the research geared towards this goal. This has huge implications for management purposes creating a close community of both scientists and managers. As a manger, Mr. Corson feels that this type of science has tremendous applications to really understanding ecosystem management. Important concepts such as connectivity are essential to understanding potential stressors and preventative measures for the marine environment. There is often a huge lag in time between science and policy but with the Monument, firsthand experience is leading directly to its management.

Favorite part about being at sea
The constant ocean surroundings and observing the changes in the water is Mr. Corson’s favorite part of being out at sea. He enjoys observing the change in wave and swell direction, and is impressed by the surreal experience of the wilderness. He also enjoys learning from both the scientists and ship crew and being exposed to a wide variety of interesting people.


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