Grants in Historical Marine Ecology

Funded through a partnership between Marine Conservation Institute and Holland America Line, the program supported efforts of promising young scientists and graduate students to study the history of ocean ecology to predict future impacts from human interactions.

Sorry, this program is no longer offered.

Marine Conservation Institute awarded grants to promising young scientists studying what our oceans were like before humans began significantly altering marine ecosystems. This information can be essential for helping us set appropriate targets for marine conservation efforts. The program was discontinued in 2012 and is no longer being offered. 

We know that our oceans are not the same as they once were, but we don’t always know what they should be. Over time, we can forget what a healthy ocean ecosystem is supposed to look like. Things may look like they were in better shape 20 years ago than they are today, but what did they look like 100 years ago? Were they healthy ecosystems when we started studying them, or were they already in a state of decline? These are the types of questions Tegner grant recipients tried to answer.

Winning proposals were selected based on the quality of research and the impact the study may have on conservation efforts in the sea. We awarded several grants each year from 2004 through 2012 in amounts up to $10,000. We focused our dollars where they would have the most impact and value: young and early career scientists. We believe that this award gave these individuals the support they needed, and encouraged them to continue unlocking the secrets of our ocean’s past well into the future.

We are grateful to Holland America Line for their generous support of this program.

About the Research Grant

In the face of increasing evidence that the world's oceans are in trouble, Marine Conservation Institute established the Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grant in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology. This grant is among the first in the world awarded specifically to help scientists document the composition and abundance of ocean life before humans altered marine ecosystems. This information is crucial for helping lawmakers, regulators, managers and activists set appropriate targets for marine conservation efforts.

Dr. Mia J. Tegner, a marine biologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, lost her life in January 2001 while carrying out research off Southern California. She studied the ecology of kelp forest communities and abalone populations, and was particularly interested in understanding how marine populations and ecosystems have changed as a result of human activities. This pioneering research earned her appointments as a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She was an author of the cover paper in the July 27, 2001 issue of the prestigious journal Science on "Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems" which showed that life in the sea was vastly more numerous until spreading human populations and improved fishing technologies devastated marine species and ecosystems.

Mia J. Tegner Memorial Research Grant was started to honor her memory by Marine Conservation Institute. We welcome applicants from all around the world, regardless of nationality.


To fund studies that develop ecological baselines for our oceans, and help policymakers and conservationists better conserve and restore marine biodiversity.


The program supports natural and social scientists seeking to uncover interactions between natural and human history in marine and estuarine environments worldwide. We are particularly interested in studies describing systems prior to large-scale human impacts and industrialization. Research may draw on sources ranging from culturally and geographically derived information to biological and physical data (e.g., fishery data, letters, journals, oral histories, historical documents, maps, photos, field surveys, etc).


For 2012, we particularly encourage novel project proposals that relate to existing or proposed marine protected areas around the world. We have a strong interest in projects that clearly connect the establishment of historical ecological baselines with current conservation measures.