Stories from the Blue: Emily Aiken

Nov. 2016

Nancy Foster Scholar Emily Aiken explains that through the scholarship and working with national marine sanctuaries, "I have the opportunity now to fully engage and reach my full potential -- and that has been incredible to experience." Check out our video to learn about Emily's Story from the Blue. Are you a graduate student in ocean sciences? Learn about the Nancy Foster Scholarship at -- the application period is currently open!


I've built a community in Monterey and from that I get to continue my work with the national marine sanctuaries, helping them look beneath the blue to see what's down there.

There are lots of money that are thrown at students these days and a lot of them are just rewards for what they've already done. But money that supports the collection of additional science and requires this interface with government is invaluable and I'm... there aren't that many fellowships at a national level that I'm aware of that explicitly require that.

The Nancy Foster Scholarship is supporting me in my two years of my master's program here at Cal State, Monterey. The essential role that it's playing is that I get to stay here and work with national marine sanctuaries, including the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and for my thesis the Gulf of the Farallones [now Greater Farallones] National Marine Sanctuary.

Budgets are never all that they could be and the scholarship program is a way to get research products that is also focused on training the people who are preparing those products.

Now I have information about the fish and the habitat that it's in and so I can map exactly, give or take, you know, a meter or two, where this fish occurred in the ocean.

So we see fish here, here, and here, let's incorporate these environmental predictor variables like depth, slope, aspect, which is like which way the currents are going. Which of these factors are influencing the fish the most in their habitat? That's the process of making a model. A generalized linear model.

Then we can use those models, the most supported one with the highest accuracy, to predict where we can see lingcod throughout the whole sanctuary.

If you're funding something from a government agency, it makes sense to do work that the government wants to have done. So the more explicit the linkage between the science that's been proposed by the student and the needs of the sanctuary, the better.

It's been motivating and inspiring to do this work knowing that there is someone at the end that will be using it.

I've always been working two jobs, commuting 40 minutes one way, and I have the opportunity now to just fully engage and reach my full potential and that has been incredible to experience.