Saving the Squid

Samantha Cheng

With a National Geographic Explorer’s Grant in hand, Samantha Cheng ’09 is in Indonesia’s Coral Triangle this summer conducting research on bigfin reef squid, work that she hopes will lead to better protection of the squid, which are a significant source of protein and economy for Indonesia.

Cheng, who graduated from Scripps with a degree in organismal biology and ecology, hopes to locate the exact number of reef squid species in the area and pinpoint each species’ territory. Understanding the behavior and ranges of different species will enable better protection of the species.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, represents a unique intersection of human and marine ecosystems. The archipelago nation, comprising more than 17,000 islands, is at the center of the Coral Triangle, a region with the world’s highest biodiversity and a rapidly growing and developing human population. However, Cheng points out that Indonesia is extremely dependent on foreign researchers for marine scientific research and monitoring due to its relatively poor state of economic development and its vast size.

Seizing on this gap in reef squid research, Cheng has established a network of Indonesian university students, professors, conservation scientists, field station staff, and dive operators. Her research will integrate biodiversity research with scientific capacity building through training of Indonesian university students in field techniques and molecular laboratory techniques.

This summer’s research project brings Cheng one step closer to completing her doctorate degree from UCLA.


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