UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 6 |
Jun. 2, 2005
Duo Share Conservation Research, Friendship
By Brian Lin
Sarah Foster and Amanda Vincent went on a six-hour bus ride
in February 2004 in search of the perfect margarita, having
been disappointed by the uninspiring big-box hotel and littered
beach in Mazatlan, Mexico, the site of a United Nations technical
workshop on ensuring sustainable international trade in seahorses.
“We finally found the perfect margarita,” says
Foster, who is Vincent’s PhD student at UBC’s
Fisheries Centre. “But not before meandering through
mangrove swamps and past crocodiles. Then we went for a swim
not 10 metres from them.”
Despite the detour, Foster and Vincent, Canada Research
Chair in Marine Conservation and director of the world-renowned
Project Seahorse, wowed an international audience of delegates
with their research on seahorse biology, trade and conservation.
They have been working for several years toward successful
management of the world’s trade in seahorses under the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Convention, which addresses species whose trade must
be controlled in order to ensure their survival, voted in
November 2002 to include seahorses as a regulated species.
The decision, which took effect in May 2004, made seahorses
the first fully marine fish species of commercial importance
to be listed in CITES and -- with more than 25 million seahorses
a year moving among at least 75 nations -- represent the most
The two first met when Foster introduced Vincent as a guest
speaker at her old high school in 1998, but got to know each
other when Vincent hired Foster as a research assistant for
Project Seahorse in 2001, after her stint as a volunteer on
the team’s field research in the Philippines.
“I probably wasn’t the best candidate when it
came to the technical aspect of the work,” says Foster,
whose PhD work involves the bycatch of small fish species
in tropical shrimp trawl fisheries. “Amanda took a chance
on me and her trust made me feel really good about myself.
I’ve been given more opportunities in the last three
years than perhaps many would have gotten in 15 years in the
working world -- and I came out of it with a great friend.”
“The biggest contribution I’ve made to Sarah
is probably eliminating the word ‘like’ from her
sentences,” laughs Vincent, who adds that Foster’s
ability to communicate complex ideas clearly is a testament
of her significant growth both academically and personally.
Vincent says she has also benefited greatly from the relationship.
“As a project leader, you face a lot of challenges,
so it’s important to know that people in the team, like
Sarah, share your values and are working with you toward a
“Sarah’s special strength is her ability to remain
kind even when she’s under enormous pressure,”
says Vincent. “As her advisor, I need to give her unstinting
support without taking away her opportunity to rise to the
challenge -- which she always does.”