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College of Science and Mathematics

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Biological Science Professor Earns 2019 Ocean Stewardship Award

The Central Coast Aquarium (CCA) recognized Biological Science professor Nikki Adams with the 2019 Ocean Stewardship Award. 

The annual award recognizes an individual who has made a positive and lasting impact on marine science in San Luis Obispo County in the areas of research, conservation, volunteerism or philanthropy. The award was presented at CCA’s annual fundraiser, Catch of the Central Coast, on September 14, 2019, at the Aquarium in Avila Beach. 

Nikki Adams, Ph.D., helped create coursework to train the next generation of marine science educators.
Nikki Adams helped create coursework to
train the next generation of marine science educators.

“This award means a great deal to me because I value our partnership with the Central Coast Aquarium and the hands-on learning opportunities it provides our students. I worked as an instructor at an informal marine science center as an undergraduate, and I saw the tremendous impact this had on my education and career. This award validates the importance of Cal Poly allowing faculty to implement creative programs to give our students the skills to effectively communicate marine science to the public.”

Adams has dedicated her career to improving marine science education and public ocean literacy. In addition to teaching invertebrate zoology, developmental biology and marine-focused courses, she helped create and teach courses specifically training undergraduate and graduate students how to share marine science with the public. For nearly two decades, she has served as a liaison between Cal Poly and the Aquarium and created additional courses at Cal Poly that allow students to earn elective credit for working and training as docents and aquarists at CCA. 

“One of the most rewarding parts of my job is seeing our engaged students grow as individuals and become better scientists, educators, and citizens,” says Adams. “These students are going to be future ambassadors for science, and being a part of their foundational learning is very gratifying.” 

Adams started her stewardship and career in marine outreach as an instructor at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California. She has worked at Cal Poly for 17 years and was one of the founding members of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences. Additionally, she led the effort to create the new Cal Poly Marine Sciences bachelor’s degree program, which specifically includes a requirement for students to contribute to marine science outreach in our community. 

Her position at Cal Poly allows her to utilize all of her experiences to lead externally funded student-focused research projects studying  effects of the environment and pollutants, including commercial sunscreens, on marine organisms, while also training the next generation of marine science educators. 

“This work helps us understand how organisms respond to climate change and human activities,” says Adams of her work. “Involvement of students in this research is important to teach them how to conduct research and teach them how to communicate the importance of their work to other scientists and the public.” 

Christine Johnson, CCA’s Executive Director states, “As a direct result of Dr. Adams extraordinary effort to create and maintain a vibrant partnership between Cal Poly students and CCA, thousands of college students receive real-world experience working in both the public exhibit hall and behind the scenes at a fully operational marine science education center and aquarium. But, CCA received the greatest benefit of all: wave after wave of energetic, passionate and educated college students working alongside us to amplify CCA’s mission to create the next generation of ocean stewards through education, engagement and action.” 

Adams’ other community service includes helping plan and run biannual Cal Poly Pier Open House events for the public, volunteering for many science events at local elementary, middle and high schools, project leader for Los Osos 4-H, and she is a new volunteer at Pacific Wildlife Care in Morro Bay.
 

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