CCMI Welcomes WIOSA Scholars and Interns to the LCRC

July 18, 2022

After Covid-19 delayed the starting date, this innovative CCMI programme now begins in earnest

After launching the Women in Ocean Science Award (WIOSA) in late 2019, the team at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) eagerly awaited the arrival of the first Scholar and Intern participants to the Cayman Islands to begin their field work at the Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) in early 2020. However, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting border closures put the start of the programme on a temporary hold.

Now, after two years of waiting, CCMI is excited to welcome the programme’s first Scholars and Interns, which include not only the first cohort of participants, but also participants selected during the 2021 and 2022 recruitment efforts.

Dr. Sarah Gignoux-Wolfsohn, the first Scholar selected for WIOSA, is currently affiliated with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Centre in the United States. She arrived this month to conduct research for her project. As an expert in coral disease, Dr. Gignoux-Wolfsohn has begun a project entitled “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease – a Coral Reef Crisis in the Cayman Islands.” This project complements work being undertaken by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and looks at the bacterial origins of Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD).

Dr. Gignoux-Wolfsohn explains what it means to be selected as a WIOSA Scholar: “I am very excited to be in Little Cayman starting my WIOSA project. I was and am honored to be the first recipient of the WIOSA chosen by the accomplished scientists at CCMI and WIOSA advisors. I am thrilled to be contributing to the woman-led research programmes at CCMI and to help mentor the next generation of female scientists. This award will greatly advance my research programme, integrating theory and ideas from other systems with my PhD work on coral health and disease. Infectious disease is one of the greatest threats to corals and the coral reef ecosystems they build. By tracking coral health through time, my work at CCMI will advance our understanding of community ecology, disease, and microbial community composition with implications for coral restoration and the creation of resilient coral reefs.”

In August, Dr. Zoe Pratter will conduct field work at the LCRC to investigate the relationship between the common coral symbiont Endozoicomonas and coral health, species, and depth.

Dr. Laura Marangoni, a postdoctoral fellow at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, is the third WIOSA Scholar. Arriving in October, Dr. Marangoni’s research will look at the physiology of corals in the CCMI nursery and how changes to the corals’ diet might increase their success after outplanting.

In addition to the Scholars, two Interns will complete their three-month residential internships at the LCRC to support the work of the WIOSA Scholars. Siarah Hall, a senior at Louisiana State University, arrived in Little Cayman in June, where she will support field work through August. Federica Manca, a PhD student at the University of Helsinki, will arrive for her WIOSA internship in October.

CCMI created the WIOSA programme for the purpose of advancing women in the field of ocean science, so they become world-leading professionals. As a segment of the population that is vastly underrepresented at high levels in the field, CCMI recognised there was a strong need to support talented women to progress and achieve key positions in academia, government, and industry. The WIOSA programme offers support to the Scholars and Interns through an established network and by providing mentorship, funding, and field access for women to collectively help find solutions to some of the greatest questions facing the ocean and our society today.

Scholars in the WIOSA programme are early- or mid-career women who have received their PhD within the last 10 years. They receive full resources to establish a new field research experiment on the topic of coral reef/ocean resiliency over a two-year period out of CCMI’s LCRC. Interns are early-career women with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in marine science or a related field, and they participate in a three-month residential internship at the LCRC, supporting the field work of WIOSA Scholars.

The Women in Ocean Science Award is established thanks to the Brian Melito and Jessica Colker Trust. It is a six-year programme that will support up to six Scholars and 24 Interns in total. Visit the Women in Ocean Science Award page to learn more about the programme and participants.

If you are interested in supporting the next cohort of Women in Ocean Science for 2023, contact Kate at for WIOSA sponsorship information.