Dal's new Vanier Scholar deep dives into aquaculture
Misha Noble-Hearle - November 2, 2012
“Hoping, but not expecting,” is how María Cecilia Engler Palma describes her feelings before the announcement that she had won one of Canada’s most prestigious scholarships for graduate students, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.
That said, with her impressive proposal and resume, the scholarship shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.
Engler Palma, a grad student at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law, was one of 159 students nationwide who were awarded the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships. The scholarship is worth $50,000 dollars annually for up to three years for diverse research proposals. Since 2008, when the scholarship was created, 660 awards worth $98.4 million have been handed out.
Dalhousie was an ideal fit for Engler Palma, originally from Chile, as her interests lie in the ocean. The Marine & Environmental Law Institute was one of the main reasons she chose to complete her graduate studies at the Schulich School of Law.
“Dalhousie is, globally, one of the leading universities in ocean and coastal studies,” says Engler Palma. “The Marine & Environmental Law Institute is one of the most important research centres for policy and law applied to ocean conservation and management.”
A framework for a rapidly growing industry
Her research will focus on the policy, legal and regulatory framework of aquaculture activities and she aims to contribute to the underrepresentation of legal academic literature and research on sustainable aquaculture.
“I chose it because aquaculture is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. It is supported and endorsed by governments worldwide that see the importance of its contribution to food security.” The problem, she says, is that, “the growth has not been accompanied by a sound policy, legal and regulatory environment.”
Engler Palma’s research is informed by the guidelines published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation on the ecosystem approach to aquaculture. On this basis, she will “explore and critically analyze the legal and policy frameworks for aquaculture development and their adequacy to implement the ecosystem approach.”
At the moment, her endeavour will be a solo adventure (“A PhD in law can be an isolating experience,” she said, with a laugh), but she hopes to establish links with other scholars in Canada and other jurisdictions who share an interest in aquaculture sustainability. By creating a network of researchers, the scope of learning and information will broaden and she will gain new perspectives on the research.
Engler Palma’s passion does not stop at the contribution to a sustainable marine environment, but she also strives to “bridge the two different worlds of academia and practitioners to channel solutions for the problems that affect our society.”
The accomplished scholar, who already has a law degree from the Universidad de Concepción in Chile and an LLM degree from the Schulich School of Law, just started her doctoral studies this September and aims to graduate in October 2016. Halifax is her permanent home, and she says Dalhousie is “a very good setting to work.”