Ciara Willis (pronounced “keer-ah”) is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Program between MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the departments of Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences and Biology, respectively. She is advised by Dr. Simon Thorrold at WHOI. Ciara’s goal is to help ensure the sustainability of global fisheries, a valuable common pool resource at high risk. A scientifically rigorous approach to ocean-capture fisheries management requires understanding of the ecology of fished species, the functioning of the ecosystems they inhabit, and the social-ecological systems through which fish populations interact with humans. At WHOI, Ciara works on the Ocean Twilight Zone project, a comprehensive exploration of 200- to 1000-meter depths in the open ocean. Specifically, Ciara’s dissertation research examines the food web linkages between migratory top predators such as tuna and swordfish and twilight zone prey using stable isotope analysis, acoustic tagging, and bioeconomic modelling. Her aim is to quantify the reliance of predators on the twilight zone for forage and to use this information to inform fisheries management for both predatory fishes and twilight zone species.
Prior to starting her PhD at MIT-WHOI, Ciara completed her B.Sc. in Honors Marine Biology (Co-op) with minors in Statistics and Ocean Sciences at Dalhousie University, Canada. To gain insight into the disconnect between recommendations by biological scientists and actions by policy makers, she then spent a year working in fisheries governance and economics with Dr. Megan Bailey. In addition to her research, Ciara strongly believes in fostering an inclusive and supportive scientific culture through initiatives such her Board Member position with the MIT-WHOI Applicant Support and Knowledgebase program.