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AU’s Jessica Gephart to Serve as US State Department Science Envoy

Professor one of seven scientists selected to advise US government on marine policy issues

Prof. Jessica GephartAssistant Professor of Environmental Science Jessica Gephart has been selected by the US Department of State (in partnership with the nonprofit Meridian International Center) as one of seven distinguished scientists to serve as US Science Envoys.

Gephart will join a cohort of eminent scientists who will serve a one-year term and leverage their collective expertise and networks to help guide US science policy. The envoys were approved by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and they will engage internationally at the citizen and government levels to promote scientific innovation, identify opportunities for international collaboration, and demonstrate America’s scientific leadership and technical ingenuity.

Gephart’s research focuses on the intersection of seafood globalization and environmental change, evaluating how seafood trade drives environmental impacts, and how environmental shocks disrupt seafood trade. “I am excited for the opportunity as a US Science Envoy to share my research and learn from stakeholders on the ground about improving seafood supply chain traceability,” she says. “Seafood is highly traded, and the US imports the majority it consumes. As a result, ensuring seafood is sustainably produced requires global cooperation.”

Global Seafood Trade, Ocean Health, and Ocean Species

Fish market.Gephart is currently working on the development of a global seafood trade database. Although seafood is the most highly traded food in the world, no one really knows some of the most basic things about the seafood trade, like what percentage of all global seafood trade is wild caught versus what percentage is farmed.

The database will feature a public data portal so anyone can access and download the data. “In this way, the database is planned to serve as a public good,” she says. And already, the database is spurring new research on trade of illegally sourced seafood and informing advocacy work around the trade of sardines in the Philippines and fishmeal out of West Africa, both cases where there are environmental justice concerns around fish exports. 

Gephart says that American University’s support is critical to her research. “My work, and all food systems work, is inherently deeply transdisciplinary," she explains. “Although many universities say they want to do transdisciplinary work, not all are prepared to support researchers that don’t fit neatly into existing research silos, so I feel to have AU supporting me and my work.”