Student Scholarship Program


MASNA Student Scholarships


MASNA is proud to announce the recipients of our 2020 – 2021 MASNA Student Scholarship Program.

The 2020 – 2021 MASNA Undergraduate Student Scholarship recipient is Lauren Jennings. Lauren is a full-time Junior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a focus on marine biology and ecology, at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB).

During her undergraduate career at UCSB, Lauren has been closely involved in the Research Experience and Education Facility (REEF), where she now serves as a Special Projects Aquarist. Lauren also works closely with the Santa Barbara Sea Center and the UCSB Marine Science Institute and California Sea Grant, where her activities range from improving the California crab fishery (Lopholithodes foraminatus) by understanding reproductive life history to hands-on demonstrations and interpretive marine science exhibitry. She strives to expose a diverse community to marine science through educational, immersive displays, virtual programming, and science communication, to bring the wonder of marine habitats to households throughout the country, no matter how far from the ocean.

Lauren intends to pursue a graduate degree in marine science with a particular emphasis in science communication. Without question, Lauren’s passion for research, animal husbandry, and education will be put to good use in the very near future!




The 2020 – 2021 MASNA Graduate Student Scholarship recipient is Aaron Pilnick, a Ph.D. student at the University of Florida under the advisement of Dr. Joshua Patterson.

Aaron has a long history of reef-keeping that spans the better portion of two decades, having worked in the retail and service industry, and participating as an active hobbyist at past MACNAs and online. He received a double B.S. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Tufts University in 2013. After graduation, he employed these skills at the National Aquarium where he managed the aquarium’s live coral exhibits.

In 2018, Aaron began graduate studies at the University of Florida in their Interdisciplinary Ecology program. Working in partnership with the Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach, FL, he designed a novel culture system for the long-spined sea urchin Diadema antillarum. These urchins play a critical role in consuming macroalgae on Caribbean reefs, thus improving the habitat for reef building corals to settle and grow. Sadly, in the early 1980’s, Diadema succumbed to a disease that reduced populations by up to 99%. These urchins have not recovered, and it is understood that the lack of herbivory is partially driving Caribbean reef decline.

Aaron’s research aims to refine culture methods for this species and ultimately improve the viability of producing hatchery-reared urchins to restore much needed herbivory to coral reefs. Aaron has recently facilitated major breakthroughs in our ability to aquaculture this species and will undoubtedly continue to employ the technical skills that he has developed to affect positive conservation change in the Caribbean.

Over the past 12 years, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America (MASNA) has provided $76,000 in funding for undergraduate and graduate college students to help continue their degrees in the marine science discipline. The MASNA Scholarship Program has grown significantly to include applicants from North America and abroad. It has become a very competitive and esteemed award.

Applications for the awards are judged based on the applicant’s enrollment in a marine science undergraduate or graduate degree program, a G.P.A. of 2.5/4.0 or greater, and their proven contributions and demonstrated commitment to the marine aquarium hobby.
This year’s scholarship selection committee was chaired by MASNA Director of Conservation, Tim Lyons, and Alex Bonnano. The committee further consisted of Dr. Kevin Erickson (MASNA President), Christine Rowe (MASNA Treasurer),  Dr. Roy Yanong (University of Florida Professor and Aquatic Veterinarian), Dr. Liz Marchio (2015 – 2016, Graduate scholarship recipient), Mike Connelly (2018 – 2019, Graduate), Liz Groover (2016 – 2017, Graduate), Zachary Ostroff (2012 – 2013, Graduate), and Kristin Privitera-Johnson (2010 – 2011, Recipient).
This year, with sponsorships from LiveAquaria, Ecotech Marine, and Two Little Fishies, MASNA is able to again award both a $4,000 undergraduate student scholarship and a $4,000 graduate student scholarship, and will provide an all expense paid trip for both recipients to MACNA 2021 in Atlanta, GA.

MASNA would like to thank, Ecotech Marine, and Two Little Fishies. Without them, the two $4,000 MASNA Student Scholarships would not be possible.



 The 2020 – 2021 MASNA Student Scholarship Program is made possible by our generous sponsors LiveAquaria, Ecotech Marine, and Two Little Fishies.


Application Details & Eligibility Requirements

We are proud to announce the 2020 – 2021 MASNA Student Scholarships. This year there are two scholarships available; one $4,000 scholarship for a college undergraduate student and one $4,000 scholarship for a college graduate student

To be eligible for a $4,000 MASNA Student Scholarship:

  • An applicant must be a current/entering undergraduate or graduate student at an accredited college or university.
  • The student must have declared a major/focus or have intent to declare a major/focus in one of the marine science disciplines.

Selection will be based upon the student’s academic history and the student’s contributions and demonstrated commitment to the marine aquarium hobby.

Successful MASNA Student Scholarship recipients must be able to travel to MACNA 2020 in order to receive the scholarship. Funding is available to assist each of the chosen applicants in attending MACNA.

North American students, no matter where they are studying in the world, as well as students from abroad, who are studying in North America, are eligible, as long as they attend/plan to attend an accredited college or university. MASNA recognizes these locations as being in North America.

The MASNA Student Scholarships are in U.S. Dollars.

Our ideal scholarship candidate:

1: Is seeking a degree in a marine science field.

2: Is active in the marine aquarium hobby.

3: Will be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student in 2020 – 2021.

4: Has a GPA above 2.5 / 4.0.

The 2020 – 2021 MASNA Student Scholarships will be publicly awarded to the recipients at the 32nd annual Marine Aquarium Conference of North America (MACNA) in Phoenix, Arizona, from August 28 – 30.

More information about MACNA can be found at

Funding is available to assist each of the chosen applicants in attending MACNA.

If you have questions, please read the FAQ below. If your questions are not answered, please email

Please have the applicant send the correspondence, not a representative or relative.

The deadline for submission is June 5, 2020.


About MASNA:

MASNA is a non-profit organization composed of marine aquarium societies and individual hobbyists from North America and abroad, totaling several thousand individuals.

MASNA’s goals are to:

  • Educate our members with online and published material, the MACNA conference, and other sanctioned events
  • Assist in forming and promoting the growth of clubs within the hobby while ensuring a sustainable future for the marine environment
  • Support the efforts to eliminate abuses in collecting and transporting marine organisms through education, assistance and encouragement
  • Encourage the ethical growth of the marine aquarium hobby and support captive breeding/propagation efforts

MASNA operates from a central Board of Directors elected each year by the delegates from the member societies at the Marine Aquarium Conference of North America, (MACNA).

Press Coverage of the MASNA Student Scholarships

Frequently Asked Questions

Previous MASNA Student Scholarship Recipient Bios:

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The application period is closed.

Photos from MACNA 2019

Photos from MACNA 2018

Photos from MACNA 2017

Photos from MACNA 2016

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