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Jake LaBelle (MA, 2012)

Jake Labelle with a tagged shark

Jake LaBelle, a graduate of theMarine Conservation and Policy (MCP) Master’s program, has found career success at the New York Seascape.

The New York Seascape, a program operated through the Wildlife Conservation Society, seeks to protect habitat and species that rely on New York’s coastal waters. They use a combination of research, education, and policy to achieve this goal. LaBelle works as research coordinator through New York Seascape, a position that helps him engage in his true passion: sharks.

“Getting to live in New York and do fieldwork with sharks is pretty incredible,” says Labelle, “I’ve always loved sharks.”

LaBelle got involved with New York Seascape by doing an internship with them during his time working on his MCP degree. He got involved in more and more projects until he became indispensable to the organization, at which point he was offered a job.

Even before that, LaBelle spent time working with sharks. Prior to attending Stony Brook University, he volunteered at the Bimini Biological Field Station. The Field Station gathers data on sharks in the Bahamas, which is then utilized by universities and professors, including SoMAS professor Dr. Demian Chapman, who does genetic studies on the samples gathered there.

These experiences were key for LaBelle, who came from non-scientific background. His undergraduate degree was in International Affairs. A lot of his success came from talking to people involved in the field, who knew some way he could get involved. This included his work in Bimini, and other places as well.

“I always loved aquariums and marine biology, and started by volunteering at the National Zoo,” states LaBelle.

After graduating, LaBelle conducted research on Sand Tiger and Shortfin Mako sharks in the Great South Bay. By tracking these sharks, he is hoping to get more information to construct maps of essential habitat for these species. LaBelle feels that GIS courses taken as an MCP student were indispensable to this work, and that these and other experiences as an MCP student will continue to be useful in his chosen career path.