Kelsey McClellan

Constantly inspired by marine life

Posted on Mar 08 2021


Kelsey McClellan

Kelsey McClellan wears two hats—she is a marine biologist at Johnston Applied Marine Sciences and is an environmental planner for the Pacific Coastal Research and Planning. Doing both entails study and gathering information so we know how to take care of the environment better, which, in turn, inspires fascination with the ocean world.

“At Johnston Applied Marine Sciences, Dr. Lyza Johnston and I are working on several projects conducting marine debris surveys in the Tinian Harbor and southern Saipan lagoon with Mariana Island Nature Alliance or working at the coral nursery with our two amazing Northern Marianas College interns, Richelle Ramon and Logan Mister, with other rotating cast of volunteers,” she said.

Right now, her favorite project with the Johnston Applied Marine Sciences is the Ruth Gates Coral Restoration Innovation Grant, which is a three-year project. As McClellan explains it, that project is where JAMS will test “a new settlement substrate for coral larvae in order to scale up coral restoration efforts through the outplanting of sexually derived juvenile corals.” Whew, very “sciency” stuff. Simply put, it means finding new ways to restore coral reefs in the CNMI.

That project will also build local capacity to implement coral sexual propagation. The project itself is named after Dr. Ruth Gates, who was a role model for women in science, particularly for women in coral ecology. McClellan said it is an “incredible honor” to be working on this project in memory of Dr. Gates.

Meanwhile, at Pacific Coastal Research and Planning, McClellan works alongside Becky Skeele Jordan and a Community Advisory Committee to develop a shoreline master plan for a section of the Froilan C. Tenorio Beach Road Pathway, incorporating blue and green infrastructure to mitigate erosion, while promoting and supporting all recreational and fishing activities that occur along Beach Road.

McClellan said the impact of the work she does keeps her motivated. “The work we are doing will have a positive impact on the coral reefs here [on] Saipan, and hopefully will help to scale-up the CNMI’s coral restoration efforts. …The content of the projects I’m working on really drives me forward and I love the work that I do with JAMS and PCRP. Coral conservation and restoration is a really rewarding field and the hands-on work is really gratifying. Our interns also motivate me to accomplish my goals.”

McClellan said she is grateful to be exactly where she is. “I love Saipan, I love our community, and I am so thankful for the friends and colleagues that I have here. I think gratitude is probably the biggest secret to success, but maybe not always the easiest to remember. Also, I always want to be in a position where I can support others’ endeavors, successes, and failures,” she added.

With all the work that MClellan does, she admits caffeine is her best friend along the way. Most of her professional goals to accomplish are project-oriented and deadline-based. Her current plans involve finishing work in what she calls the “Structure from Motion”’ dataset that she has been working on (“We’re getting near the deadline!”)

She also works with Project HOPE (Healthy Ocean & People Empowerment) that was launched by Friends of the Marianas Trench Monument. This involves working with ocean elders and teaching middle-schoolers of the Public School System about ocean science.

“There are a lot of amazing scientists and ocean elders who come together to teach the students scientific methods and traditional knowledge of the ocean and lagoon, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to get involved with future marine scientists,” she said. “I believe collaboration is a key to success and in order to collaborate it’s important to listen and understand where folks are coming from. …Gratitude, listening, understanding, and supporting are the biggest skills that will help you find and achieve success.

McClellan describes her personal goals as simple and accomplishable: learning how to play a few songs on the guitar, which she has just started to learn, continuing to fatten her savings account, and making sure her dog gets a daily walk and lots of attention.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.

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