Amazing Students Profiles

Aaron MacNeil

Aaron MacNeil

Master’s student Aaron MacNeil has been awarded a three-year National Science and Engineering Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship from the Canadian government for $45,000 to pursue his Ph.D. at the University of Newcastle in England. His research will investigate the role sharks and tunas play in ocean ecosystems. His research will be conducted in the Mediterranean Sea—an area representative of larger, open-ocean systems. MacNeil won the Gruber Award at the annual meeting of the American Elasmobranch Society in April. More recently, MacNeil was awarded a tuition waiver for foreign students to attend the University of Newcastle that is worth about $20,000 per year from the government of the United Kingdom.


Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

High School:

Horton High School

Degree objective:

Master of Science in Forest Resources (Fisheries)

Other degrees:

B.Sc., Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (Marine Biology)

Expected graduation:

December 2004

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

My work at UGA was studying stable-isotope turnover in elasmobranchs (sharks and rays). Isotopes are being used in many aquatic systems to estimate where animals fit in food webs, but how these tools apply to sharks has been poorly understood. For the work I won the Gruber Award for the best student paper at the American Elasmobranch Society meeting in Normal, Oklahoma. My talk was on “Variable uptake and elimination of stable nitrogen isotopes in freshwater stingrays.” I also won the best student paper award at the American Fisheries Society’s Georgia Chapter meeting in Athens, Georgia for a talk on the same subject and we have written two papers on the results. For my current work I received a
National Science and Engineering Research Council (Canadian equivalent of the National Science Foundation) Postgraduate Scholarship for $45,000  and an Overseas Research Scholarship from the UK government for $60,000,  both to use for my doctoral studies.

Current Employment:

I have already started working as a Ph.D. student in Tropical Coastal Management in the Department of Marine Science and Technology at the University of Newcastle in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. I am working to quantify the role of pelagic (open-water) sharks and tunas in food webs. In reality, very little is known about these animals and the role they play in the ocean’s ecosystems. They have declined drastically in the past 50 years and we need to know what this means for the surrounding fish community.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…my friend, Aaron Fisk, works as a faculty member in the fisheries group in the Daniel B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. We had similar interests and a desire to do good work.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

…to interact with other students who are conducting similar research, to play noon hour basketball at the Ramsey Center, and to attend public lectures in other departments.

When I have free time, I like…

…reading at the Hot Corner, hiking in the Georgia mountains, spending time on the coast, shopping for used books, and taking photographs.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

…live in the South!

My favorite professor is…

…Gene Helfman. He is a genuine and inspiring person who knows a lot about life and how to live it. If you have a free course, take Ichthyology from him.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…William Shatner. He has somehow managed to be both inside and outside
American culture for the last 40 years. His new album has something important to say to us—I’m just not sure what it is.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

…own my own boat from which to conduct my work.

After graduation, I plan to…

…get my Ph.D. at Newcastle and work at a university, teaching and conducting research. I will probably return to Canada. I believe that leaving your own country gives you a better perspective about why it matters to you.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…going to UGA football games and seeing grown men wearing red pants in
public. I am still in disbelief.