Meet Anamarija Frankić: Ecologist and Steward

August 03, 2011

AAUW alumna Anamarija Frankić works to restore the oyster population of Boston’s Wellfleet Harbor.

While completing her master’s degree in ecology and limnology (freshwater science) at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, 1995–96 AAUW International Fellow Anamarija Frankić spent five years working as an ecologist for the Plitvice Lakes, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites and one of the oldest national parks in Croatia. This experience opened her eyes to the disjuncture between park management decisions and scientific research, and she realized that “it doesn’t matter how good your science is if you can’t translate and apply it.” She began educating local communities, tourists, and national organizations about the human activities destroying the lakes’ ecosystems but was forced to flee to the United States when war broke out in the former Yugoslavia.

Frankić was inspired to apply for an International Fellowship when she learned that AAUW provided the funds that enabled Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie to continue her work. The fellowship came at a crucial moment in Frankić’s career. “It introduced me to the power of community and stewardship. At that point I was still at a crossroads, coming from a war-torn country and being embraced by another country. It’s like being adopted by a community that’s been helping women receive an education for over a hundred years,” she said. With the help of the International Fellowship, she earned her doctorate from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary.

Frankić strives to continue AAUW’s mission of breaking through barriers for women and girls because she knows that educated women can empower their communities by working for peace and environmental sustainability. She developed the Green Boston Harbor Project at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, in order to integrate education, research, and outreach by getting students, policy makers, and locals involved in coastal stewardship efforts. She mentors several graduate students whose dissertation research contributes to this initiative and leads groups of local youth on canoe trips in the Neponset and Mystic watersheds to learn about pollution and ecosystems.

But like any good ecologist, Frankić understands that local efforts are not enough. That’s why she works to bring grants for conservation and sustainable management to the Adriatic region and serves as an adviser to the Ministry of Culture in Croatia. In addition to teaching at the University of Massachusetts, she is an adjunct professor at the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries in Split, Croatia. She has also worked in collaboration with the World Bank to develop coastal management projects in Tanzania.

Frankić’s goal is to engage her students in compassionate, holistic science. She argues that we need to learn to ask and listen to nature for solutions to our problems. “We are afraid to be visionaries and idealistic because everyone wants you to be rough and tough and economically oriented,” she said. “Don’t stop dreaming.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Melissa Rogers.

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