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African American Scholar Program 2023 Recipients

For the third year in a row, a cohort of exceptional African American students are awarded scholarship funds and join a growing community of scholars engaging in various Aquarium efforts.

Collage of 2023 African American Scholars Cohort

February 25, 2023

The 10 award recipients were announced today during the Aquarium’s twenty-first annual African American Festival that was streamed live online.

Award recipients were selected in part by a committee including Aquarium staff members and members of the community. The African American Scholar Program provides a financial award of $10,000 to support each recipient’s continued exploration of fields related to the work of the Aquarium. Beyond the financial award they receive, each scholar has the opportunity to engage with the Aquarium to explore their career interests and learn more about the education and conservation efforts of the Aquarium.

The newly named cohort joins a community of program alumni with which they can connect, share resources, and further feel supported in their marine science trajectory. Past recipients have volunteered, interned, and been hired as paid staff at the Aquarium. Others have published in the Aquarium’s member magazine, published a scientific paper with the Aquarium’s CEO, created one-minute film clips for early childhood educators, met with the Aquarium’s Teen Climate Council, and completed an Instagram takeover of the Aquarium’s social media. This year’s cohort, along with program alumni, are invited to participate in the annual African American Scholar Symposium in November. Since 2021, the Aquarium has named 31 recipients of this scholarship.

“When I was in high school, I began volunteering at the Aquarium of the Pacific first as a VolunTeen and then as an education volunteer. My favorite part…being a diverse role model to the children there. As a volunteer, I could see in many of the children’s faces that I was doing more than making the ocean more accessible; I was making their dreams more attainable. I began to feel that by excelling in my field, I was sending a message that there is a place for everyone in the sciences,” says Bryce Barbee, 2023 African American Scholar.

This scholar program is possible thanks to funding from individuals, foundations, and corporate supporters. Major program supporters for this year include The Boeing Company, The Ahmanson Foundation, Lori Prince and Robert Hum, Kathie Eckert, David Cameron with City National Bank, Bob Foster, and the Schulzman-Neri Foundation. The public is also invited to support the Aquarium’s African American Scholar Program. To make a donation, please visit

Recipients of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 2023 African American Scholar Funds

Portrait of Anthony McGinnis

Anthony McGinnis is a fourth-year undergraduate student at California State University, Long Beach studying marine biology. On campus, he is part of the Shark Lab, where he participates in various aspects of research. McGinnis is currently working on his open water dive certification and hopes to pursue scientific diving and attend grad school in the future.

Portrait of Bryce Barbee

Bryce Barbee is a first year PhD student in the ecology, evolution, and marine biology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Barbee grew up in Long Beach and attributes his involvement in marine science in part to his time at the Aquarium of the Pacific. In high school, Barbee was a volunteen and then a volunteer in the Aquarium’s education department.

Portrait of Danielle McHaskell

Danielle McHaskell is a fourth year PhD student in marine biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California, San Diego. Her research looks at how non-native seaweed may impact subtidal, rocky reef ecosystems like the iconic kelp forests. She is excited to mentor and collaborate with undergraduates interested in marine biology research this summer. In the future, McHaskell plans to pursue a tenure track faculty position within the California State University system so that she can share her passion for ecology while teaching future generations of diverse students.

Portrait of Genece Grisby

Genece Grisby is an undergraduate student at University of California, Davis pursuing a degree in marine and coastal science. Grisby recently started a new job at the Bodega Marine Laboratory as well as their divemaster training. Grisby looks forward to pursuing scientific diving this summer to gain relevant skills before applying to graduate school to focus on biological oceanography.

Portrait of Gregory Smith

Gregory Smith is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in evolutionary biology at San José State University. Smith’s research investigates the Cassin’s auklet on the Southeast Farallon Island’s part of the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge off the coast of San Francisco. Smith grew up visiting, working at, and being inspired by the Bronx Zoo and continues to appreciate the value of zoos and aquariums as a resource for the public.

Portrait of Jada Alexander

Jada Alexander is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara studying environmental education and marine science. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a PhD to continue being involved in research. She aspires to use her personal insight and experience as a black woman in the outdoors to help facilitate equal representation for people of color in the environment. She hopes to explore future opportunities to work in an aquarium as part of an education department.

Portrait of Jahnita DeMoranville

Jahnita DeMoranville is a second-year graduate student enrolled in a marine biology M.S. degree program at California State University, Fullerton. DeMoranville’s research uses techniques in functional morphology and biomechanics to answer questions about bite performance in squids. In the summer of 2022, she was a Eugenie Clark Fellow with Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS).

Portrait of Jake Roth

Jake Roth is a fourth-year undergraduate at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo studying marine science. Roth is looking forward to gaining research experience after graduation, including the possibility of working with whales in Puget Sound. Roth is currently an intern with the nonprofit Friends of the Elephant Seal working with the university research team and the docents onsite.

Portrait of Khalil Russell

Khalil Russell is a second-year PhD student in the population biology program at University of California, Davis. Russell’s research looks at the ecology, invasive biology, and functional morphology of freshwater fish within the Cichlidae family. Since he was young, Russell has kept and bred fish in aquariums. He now shares his knowledge with others through his YouTube channel called FNF Cichlids | Friendly Neighborhood Fishkeeper.

Portrait of Kimberly Randolph

Kimberly Randolph is a fourth-year undergraduate student majoring in biology and specializing in ecology and environmental science at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Randolph is interested in microorganisms and bacteria in the ocean. She also is a proud member of the Land Hermit Crab Owners Society, which advocates for proper care of land hermit crabs as well as education, research, and conservation.