Project Leader

Bryan Huerta Beltrán

Bryan Huerta Beltrán

Who I am

I was born and raised in Mexico City, yet during my childhood I always felt influenced by the natural world. Growing up in a mega-diverse country like Mexico made me interested in wildlife from a very young age. I can vividly remember talking with my father and uncle about the world’s unique creatures while we were sharing outdoor adventures in the countryside. However, my passion for animals did not end with my childhood; I decided to turn that early hobby into my professional career by pursuing an undergraduate degree in conservation and wildlife management in the USA. As a student at Delaware Valley University, I had the opportunity to attend a School for Field Studies course on South Caicos Island in the Caribbean. One of my tasks was scuba diving to take photographs of the pelvic fins of spotted eagle rays so that the rays could be recognised again and their movements tracked.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I was in the Mississippi State University Marine Fisheries Ecology Program under Dr J. Marcus Drymon for almost two years. In this role I assisted with bottom longline surveys in the northern Gulf of Mexico and expanded my field-work experience by helping to work up specimens, collecting data and tagging and releasing sharks and rays. In addition, I participated in several outreach events, speaking to the public about what I love most: sharks and rays. My passion for these fish extends far beyond school or work; when I’m in my home country of Mexico I frequently visit fish markets, making the most of opportunities to gain access to a number of elasmobranch species and building relationships with vendors from whom I glean invaluable information.

Where I work

My home base is Mexico City, but currently I am pursuing my Master’s degree at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, under the advisement of Dr Nicole Phillips. My research project is being conducted in Mexico, where I’m studying and collecting guitarfish of the genus Pseudobatos. Currently, there are nine recognised guitarfish species in this genus worldwide. In Mexico we are fortune to have eight of them: two species occur off the east coast of Mexico (in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) and six off the west coast (in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California). According to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, seven of these eight species are threatened. Guitarfish in Mexico are being targeted by artisanal and commercial fisheries and there is poor documentation of which species are being harvested.

What I do

Mexico City is regarded as one of the largest cities in the world, with a population estimated at more than 21 million people. In the city there are wholesale food markets where animal and plant products from all over Mexico are sold. These products include guitarfish from Mexican waters. My field work consists of visiting these markets and documenting which species are being offered for sale. I identify the guitarfish species at the market and later confirm their identification by extracting their DNA at the University of Southern Mississippi. Knowing exactly which species are being harvested will help to conserve Mexico’s guitarfish species for future generations.

My project

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