Diego Cardeñosa has embarked on a career to disrupt the illegal shark fin trade. His efforts have caught the attention of the The Explorers Club, earning him a spot among this year’s EC50.
EC50 annually recognizes 50 people changing the world. Cardeñosa is being honored for his extensive and groundbreaking shark DNA research and his dedication to marine conservation. Using molecular and forensic science, Cardeñosa is fighting the illegal trade of endangered sharks with custom DNA toolkits that can provide fast, on-site results for questionable shipments at ports of entry. Working with law enforcement in South America and across the world in Hong Kong, he has deployed these toolkits to track, detect and, in some cases, stop illegal wild trafficking of products from endangered sharks. His toolkits have also helped stop illegal shipments of other animals including European eels and South America’s bizarre matamata turtles.
“In the field of conservation, Dr. Cardenosa has accomplished a truly incredible amount in the early years of his career,” said Mike Heithaus, executive dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education and an Explorers Club fellow. “His efforts are inspiring and he’s an obvious choice for recognition among the Explorers Club EC50.”
The Explorers Club’s annual list of the "50 People Changing the World That the World Needs to Know About" comprises scientists, educators and conservationists.
“We see our EC50 members as being the next generation of individuals who will take us further into space, conserve our earth and oceans, and protect at-risk species worldwide," said Richard Garriott de Cayeux, president of The Explorers Club. "At a time where science is often under attack, we need to ensure that this next generation of scientists and educators are given as many platforms and resources as possible to conduct and promote their work.”
The EC50 honorees will receive membership in The Explorers Club, access to the Club’s worldwide network of explorers, lecture opportunities and more. Cardeñosa, who joined FIU in 2020 after earning his Ph.D. in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences from Stony Brook University, was also recently recognized by the global agency Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol for his DNA work to fight illegal wildlife trafficking. His work is conducted in collaboration with research initiatives in FIU’s Institute of Environment and Global Forensic and Justice Center. With this new recognition, he will be the third FIU scientist with membership in The Explorers Club, joining Heithaus and Mireya Mayor, director of Exploration and Science Communication in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.