Shah Selbe’s childhood fascination with Jacques Cousteau TV specials has led to more than a love of the world’s oceans. It’s made him one of the 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorers, a coveted honor for emerging thinkers.
Selbe (’04) gained attention for his work on FishNET, a system that collects crowdsourced data on fishing vessels and exploited areas. It is one example of how engineering can be used to conserve the world’s oceans and stop illegal fishing.
“I remember being amazed at what lay beneath the ocean’s surface,” Selbe said. “It’s another world down there, and one that has a unique importance as the giver of life on this planet.”
“It’s another world down there, and one that has a unique importance as the giver of the life of this planet”
His project caught the interest of experts who nominated him, along with 16 other visionaries, for the prestigious $10,000 award for research and exploration.
“The more I started looking at the issue, the more I saw engineering solutions to those problems. I came to realize that there are easier solutions than what’s currently being done,” Selbe said. “The world is becoming increasingly connected and data collected and shared at a level that we have never imagined.
“The technology space is brimming with innovation but we have yet to take advantage of it to solve the massive problems of overfishing,” he added.
Selbe sees the oceans as the last great unexplored frontier on Earth. A passion. An interesting perspective for a scientist at Boeing whose day job is as a spacecraft propulsion scientist and engineer. He works on liquid and ion propulsion systems for satellites and other unmanned spacecraft for commercial and government programs. He has a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and continues his studies in management science and engineering at Stanford.
“I’m proud of the time I spent at UCR; it gave me the strong foundation I need in engineering and science to get where I am today,” Selbe said. “That’s where I learned the fundamentals in engineering problem solving and how to work hard and focus on a specific goal.”
“The oceans are currently facing an unprecedented threat,” Selbe said. “Every day we ignore this plight is another day that its health spirals further toward a point where it may become too late.”
Selbe is an advocate of engineering’s ability to harness design and science to improve humanity and solve our greatest problems. His’s faith in the power of engineering, drove him to look at its use in other areas. “There are smarter ways to do conservation work, and engineers are at the core of it,” he said.