Q & A with Dr. David Fluharty

Dr. David Fluharty
Dr. David Fluharty

How did you decide to become a professor?

In High School one of my civic affairs teachers talked about a particular natural resource management controversy that intrigued me. She let me borrow her Master’s thesis on the topic. I realized then that I wanted to do research to understand how to improve natural resource management. That led to the design of my idiosyncratic undergraduate curriculum that sought exposure to natural and policy sciences to explore how the two could mutually inform each other. This type of interdisciplinary study was uncharted at the major universities in the mid-1960s. Fortunately , there was a cadre of forward thinking professors who met weekly to explore the educational approach needed to engage with environmental problems and they allowed errant undergrads like me to join their discussions.

One of my political science professors was an expert in interest group politics around natural resource issues. We got to be close friends over the years. When he asked me about my career plans, I told him my immediate goal was to obtain a Ph.D. because I wanted to do research and teach at a University. He was candid in saying that he did not recommend it. He was probably right – but I knew what I wanted to do.

Fortunately, another professor hired to design and establish an Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies program at the UW and he took me under his wing. While he neither encouraged nor discouraged my ambitions, he embodied the kind of scholarship and teaching to which I aspired. He had obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources in Natural Resources Conservation and Planning so I followed suit.

What do you like most about your work?

Working with students and seeing them really dig into problems, grapple with research methods and emerge with a set of conclusions derived from their research that they are prepared to defend. Engaging with real world processes in ocean and fisheries management.

If you could have any amount of funding to conduct research, what would you do, and why?

An interdisciplinary text book on the development of US Fishery Management Policy is not available. I’d like to share what I have learned about management of US fisheries so that there could be a one-stop shop where persons engaging in fishery management could quickly gain an appreciation of the basic features and the complexity of implementation.

How would you describe SMEA students?

They are the best!

What advice would you give to students who are considering studying at SMEA?

Join us! Study the curriculum, understand the fundamentally different education you’ll obtain in an interdisciplinary program and imagine how this can prepare you for your next step in your career.

What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?

The blue mussel. It is found virtually everywhere. It is delicious to eat. It tells us many things about the nature of the waters in which it survives. And, despite everything we do to neglect it, it will out-survive us.