Q & A With Amy Brodbeck

Over the summer, Amy worked at the Prince William Sound Science Center.

Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Marine Affairs?

Upon graduating with a biology degree, I spent five years working in the field of environmental education, predominantly in marine environments. My work exposed me to issues that stretched outside the bounds of pure science, and piqued my interest in marine management and policy. I chose to study marine affairs to deepen my understanding of the relationship between humans and marine environments to learn how we can become better stewards of our oceans.

Why did you decide to come to UW’s SMEA for graduate school?

SMEA’s interdisciplinary approach in addressing marine issues aligned well with my interest in the human component of environmental systems. The program is also quite flexible, as the requirements often involve different options, and there are quite a few elective credits available.

Are you doing a thesis or capstone project? If thesis, what are you writing your thesis about and why? If capstone, what is the project about?

I returned to graduate school to gain more hands-on experience in the field, and the capstone track is a great opportunity to do just that. I chose to work on a project partnered with natural scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In this project, our goal is to better understand the socioeconomic impacts of harmful algal bloom (HAB) events on coastal communities. Ultimately, our research aims to help managers address community needs in the future. In addition to analyzing the interview data, I also have the opportunity to add a narrative video component to the findings of this study, which is a skill I look forward to developing.

What has been your favorite class at UW so far? Why?

So far, my favorite class has been Ryan Kelly’s marine science course- SMEA 591. The class format was unique, in that we did not use textbooks, but essentially built our own by answering group problem sets about specific topics throughout the quarter. We were forced to learn the material well enough to clearly teach it to our peers, which helped me grow as a science communicator.

What do you like most about SMEA?

I’m particularly interested in science communication, and due to the flexibility of the SMEA curriculum, I have integrated different aspects of this work into my graduate degree. For example, I’m also working toward a Certificate in Climate Science, which culminates in an additional capstone project about climate change communication. As part of this capstone, I was able to produce a series of videos this summer that will ultimately count toward my SMEA elective credits.

What’s it like to live in Seattle? What do you do in your spare time?

Living in a city so closely surrounded by vast public lands is incredible. Beautiful hikes are within a couple hours’ drive, and well worth the escape on weekends. I also love visiting the U-district farmers’ market on Saturdays, which is full of locally growth vegetables and handmade crafts.

If you could design your ultimate job after graduating, what would it be and why?

After graduation, I aim to work as a liaison between scientists and the public or policy makers to communicate complex environmental issues. In this position, I want to integrate creative components, such as multimedia story development (video, podcasts, photography etc.), applying a narrative approach to scientific concepts. The opportunity to get out in the field and continually learn is also very important to me.

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

That’s easy—the humpback whale. My first job out of school was working as a whale watching guide/naturalist, which allowed me to ‘migrate’ with them from to Alaska and Hawaii. My time on the water and other consequent boat-based positions instilled a deep respect for all things marine–eventually bringing me back to school and a career aimed at protecting the fragile ecosystems on which we all depend.