Q & A with Thao Huynh

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

I fell in love with the sea the first time I saw one at the age of 5. Naturally, I was inclined to study marine sciences, swim with the dolphins, and save the animals. Eventually, I pursued a bachelors in biology and grew old enough to realize the marine environment is composed of more than animals and ecosystems. Humans and social factors are key contributors too. A Master of Marine Affairs is a great degree for me to synthesize both natural and social sciences to produce unique and creative environmental solutions.

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

SMEA is such an interdisciplinary program that it accommodates my wide set of interests. The professors here do a lot of work and research on different topics, in different locations, and with different collaborators, so they are very open to new ideas. It is not hard to find someone who supports your interests at SMEA, and that is why I decided to come.

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 am currently on track to do a thesis. I want to study aquaculture in Vietnam and understand how seafood certification schemes impact environmental, social, and economic outcomes. This is important because aquaculture is the future of food production; it has the potential to address global food shortages while using less resources compared to other traditional food sources, which is critical given the anticipated population growth.

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

I loved Resource Economics for Management and Policy- FISH 561. I had not taken economics prior, so it was fun learning about market fundamentals and different economic models. This class added a whole new dimension to my understanding of environmental governance.

What do you like most about SMEA? 

I love the crowd of people at SMEA. The faculty are supportive, the staff are friendly, and my SMEA cohorts are always making me laugh, or at least keeping me sane!

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

Seattle is absolutely sublime. The surroundings are breathtakingly beautiful, the options for food are quite endless, and you are never in short of finding things to do, whether it be hiking in the Cascades or watching an opera production at McCaw Hall. In my spare time, I like to run- anywhere and everywhere. It is one of the best ways to get to know a place intimately, in my opinion.

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

After graduation, I would like a job that involves traveling, working closely with small-scale communities, and developing solutions to environmental and social problems unique to that community. Perhaps working as an environmental consultant at a seafood certification organization is the best fit for me. Not only does it meet my preferences above, this job will also contribute to producing sustainable seafood that benefits both the environment and its people.

During her previous internship, Thao worked closely with spotted lagoon jellyfish to monitor their health and behavior.

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

I admire spotted lagoon jellyfish (Mastigias papua). Their fluidity and motion are artistically mesmerizing; I can stare at them all day. Also, I am slightly jealous of their seemingly easy lifestyle and secretly aspire to be more like a jellyfish one day (more carefree and less rigid!).