Q & A with Julie Ann Koehlinger

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

I wanted to remain immersed in ocean science while learning how to navigate the interface between science and policy.

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

It felt like a good fit for my goals. My undergraduate oceanography degree is from UW so I had a good sense of everything the university has to offer. Practically speaking, I have a school age son whose father is in Seattle and it was important to me that I disrupt his life as little as possible.

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? 

My thesis uses temperature data from the Washington coast collected by the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. I’m comparing their baseline temperature record with temperatures measured during the recent marine heat wave (“the Blob”) and El Nino. Marine heat waves are expected to increase in frequency with climate change and these types of events cause significant stress to marine organisms and ultimately the humans that depend on them. The physical dynamics of the coastal upwelling environment are also quite different from the open ocean.

Actually, I’m also doing a capstone as part of the Graduate Certificate in Climate Science. Another one of my interests is how people’s spiritual practices interact with science. I’m designing a workshop that combines climate science with mindfulness practices as a way to foster a connection to place as well as a connection to science.

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

International Law of the Sea. I like classes that offer a different perspective and looking at marine law (and ultimately the marine environment) through the lens of an international treaty was fascinating. I’m a teaching assistant this quarter for two classes on climate change and human health. Again, it’s a very different view of climate change than I’ve gotten in my science or policy based classes. Finally, I’m in a seminar on “Unanswered Questions in Climate Change Research.” It’s really fascinating, and isn’t science all about answering the unanswered questions?

What do you like most about SMEA?

I like that there’s pretty wide latitude to pursue what interests you. UW is a great university for interdisciplinary learning.

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

I grew up in Ohio and sometimes joke that I moved to Seattle to be closer to the water. I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and watched the city change a lot. I love the benefits of living in an urban environment, but still being able to access places like the San Juan Islands or the Olympic Peninsula in just a few hours. Two of my favorite things to do in Seattle are visit the beach at low tide and kayak in Puget Sound. My son often accompanies me. I also frequently bike commute and my route takes me through the industrial area along the water. It’s a whole different way to see the city.

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

I’d spend 50% of my time doing ocean research and 50% of my time doing outreach to get people jazzed (and educated) about the ocean.

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

Harbor Porpoises. I often see them when I’m out in my kayak. It never gets old.