Q & A with Alex Stote

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

I made the decision to go back to graduate school while in the middle of a new job search a few years ago. I come from a natural science background, but the job descriptions that attracted me most required a mix of natural and social science training. I realized that to be competitive in the job market, I would need to diversify my analytical skills and learn how to think critically about marine issues from a social science perspective. At the same time, I wanted to deepen my understanding of marine ecology through research. The MMA degree was flexible enough for me to do both, which was the biggest draw.

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

The interdisciplinarity of this program is what really attracted me to SMEA. The other options I was considering focused almost entirely on biological or ecological research and really lacked the integration of the social dimension that I was looking for. I also felt like the research I would be doing at SMEA would be much more applied than the research I was considering at some of the other programs, which was another important factor for me.

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 chose to write a thesis because I wanted to strengthen my quantitative research skills and explore topics I was really excited about. For my project, I’m analyzing the nitrogen uptake rates of Eastern oysters to determine whether the oysters could potentially be used as a pollution offset strategy. The research methods combine ecological concepts, statistical models, and economic analysis, and the discussion will be framed from a policy perspective, so this research is really challenging me to think across disciplines which is what I wanted from a thesis (despite the many challenges along the way!).

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

One of the first classes I took at SMEA, “Climate Change Governance,” with Professor Nives Dolsak, has been my absolute favorite so far. The course opened my eyes to how complicated formulating effective, bipartisan climate policy is in the United States. The readings were relevant and timely, and class discussion was always energetic. Nives challenged us to envision how different climate policies would impact everyday life for different groups of people, which was instrumental in forming my own opinions about how climate policy should look at different levels of government and in non-government institutions.

What do you like most about SMEA?

This may sound a bit cliché given a few previous students’ responses, but I have to agree that it’s my classmates! They’re not just great people; they’re extremely talented, hard-working individuals that make me excited to be in this field. I am constantly learning from their contributions to classroom discussions and from extended conversations outside the classroom. They make me hopeful for the future of marine and environmental conservation and policy.

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

I love Seattle! Living in this city has certainly been a highlight of my time in graduate school. I spend most of my free time split between urban parks (Discovery Park, Gas Works, Green Lake and Lincoln Park—all highly recommended) and the many incredible breweries (too many recommendations to list!) scattered throughout the city. One of the best parts of living in Seattle, though, is having such easy access to incredible outdoor spaces outside of the city. There are endless places to hike, backpack, and fish, so I try to take advantage of that as much as I can.

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

It’s tough to say! My ideal job would combine field work with science research and policy design. An area of research that definitely interests me is how climate change and the multiplicity of changing oceanographic conditions will impact fisheries, and how those changes will affect livelihoods and fisheries economics. My longer-term aspirations are to serve as an ocean policy advisor at the federal or international level.

hooded nudibranch

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

Depends on the month! Right now, hooded nudibranch. I spotted one for the first time while tide pooling on a beach in south Seattle this summer and I’ve been in awe ever since. Some of my other rotating favorites are umbrella octopuses, gooseneck barnacles, leatherback turtles and narwhals.