Q & A with Lou Forristall

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

I want work in fisheries policy, I’m hoping an MMA will allow me to do that. Before SMEA, I went to law school and interned with NOAA in Alaska. At NOAA and in the last couple years of law school, I figured out that I am fascinated by fisheries management and not so much law and legal work. After graduating law school, I didn’t have the skills to do the type of fisheries work I wanted to do. I thought an MMA was perfect for me because I could gain a better understanding of fisheries science and management, while learning the tools of policy and statistical analysis.

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

The biggest reason I chose SMEA is that it was one of the only programs where I could learn all the different skills I needed. Just in the first year, I’ve made a lot of progress towards that goal with SMEA classes in stats, coding, economics, marine science, policy analysis, and fisheries management. Beyond that, I was excited about the opportunity to work on a capstone and gain practical experience.

SMEA’s alumni network was a huge draw for me too. I spent most of my life in Illinois and wanted to make connections in the PNW and Alaska. You find out pretty quickly after starting here how many SMEA grads are doing important work all over the world. SMEA’s location in Seattle was the other major factor in my decision. I went to undergrad and law school in a town a couple hours away from any major city. Being in Seattle was really important to me, because it provides a lot of internship and volunteer opportunities.

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’m doing a capstone with Angela Moran and our advisor is Sunny Jardine. We are looking at the potential impacts of bias in bycatch estimates for halibut in the Gulf of Alaska. Our client is the Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union, who represent halibut fishermen. I’m really excited about our capstone because we’re blending what we’ve learned at SMEA by combining a spatial/statistical analysis with a literature review about observer program methodologies.

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

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s a tie between the two classes I took about coding in R. The first is Ryan Kelly’s intro to R class. I’m not sure I had even seen a line of code before the class, but Ryan did an amazing job of making an entirely new subject accessible and easy to learn. The second is Sunny’s spatial analysis in R class. This class built on what we learned in the intro to R class and showed me how useful the program is. We learned how to use R like ArcGIS and designed some pretty cool maps for our final projects. The skills I learned in both classes are going to be huge in my summer job and capstone work at SMEA.

What do you like most about SMEA?

My fellow students, for sure! People in the program are doing wildly different, interesting work. Most SMEA classes end with a big group project, and it’s awesome to see the different skills and talents that people bring to the table. SMEA is also a welcoming, collaborative place. I definitely feel that the people around me boost my learning and abilities as a student.

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

I love Seattle! I wanted to live in Seattle before SMEA, and it has lived up to my expectations. I live in Ballard and appreciate easily biking almost anywhere and being near a working waterfront. In my spare time I hike (not enough), cook, and go to coffeeshops. Hiking of all difficulties is never far away. The farmers’ markets in Seattle are amazing places to find fresh, local food. Seattle also has coffeeshops for every occasion. Oh! And the dog parks are incredible. It’s an amazing place to live, for me and my pup.

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

Anything where I could work to make fisheries more sustainable, while making sure fishermen and fishing communities aren’t made worse off by that work. I would love to find a way to use my legal background and what I’m learning at SMEA together. I’m not sure if my ultimate job would be in government, industry, or a non-profit, but I’m hoping by the time I’m done at SMEA I’ll know where I to find it.

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

I’m stealing from Marc Miller here, but humans! Marc is a self-described marine mammal, and his words stick with me. What interests me most about the marine environment isn’t the natural world in and of itself, but how humans use it and how we can do so more sustainably.