Q & A with Charlotte Dohrn

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

After working for a few years, I realized that I really wanted to go back to school and dedicate a couple years to learning in an academic environment. I have always been drawn to the coast, and over the years this interest evolved into my professional and academic focus. At my previous job, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of different organizations focusing on a range of marine and coastal conservation and resource management issues, so the Master of Marine Affairs program was a great fit to build on my experience and gain new skills and knowledge to contribute to the field.

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

I really value interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration, and SMEA is one of few truly interdisciplinary programs. I wanted to learn more about policy, law, coastal ecology, stakeholder engagement – and all of this happens at SMEA. I had known about SMEA for years, but once I started reading more about the curriculum and visited the school, I knew it was the program I was looking for. I also had friends and colleagues recommend SMEA to me – it has a great reputation!

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 working on a thesis about habitat suitability and climate considerations for restoring Olympia oysters in the Salish Sea. This project brings together a lot of my interests and areas I came to grad school to learn more about, including coastal ecology, climate adaptation, spatial analysis, and restoration planning. Plus, I used to work as an oyster shucker, so I am looking forward to thinking about oysters in a different way than I used to (…which was how to shuck as fast as possible to keep customers happy). I am really excited about the project and it will definitely keep me busy for the next year.

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

This is such a hard question for me because I have valued every class I have taken so far for different reasons. This quarter, I really enjoyed Policy Analysis with Professor Nives Dolsak; I felt like I had gaps in my understanding of public policy, and this class was a great overview of methods and frameworks used to assess and compare policy solutions. I also really enjoyed a class I took in the fall that involved helping with community meetings in coastal Washington regarding planning for coastal hazards.

What do you like most about SMEA?

I have never been a part of such a dynamic group of people with so many shared interests! It is so fun and rewarding to be in school with SMEAple – you can always count on a spirited lunchtime discussion about killer whale conservation, climate policy, or weekend plans. I have learned so much from my peers this year, and also shared many laughs. The SMEA faculty I have worked with go above and beyond for students and provide great support and inspiration.

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

I grew up in Seattle – and it is great to be back! I love the city and the surrounding area. Seattle has a big city vibe in some places, but the neighborhoods can feel like small towns with their own thing going on. I spend time biking and running around town; this spring has been particularly beautiful with all the trees and flowers blooming. I have also been spending time with new and old friends and family, checking out new coffee shops, and getting out of the city to hike, bike, and ski.

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

I want another year at SMEA before answering this question! I like jobs that require me to use my interdisciplinary background. After graduating, I would like to do work that involves integrating natural science with social science and policy to support the health and resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities. I am focusing on keeping an open mind to possible opportunities, and planning on tapping the SMEA network more next year to learn more about different jobs and sectors.

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

Another hard question… I don’t have one favorite. I feel pretty loyal to oysters after spending a year as a shucker, but I am also totally inspired and fascinated by Pacific salmon. I attribute my early affinity for the ocean to an Irish film that prominently features seals, and mantis shrimp were pretty high up there for a while… the list goes on!