Why did you decide to come to UW’s SMEA for graduate school?
I studied biology as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until I took a conservation biology class that I began to understand how important the human dimension aspect of climate science is. Following this class, I traveled to Cambodia as part of a research project focusing on food web ecology and fisheries in the Mekong. Both these experiences shaped my interests to apply to a master’s program that linked my passion for fisheries with people, and how these two combined can influence human health and nutrition, sustainable ecosystems, and socio-economic issues.
Now that you’re one year into your MMA, what are you learning that surprises you, or made you think about something in a new light?
I’ve learned that I absolutely LOVE coding. I never thought I would hear myself say that, but you can do much with just a few lines of code. It’s really influenced how I go about looking at data from both a statistical approach and a visual one as well.
This program has also really shaped the way in which I look at environmental problems. With a very hard science background, I used to mainly focus on problems and solutions through a narrow lens using only other scientific approaches to address these issues. A couple of influential classes I’ve taken in my first year including policy analysis, economics, and ocean and coastal law have widened my scope of knowledge to include more of a social aspect to how I view climate science now.
Given that there aren’t SMEA-specific courses over the summer, how are you spending the time?
At the beginning of the summer, my team and I published a website (todaysfarmedfish.org), a campaign to promote sustainable examples of aquaculture in the US. After writing articles and creating other web content for the site I am now working on promoting the social media pages we have linked to the site and will be creating new web content as well.
Additionally, my capstone group and I have been working with our advisor to publish a paper in an environmental law journal regarding US aquaculture in both state and federal waters and how complicated the permitting process can be, especially now with a new seafood executive order and pending court case involving NOAA.
Outside of academics I’ve been biking a lot and going camping and hiking, basically spending as much time as I can outdoors! I’ve also got a part-time job at a brewery over in Ballard that I’ve recently been able to return to which has been nice.
Are you doing a thesis or capstone project? If the thesis: what are you writing your thesis about and why? If capstone: what is the project about?
I’m doing a capstone with two other SMEA students. Our capstone client is NOAA and our project is about marine spatial planning for kelp aquaculture in Puget Sound. Kelp aquaculture is a budding field in Puget Sound with great potential to grow into a robust commercial industry. The possible applications of this industry range from kelp bed restoration and carbon sequestration to commercial food harvest and biofuel. Despite these many uses, there are currently few studies looking at areas for potential aquaculture sites or effects of kelp farms on surrounding ecosystems. Our goal is to compile datasets from various sources to create a GIS mapping tool to identify potential areas of kelp cultivation in Puget Sound. All of us have different interests within the project which is great since we can cover a lot of different ground. Specifically, I am most interested in kelp farming for bioremediation purposes and plan to focus most of my effort on that.
What do you like most about SMEA?
I really enjoy the variety of backgrounds that students in the program have. We have some people who had a very scientific background for undergraduate and others who are well versed in economics and the more anthropogenic side of things. This is really useful in class discussions when you get to see such a wide approach to lecture topics. I also appreciate how approachable all the staff and faculty members in SMEA are. All the professors I’ve had so far have been amazing at providing an environment that feels open and welcome and very personal.
How have you adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic? What’s it been like to have your SMEA classes and community moved online?
I think that many of us are still adjusting to the pandemic. Though it’s been a bummer to miss out on physically being on campus I’m extremely grateful for the hard work SMEA faculty have put in to make our classes stimulating and educational under these circumstances. I actually really enjoyed the spring quarter. One of my classes where we learned to make maps by writing code ended up being my favorite class so far despite being online! It’s also been fun to see the student’s creative ideas for staying touch and maintaining some normalcy. We’ve had online happy hours, game nights, and pub trivia all over Zoom. Though it’s not how any of us pictured grad school would be I think the SMEA community has really stepped up to make the best of these unfortunate times.
After you complete your MMA, what do you hope comes next? What area(s) of Marine Affairs could you see yourself working in professionally?
My long-term goals are to be doing some type of work in sustainable aquaculture. Through the publication of our website, interviews with industry folks, and capstone work I’d like to help consumers overcome aversion to farmed fish and show that it actually complements wild fish nicely. Working on the research and development of sustainable feed, technology, and culturing of different fish species would be really fulfilling. At some point, I’d like to travel to other countries leading the way to sustainable aquaculture like Norway and New Zealand to learn more about the practice. I’ve also been considering a Ph.D. in aquaculture somewhere on the East Coast, Canada, or Scandinavia.
What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?
Easily any deep-sea creature. I once gave a lecture on deep-sea ecology and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Have you ever seen a Goblin Shark? They’re the unicorns of the deep! There’s also the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid that uses bioluminescence to camouflage itself. Evolution has created some pretty spectacular and bizarre creatures!