Why did you decide to come to UW’s SMEA for graduate school?
After graduating UW as an undergraduate I took a few years off to work as a seasonal environmental consultant to gain hands on professional experience in the marine science realm. I was interested in going back to grad school, but I wanted to make sure that I could make a living. I supervised divers conducting geoduck counts all over Puget Sound- it was a blast! After talking with various people in the private and state sectors on how to further my career one of the top pieces of advice on how to get more advanced positions was to go back to school for a master’s. Several people also recommended SMEA as an excellent program, especially if I wanted to stay in the region. I wanted a program that would help me learn how to practically utilize my marine science background in the professional world, which is pretty much what SMEA is all about!
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?
The biggest eye opener for me was, and continues to be, how much wider the marine realm is than most marine scientists realize. As we have seen across many STEM disciplines, there is a real disconnect between the sciences and policy makers that trickles down into academic training. As students in marine science we were taught to distance ourselves from political or regulatory influence and just to focus on the data. The goal is to publish. But that being said we are at a stage where large scale environmental problems need increased communication across the different fields in order to more effectively regulate and manage solutions. Having people literate in multiple fields is an important way to achieve this. The marine realm is so much wider and more connected to people than many think it is and I think that it is important to foster these connections to tackle these multifaceted problems.
Given that there aren’t SMEA-specific courses over the summer, how did you fill the time?
I worked remotely as a NOAA Pathways Intern within the Policy and Planning Team focused on aquaculture in the west coast region. This internship was recently extended through the school year- woohoo!
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 doing a capstone project with NOAA looking at kelp aquaculture and marine spatial planning in Puget Sound. This project includes creating a GIS tool with various data layers to help potential seaweed farmers choose areas that would be environmentally, economically, and socially suitable for seaweed aquaculture.
What do you like most about SMEA?
Definitely listening to my peers and teachers on their different avenues of professional/academic interests in the marine realm and how they all connect to each other. It is continually fascinating and up-lifting.
How have you adjusted during the COVID-19 pandemic? What’s it been like to have your SMEA classes and community moved online?
COVID-19 and 2020 in general has been pretty rough, but I am extremely fortunate to be employed during this pandemic. Online classes and remote socializing are not ideal, but as the pandemic progresses I think that people (professors and friends) are finding more creative ways to have active remote environments.
After you complete your MMA, what do you hope comes next? What area(s) of Marine Affairs could you see yourself working in professionally?
This program has really confirmed the fact that I’m interested in applied science to solve ecological issues. I am interested in the intersection between aquaculture and restoration of marine habitats, particularly critical habitats in Puget Sound (e.g. eelgrass beds and kelp forests).
What is your favorite form of marine life, and why?
As an ecologist at heart it can be hard to choose a specific marine species. My favorite habitats are kelp forests, both for the essential ecosystem services that they provide and for the diversity of life that they support (seriously, go dive in one if you have the chance). If I had to choose a favorite group of animals I would have to go with cephalopods as they are endlessly fascinating to watch and are the closest thing we have to an extraterrestrial intelligence.