“Um, Bob, so…have you ever wanted to be a minister?” So went the request one sunny afternoon at the Volunteer Park wading pool, while we were sitting with Bob Francis (professor emeritus) as he watched his grandson. A few months later, Bob officiated our wedding, sprinkling the ceremony and our path forward with his salt-of-the-earth gruff charm. To say SAFS students ask a lot from their major professors was probably an understatement at that point. To say that SAFS is a core part of the arc of our personal and professional stories is not.
Sure, students and faculty land at SAFS because of the world-class science, but the SAFS community provides so much more. (And we’re not just talking about free drinks and munchies at TGIT here). In the early-to-mid 2000s, a crew of us would unwind by playing “pickup” soccer back behind the Intermural Activities (IMA) Building. SAFSers have always been quick to balance the brain spinning we do indoors with stretching of legs outdoors. In our case, while we worked down the hall from each other, our research didn’t bring us together – Jodie modeling large-scale fisheries (Major: Prof. Bob Francis; Secondary/ Interdisciplinary and Policy Dimensions of the Earth Sciences: Prof. Ed Miles), and Jason immersed in small-scale juvenile salmon restoration (Profs. Si Simenstad, David Armstrong). But, once on the soccer field, our shared love of questionably good humor and a lackluster approach to competitive sports drew team Toft together.
Fast forward over a decade. Now our kids are the ones playing soccer as we coach from the sidelines. As is common for SAFS offspring, we, too, seem to be raising saltwater aficionados – from bivalve and crab harvesting, to boating and beach exploring, the Pacific Northwest makes it easy.
Workwise, after a wonderful chunk of time at The Natural Capital Project, Jodie is now a marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy, where she applies her SAFS training to conservation. Continuing as a senior research scientist at SAFS, Jason researches the effects of urbanization and restoration opportunities along estuarine shorelines. Our work worlds collide a bit more now, which leads to good, meaty discussions about oceans, coasts, conservation, and hopes for the future. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
For both of us, SAFS was and is a special place for learning – about science, fish, the natural world, quantitative techniques, the list goes on. And for us and so many others at SAFS, that learning and the people with whom we shared our SAFS experiences serve as a cornerstone in life. Simply put, start at SAFS for the science, but stay for the scientists. You never know what may turn out!