It was several events and circumstances that led me to a house in Ravenna on an October night, discussing with Bridget Ferriss (PhD, 2011) how to construct a gigantic squid piñata. It all began in Costa Rica, where I did a biology and Spanish study-abroad program as an undergraduate student, traveling to biological field stations around the country and doing mini-research projects at each one. At the time, we had four laptops for 24 students and would sign up for computer shifts that extended all the way through the night to do analyses and write up our projects on colorful birds, monkeys, tapirs, and leaf-cutter ants. I was a math major and when I returned to the U.S., I looked for ways to combine all of the interesting biology that I’d learned in Costa Rica with math modeling. Shortly after college, I got a job at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, on the rural eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay, working in Mike Roman’s zooplankton ecology lab. There, someone clued me in that fisheries scientists do a lot of “mathy” things. It was Steve Martell (who was an assistant professor in Maryland at the time) who told me about SAFS, recommending that I talk with a guy named Ray Hilborn. And shortly thereafter, I joined Ray’s lab and moved to the West Coast.
At SAFS, I had the opportunity to be a part of a large, dynamic quantitative fisheries science community. Not only did I learn from folks in the Hilborn, Punt, Essington, Gallucci, and Conquest labs, but also from the many quantitative scientists at the Northwest, Southwest, and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers. I pursued an MS and a PhD studying marine protected areas, which took me to Santa Cruz, where I collaborated with SAFS alums John Field (PhD, 2004) and Beth Babcock (PhD, 1998), researching harvest policies for small-scale data-poor fisheries. My time at SAFS was hard work— there was a sign on the Hilborn lab door stating, “If you don’t come to work on Saturday, then don’t bother coming in on Sunday.” I think we all enjoyed the work and managed to have a lot of fun, from fly fishing on the Wood River in Alaska to coming up with whacko research ideas at the big lunch table overlooking the ship canal at SAFS. We thought our friend Mary Hunsicker (PhD, 2009), who spent several years studying the role of squid in food webs, should do one last stomach content analysis on her defense day and so a giant piñata was born. And quickly “analyzed.” One of the eyes from the squid piñata is the sole surviving body part that I weirdly still have.
After I graduated from SAFS, I rowed through the Montlake Cut and up to the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, where I now work in the Resource Ecology and Fisheries Management Division, along with many fellow SAFS graduates, including Ingrid Spies (PhD, 2014), Steve Barbeaux (PhD, 2012), Martin Dorn (PhD, 1998), Cody Szuwalski (PhD, 2014), and others. There are too many to name! Some areas of focus within our group are the effects of climate change on Alaskan fish populations, evaluating harvest strategies for multi-species, multi-sector fisheries, and assessing population trends for marine fish. I am the U.S. science advisor to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), which provides plenty of opportunities to collaborate with my fellow former Hilborn lab colleagues (and IPHC scientists) Ian Stewart (PhD, 2006) and Allan Hicks (PhD, 2013). Interestingly, I often find myself in management forums, answering lots of hard questions from one particular Alaska industry scientist, Steve Martell.