I was an MS student at SAFS from 2003–2007 and returned in 2014–2016 for a post-doc, both in Tim Essington’s lab. It goes without saying that the technical training I got from SAFS was of extremely high quality and prepared me for a career as a fisheries scientist at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), where I am now. But, there were three intangible gifts SAFS gave me that I wasn’t expecting: entry into an elite club of respected fisheries scientists, an incredible set of colleagues, and life-long friendships.
After I finished my MS at SAFS, I went to Colorado State for a PhD in Ecology. When I was interviewing for that position in 2008, I was struck by the immediate level of respect with which I was treated because of my MS degree. Not one faculty member that I interviewed with questioned my skills or my ability to take on the funded fellowship I was applying for. It was a given that I could do it because I had been through SAFS. I’ve had similar experiences around the country and around the world—a SAFS graduate degree confers status.
I returned to Seattle and to fisheries science after my PhD and have discovered many of my school friends from SAFS are now colleagues. I remember Tim saying in one Essington lab meeting how fun it was for him to have his grad school buddies as collaborators. At the time, I had a hard time envisioning that would happen, but a decade later I led a NCEAS working group with three of my Essington labmates (Anne Beaudreau [PhD, 2009], Mary Hunsicker [PhD, 2009], and Jordan Watson [MS, 2007]) and another former SAFS grad student colleague, whom I happen to have married (Eric Ward [PhD, 2006]). Returning to SAFS as a post-doc, I got to collaborate with a new generation of super sharp and productive Essington lab students (Megsie Siple [PhD, 2017], Christine Stawitz [PhD, 2017], Laura Koehn [PhD, current], Pam Moriarty [PhD, 2018], Kiva Oken [PhD, 2016, QERM], Emma Hodgson [PhD, 2017]). And now, at NWFSC, there are more SAFS alumni than I can count, and more than half of the staff in my program are SAFS grads I overlapped with during my MS and postdoc (e.g., Jason Cope [PhD, 2009], Melissa Haltuch [PhD, 2008], Ian Taylor [PhD, 2008, QERM], Chantel Wetzel [BS, 2007; MS, 2011; PhD, 2016]).
Besides a well-respected degree and a professional network, SAFS gave me an amazing and supportive group of friends. I’d like to think there was something special about SAFS from 2003 to 2007. I formed quick and lasting bonds with many SAFS grad students (including my now husband). We struggled through homework together, went hiking and skiing together, got jobs near and far, and now are raising families (e.g., Kristi Straus [PhD, 2010], Donna Hauser [BS, 2002; MS, 2006; PhD, 2016], Peter Westley [BS, 2004; MS, 2007], Joe Anderson [MS, 2006], Keith Denton [MS, 2008], Bridget Ferris [PhD, 2011], Chris Kenaley [PhD, 2010]). I’m particularly grateful to my female SAFS friends, who navigated similar transitions from graduate student to post-doc to permanent positions, and could identify with my experiences as a woman in science, balancing work and life and spouses and parents and kids at different times and sometimes all at the same time. These friendships go beyond fisheries, but they began at SAFS. My holiday card mailing list seems to grow every year, but there are still at least as many SAFS-family as people I share actual DNA with on that list.
I am extremely grateful for the tangible and intangible benefits of my time at SAFS. And as the school moves into a second century, I hope I’m able to give back to the current and future generations of the SAFS community even a fraction of what it’s given me.