Centennial Story 44: Dawn Dougherty (MS, 2009; QERM) and Brandon Chasco (MS, 2004)

Dawn and Brandon met at a Hilborn lab meeting when Brandon was reporting on a recent trip to the Serengeti. With a shared excitement for travel and unplanned adventure, they have spent the last ten years working and traveling together. After Dawn earned her MS degree with QERM, they moved from Seattle to Santa Barbara, where they worked with Chris Costello and Steve Gaines at the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UCSB. Then, after moving to Idaho and working with the Nez Perce Tribe for a year, they settled in Corvallis, Oregon, where Brandon is finishing his PhD with Selina Heppell.

Shortly after meeting, Brandon and Dawn at the top of Snake Mountain, Lake Aleknagik, Alaska, circa 2008.
Shortly after meeting, Brandon and Dawn at the top of Snake Mountain, Lake Aleknagik, Alaska, circa 2008.

For Brandon, when André asked for a brief bio about how SAFS has influenced his life and career, it was not difficult to describe either. Some of his greatest friendships started at SAFS. While Ray Hilborn, André Punt, Tom Quinn, and Daniel Schindler have been incredible mentors, they have also been great friends who have provided him with plenty of personal advice and some indelible memories while working and playing. He also cannot say enough about the friendships he made with other SAFS students. Whether it was rafting with Allan Hicks (PhD, 2013), Juan Valero (MS, 2001; PhD, 2011), Trevor Branch (PhD, 2004), and Arni Magnusson (PhD, 2016) in New Zealand, or stranding Harry “Richie” Rich (MS, 2006) 10 miles up a remote river in Alaska after putting diesel in a gas outboard, these friendships have lasted almost 20 years. When he thinks of SAFS as a department, the one thing that continually comes to mind is a pedagogy that the former professor, Bob Francis, espoused—first principles. The courses are never canned programs or procedures, and the content is never just memorized. Everything is taught from the basic principles of ecology, statistics, genetics, etc. When he was stuck on a problem, SAFS provided him with the theoretical tools (ecological and quantitative) to work backwards or to move forwards. And when those tools aren’t enough, which seems to happen often, he has plenty of friends from SAFS to lean on.

10 years and one kid later, Brandon, Dawn and Clara at the coast, 2018
10 years and one kid later, Brandon, Dawn and Clara at the coast, 2018.

Dawn feels incredibly fortunate to have landed at SAFS, working with Ray Hilborn and André Punt. With an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a strong desire to work in natural resource management, Dawn came across the QERM program and discovered exactly what she wanted to pursue. She knew very little about fisheries and had no idea how lucky she was to find SAFS, working with the best and the brightest in the field. She found the SAFS curriculum to be rigorous with clear applications, exactly what is needed to work in fisheries management. Since receiving her MS in 2009, Dawn has primarily worked with small-scale fisheries around the globe on a variety of applied research projects, including conducting assessments, developing models to address biological and human interactions, and working with local government agencies to assess and develop management plans for their coastal fisheries. Through her position at UCSB’s Sustainable Fisheries Group and now with the Nature Conservancy, Dawn continues to work on a spectrum of coastal fisheries issues internationally and in the US. Dawn thoroughly enjoys her work and the people she works with, and knows that this is all made possible through her connection to SAFS. Before her time at SAFS, she would never have known that this field and these possibilities were out there.

Brandon and Dawn would like to say that they love their jobs, but they love their daughter, Clara, and dog, Lady, and there is no comparison. They are lucky to have jobs they enjoy, and are constantly learning and challenged with new opportunities. They have SAFS to thank for the opportunity to pursue these careers. But there is not a weekend that goes by where their family is not out camping, rafting, hiking, or fishing. Their family is what they are most grateful for, and they have SAFS to thank for that, too.

Clara and Lady sharing their love of the river and snacks.
Clara and Lady sharing their love of the river and snacks.
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