Centennial Story 57: Jonathan (Joth) Davis (PhD, 1994)

One of the joys of getting older is that a person can begin to appreciate the threads that bring one to this place in time and space.

My late wife Karen and I arrived in Seattle on Labor Day weekend 1983 from New England to begin my PhD studies at SAFS with Dave Armstrong, who at the time had designs for me to spend significant ship time in the Bering Sea working on king crab population dynamics. However, I had just completed an MES (Master of Environmental Studies) at Yale University, had worked for years under the tutelage of pioneers in shellfish aquaculture in Woods Hole and Fishers Island, and had come to believe that sustainable protein production through farming the seas was actually possible. So, with Dave’s blessing, I switched over to work with Ken Chew for my PhD, a decision I have never regretted.

Jonathan (Joth) Davis
Jonathan (Joth) Davis

I worked at the small UW shellfish hatchery that Ken had established with the blessing of NOAA in Manchester. There, I started baseline research on triploid oyster physiology. I inherited a desk chair that had proved fecund for two of my predecessors (Jim Perdue [PhD, 1983], former student of Ken’s who went on to take over the family chicken rearing business in Maryland had his kids during his PhD at SAFS. Also, Hal Beattie [MS, 1978] who studied with Ken as well reportedly had the same experience – kids during grad school), and while I spent a lot of time in the field measuring oyster physiology, I also had three children deep in the heart of my PhD research. That, and starting a fledgling shellfish aquaculture business on tidelands Karen and I found on Hood Canal, slowed me down on my studies but also gave us the foothold in the Pacific Northwest that we had always really wanted.

Early on, and post PhD, I co-taught Molluscan Biology and Aquaculture with Ken Chew before joining Faye Dong to teach Sustainable Aquaculture for a couple of years. I have served SAFS as an affiliate faculty member since 2002 and as a member of graduate supervisory committees, and I have conducted collaborative research with all SAFS faculty to date who have interests in shellfish!

I have now worked with Taylor Shellfish for twenty years as director of Hatchery Research, while also growing a family and the family shellfish business, Baywater, Inc. I am a member of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund (PSRF) as a senior scientist, and am currently working with the Paul J. Allen Family Foundation (Vulcan Philanthropy) to see if seaweeds grown at local scales can assist in mitigating the corrosive effects that acidified seawater has on calcifiers, including mollusks.

I worked with the PSRF to establish the Kenneth K. Chew Center for Shellfish Research and Restoration. The new hatchery facility is a fitting tribute to Ken and to his legacy in shellfish research— he is another pioneer in shellfish aquaculture with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work. I served the National Shellfisheries Association for many years, including as president of the Association from 2009 to 2011.

Jonathan (Joth) Davis
Jonathan (Joth) Davis

Recently, I co-founded Pacific Hybreed, Inc., with University of Southern California Professor Dennis Hedgecock, the recipient of the first SAFS Kenneth K. Chew Endowed Professorship in Aquaculture award. Pacific Hybreed is a technology company focused on shellfish breeding that coincidently has its hatchery base in Manchester, this time with a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NOAA.  My younger son Caleb is managing the shellfish company now, so the circle is complete there too.

SAFS has been a big part of my career working in shellfish and I treasure my time spent there, especially during the many years following my degree, collaborating with SAFS faculty and students. Having the pleasure of working with graduate students is a true joy in life, and I suppose I am most gratified just helping to expose them to the wonderful world of shellfish.

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