Centennial Story 59: Allan Hicks (PhD, 2013)

I grew up fishing in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and off the coast of central California. It was when I was a dockworker and unloading fishing boats in Port San Luis, California that I realized I wanted to become more involved with the assessment and management of fisheries. After earning a BS in fisheries from Humboldt State University (advisor David Hankin) and an MS in statistics from the University of Idaho (advisor Ken Newman), I accepted a position in New Zealand as a fisheries modeler, which was an incredible learning experience. While in New Zealand, I met Ray Hilborn and learned more about the research and teaching being done at SAFS. I soon decided to pursue a PhD at SAFS.

Allan Hicks with a 200+ pound Pacific halibut caught during the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s fishery-independent setline survey in 2018.
Allan Hicks with a 200+ pound Pacific halibut caught during the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s fishery-independent setline survey in 2018.

I was very fortunate to be a part of the SAFS community, especially the 2004 cohort. This cohort included Carey McGilliard (MS, 2007; PhD, 2012), Lauren Rogers (PhD, 2010), Neala Kendall (MS, 2007; PhD, 2011), George Pess (PhD, 2009) and many others who are prominent in fisheries science today. I also met many other students and postdocs at that time that became good friends and collaborators, including Juan Valero (MS 2001; PhD, 2011), Melissa Haltuch (PhD, 2008), Arni Magnusson (MS, 2002; PhD, 2016), Matt Baker (PhD, 2011), Jason Cope (PhD, 2009), Gavin Fay (MS, 2004; PhD, 2012), Ian Taylor (QERM PhD, 2008), Nathan Taylor (postdoc, 2006–2008) and many, many more. The SAFS community enhanced my education and career, and I am forever grateful to those friends and for that experience. Furthermore, the faculty are exceptional! Ray Hilborn, André Punt, Tim Essington, and John Horne pushed me beyond limits that I did not think could be exceeded. They not only taught me about fisheries science, they provided many opportunities to gain experience working in fisheries and to further my career.

An advisor can influence and shape a student in many ways, and I am very grateful for the mentoring that Ray Hilborn provided. He provided opportunities for me to continue working on stock assessments in New Zealand, sampling and tagging sockeye salmon in Alaska, attending conferences, and teaching classes. Outside of fisheries, I was able to experience spit roasting whole animals, fishing off the beaches of Puget Sound, kayaking and canoeing in many lakes, and tasting delectable wines from around the world. Ray also introduced me to many other prominent fisheries scientists that subsequently became good friends.

Allan Hicks serving tea to Ray Hilborn and Anne Hilborn on the shores of Little Togiak Lake, Alaska.
Allan Hicks serving tea to Ray Hilborn and Anne Hilborn on the shores of Little Togiak Lake, Alaska.

I always wanted to remain involved with SAFS, so I maximized my time there. However, I couldn’t stay forever, and finally graduated in 2013. While finishing my PhD I took a job at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, working along many other SAFS graduates on stock assessment of west coast groundfish. After seven years working at the NWFSC, I moved to the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), where I am currently working on management strategy evaluation and harvest policy with Ian Stewart (MS, 2001; PhD, 2006). I quickly realized that all of the major fisheries research centers in Seattle and beyond are populated with SAFS graduates, and have a long history of employing SAFS graduates.

Allan Hicks with Trevor Branch (bottom right, PhD, 2004) and Arni Magnusson (top left, MS, 2002; PhD, 2016) calmly navigating the rapids in New Zealand, as they do with stock assessment.
Allan Hicks with Trevor Branch (bottom right, PhD, 2004) and Arni Magnusson (top left, MS, 2002; PhD, 2016) calmly navigating the rapids in New Zealand, as they do with stock assessment.

Overall, I wouldn’t trade in my experience at SAFS for anything. The people associated with the School are amazing and have influenced me in so many ways. I am very impressed with SAFS and strive to remain involved however I can.

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