Centennial Story 62: Ian J. Stewart (MS, 2001; PhD, 2006)

Ian on the NMFS West Coast Bottom Trawl Survey
Keith Bosley
Ian on the NMFS West Coast Bottom Trawl Survey

I’m from a small island off the coast of Maine and was never in doubt that I would work in fisheries in some way during my career. However, I did not have a well-organized plan, and my path to the University of Washington began by following my wife to Washington state after our graduation from Dartmouth College. I spent several years working a variety of “odd jobs,” from trapping flying squirrels to electrofishing the small streams of the Olympic Peninsula before realizing I needed to pursue graduate school. My first attempt at joining the School of Fisheries did not pan out (I was rejected!), but, some evening math classes, and regular attendance at the weekly departmental seminars, helped me sharpen my focus and begin to make connections in the School. When Ray Hilborn and Thomas Quinn invited me to join the Alaska Salmon Program in 1999, I immediately signed up to go north for the summer before I officially started my MS.

I have been lucky to have been surrounded by exceptional scientists throughout my career, learning directly from them and emulating them, and this period was no exception. I spent several summers working in Alaska with a fun and diverse group of students, staff, and faculty; many of whom I still see on a regular basis. Just before earning my MS in 2001, Ray encouraged me to apply for the still relatively new National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)/National Sea Grant population dynamics fellowship. Instead of taking a year off to travel, I moved directly into the PhD program. My peers in the fellowship included individuals now working as stock assessment scientists for at least three NMFS Science Centers, as well as UW graduates Alan Haynie (UW Economics, 2005), Melissa Haltuch (PhD, 2008), and Eric Ward (PhD, 2006).

In 2004 (yes, a couple of years before earning my PhD), I moved into a full-time position as a stock assessment scientist for the NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center, contributing to many assessments and rebuilding plans for west coast groundfish species. I greatly enjoyed working there with a large group of UW graduates including Jason Cope (PhD, 2009), Chantel Wetzel (MS, 2011; PhD, 2017), Ian Taylor (PhD QERM, 2008), Owen Hamel (PhD QERM, 2001), John Wallace (MS Biostatistics, 1986) and Allan Hicks (PhD, 2013). At many times, it really felt like we had just moved the SAFS graduate student offices across the Montlake cut. I finished my degree in 2006, benefiting greatly from the support of my colleagues at NMFS.

Ian sampling sockeye salmon in Alaska with Chris Boatright (MS, 2003).
Ian sampling sockeye salmon in Alaska with Chris Boatright (MS, 2003).

I am currently a quantitative scientist for the International Pacific Halibut Commission, where I have led the annual stock assessment since 2012. My recent research has focused on improving stock assessment methods, characterizing uncertainty, and the development of modeling and presentation approaches to support multi-model based risk assessment.  I work closely with Allan Hicks, as well as Lauri Sadorus (MS, 2012) and Josep Planas (PhD, 1993), with an occasional piece of advice from the retired Bill Clark (PhD, 1975). The history of the IPHC includes too many SAFS graduates to name—my position alone has been held by at least five UW graduates, and probably more; I often feel like I have stepped into some very large shoes.

I have been honored to serve as affiliate faculty at SAFS since 2012, and my work with SAFS graduate and undergraduate students is one of the most rewarding aspects of my career. I am constantly amazed at how the skills and diversity of SAFS students continue to exceed previous students, and I look forward to many more years of collaboration.

Ian on the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s fishery-independent setline survey.
Levy Boitor
Ian on the International Pacific Halibut Commission’s fishery-independent setline survey.
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