Somewhere there is a picture of me about age 4, taken by my dad on a Staten Island beach in New York, standing at the water’s edge, arms in air, wind in my hair and butt naked! I think that is when I grew gills on the back of my neck and fell in love with the ocean.
Fast forward a “few” years, about a year and half after I finished my undergrad studies at University of Rhode Island (BS, 1999), and I was ready for a change. Seattle is where I found someone willing to hire me after a half-hour phone interview for a minimum wage AmeriCorps job, working with the Washington Conservation Corps on a salmon habitat restoration crew for King County. A couple of months into the job, our crew supervisor told us about an interesting seminar that was happening at UW SAFS, and he even let us off early if we wanted to attend. So a couple of us attended the seminar (I don’t remember the speaker or topic now), but it was the first year of the Bevan Series. I was hooked and signed up to be on the email list so I could see the lineup of talks.
In 2002, during the second year of the Bevan Series, I attended the seminar given by Chris Glass, who had been the director of the Center in Massachusetts where I had done my observer training. At the social hour after the seminar, I met Craig Rose (MS, 1982; PhD, 1993). During our conversation, it came up that he knew my undergrad advisor and that had I some background in fishing gear. Well, it took a year and a half, but in July 2004, I started to work for Craig in the Conservation Engineering group at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) as a temporary employee. I had applied to SAFS twice and was rejected both times. Craig knew I wanted to go to grad school, but as a temporary employee of NOAA, there was no mechanism for me to do so. However, he let me take a couple of classes while I was working for him.
So, I took Tom Quinn’s salmon ecology class (FSH 450) in fall 2004 and Loveday Conquest’s statistics class (QSCI 482) in fall 2006. That fall, I found out about a NOAA program called the Graduate Science Program (GSP), which sadly no longer exists. If accepted, the GSP would give me funding for two years to pursue an MS degree and simultaneously a permanent job with NOAA. In the Conservation Engineering group, we worked cooperatively with the commercial trawl fleet in Alaska to modify fishing gear to reduce bycatch and the impacts of fishing gear on the sea floor. Craig and I had just started working on a North Pacific Research Board grant to investigate whether modifying demersal trawl sweeps could reduce unobserved mortality of commercially important crab (Red King crab, Snow and Tanner crab), so we could easily carve out a piece of the project for my thesis. Now that I had a project and potential funding, I needed to find an advisor in SAFS, and no one there did fishing gear research. Of the two logical options, Don Gunderson had retired, and Tim Essington’s lab was full. Ed Melvin (WA Sea Grant), suggested I talk to Loveday Conquest as Ed saw a heavy statistical component to the project. However, I was taking Loveday’s statistics class at the time and knew she was planning to be on sabbatical for the 2007/08 academic year. Not really seeing any other options if I wanted to go to grad school starting fall 2007, I reluctantly reached out to Loveday figuring I’d get the answer of no. After some discussions, and because she had just had me as a student, Loveday agreed to be my advisor. Phew! I could not have asked for a better advisor! Loveday was kind, generous, supportive, and she kept me on track (GSP had a fairly strict schedule) to finish my degree in just under two years.
In the end, I finished my MS in summer 2009, received my permanent job with AFSC, and some of the analysis from my thesis was presented to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council to aid in the decision-making process for what became a new fishing gear regulation for demersal trawls in the Amendment 80 fleet in the Bering Sea.
To this day, I still enjoy attending the Bevan Series and other SAFS seminars on a regular basis, as they are great way to stay informed of interesting research being done in the fisheries world and to keep in touch with the SAFS community.