Centennial Story 74: Noble Hendrix (MS, 2000; PhD, 2003)

I grew up in Miami, Florida and was introduced to the world of marine biology and fisheries at a young age. Like many SAFS alumni, my introduction came with a rod and reel in hand. Most of my experiences were with my father and brother in search of whatever fish were biting during that time of year. Fast forward several years, I completed my undergraduate degree at Duke University, where I was an early admission to play soccer. What I didn’t know when I matriculated, was that Duke had a marine lab on Piver’s Island where I would spend a semester my junior year and cement my love of marine ecology. Following Duke, I worked as a field technician at the University of North Carolina (UNC), which was truly a “dream-job”.  I spent most days piloting skiffs to various study sites located in bays of the North Carolina coast.

After a couple years at UNC, I went on a road trip across country accompanied by two college friends with the intent of landing in Davis, California. We arrived in Seattle in August, and spent a month exploring the Olympic peninsula, the Cascades, and Lake Washington. At the end of that month, I truly could not see why I should leave. After a year of volunteering with NOAA on several projects, I applied to SAFS with support from Frieda Taub and was admitted in 1994. Frieda also helped me obtain an ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) scholarship, and I am exceptionally grateful for their support in the early years of my graduate career.

My graduate career focused on crayfish in the Florida Everglades. I was fortunate to team with the US Geological Survey (USGS), who were developing studies on the freshwater ecology to support Everglades Restoration under President Bill Clinton. I wrote several proposals with USGS colleagues to fund my graduate work through the Washington Co-op unit based at SAFS. This turned out to be an exceptionally good deal for me because I was able to spend the winters in Florida collecting data for my MS degree and seeing my family. After several years of ecology work, I came to a crossroads, and had to choose between continuing to study ecology of crayfish in the Everglades or developing quantitative skills to model crayfish population dynamics. I knew that SAFS faculty were strong in both areas and felt supported with either decision.  I ultimately chose to work with Ray Hilborn and his lab of quantitative modellers for my PhD, where I developed Bayesian models of crayfish response to hydromanagement in the Everglades.

Noble and a field tech (Jessica Stevenson) in the Florida Everglades (circa 1996).
Noble and a field tech (Jessica Stevenson) in the Florida Everglades (circa 1996).

Luckily for me, models of crayfish in the Everglades transferred remarkably well to models of salmon in the Pacific Northwest! In 2005, I moved back to Seattle with my wife just prior to the birth of our first daughter (our second would join us in 2007), to begin a position with R2 Resource Consultants, Inc.  Most of my work there (and afterwards) has focused on developing statistical methods and constructing life cycle models to evaluate factors affecting salmon. In 2012, I started my own “single-shingle” consulting firm largely using skills developed during my graduate career and codified in the book The Ecological Detective written by Ray Hilborn and Marc Mangel.

The skills and relationships developed at SAFS have provided opportunities to collaborate with former SAFS alumni on projects ranging from lobsters in Chile with Billy Ernst (PhD, 2002) to humpback whales in Alaska with Scott Gende (PhD, 2002). I’ve also been fortunate to continue my interaction with the SAFS scientific community by teaching classes, serving on committees (as an affiliate faculty member), and getting feedback on research ideas through the quantitative seminar series, which has been extremely valuable for me as an independent consultant. I really feel lucky to be a part of such a strong scientific community, and I look forward to contributing to this community during the next 100 years of SAFS.

On the bow of a cruise ship looking for humpback whales! (Glacier Bay, Alaska 2006)
On the bow of a cruise ship looking for humpback whales! (Glacier Bay, Alaska 2006)
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