New Faculty: Camrin Braun

Camrin Braun (Cam), an oceanographer and fish ecologist focused on top predators, joined the SAFS faculty in fall 2019. Prior to coming to SAFS, Cam was a NASA-funded postdoctoral research scientist at the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and before that, a PhD student in Simon Thorrold’s lab at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cam’s research leverages computational and field-based approaches to unite biophysical interactions with the challenges of managing fisheries in a dynamic ocean.

AP: Why top predators?

CB: Given the current status of many predator species, there’s never been a more critical time to improve understanding, management, and conservation of top predators and the marine ecosystems they rely on. Predators provide an interesting lens through which to view the pelagic ocean. We can identify many hypotheses about the functional role of deep ocean biomass, but why not leverage top predators as an “evolutionarily informed” oceanographic platform to study these environments?

AP: Describe your current research interests.

CB: All things fish! Fish have been the common thread uniting my research career—from largemouth bass as an invasive in river systems to whale shark movements in the Red Sea. My current projects range from technology development to fundamental oceanographic research to applied fisheries management. However, my main focus is biophysical interactions that drive the structure and function of the marine realm. Currently, this primarily manifests in the movement ecology of pelagic predators and how they interact with the environment. I often hear people debate the future of exploration. To me, the open ocean—particularly the deep ocean—remains one of the last frontiers on Earth, and I hope to be one of the pioneers in exploring this poorly studied, but critically important, region of our planet.

Peter Gaube (wearing purple gloves) and Camrin Braun (far right) attach a satellite tag on a swordfish in August 2019 off the coast of Florida. Steve Dougherty

AP: Why SAFS?

CB: Since my first visit to SAFS, I have been impressed by the faculty and the students; it is clear to me that SAFS attracts some of the best minds in the field. I am very excited to learn from this diverse community while also offering my own expertise. SAFS also provides a really great way to combine my recent oceanographic work with my longstanding interests in fisheries and ecology.

Cam satellite tagging a blue shark off the northeast coast of the United States. Tane Sinclair-Taylor

AP: What are your plans for your first few years at SAFS?

CB: My first goal is to integrate into the SAFS team and learn as much as I can from our faculty, staff, and students about the School’s diverse academic and research activities. I’ve started putting together a new course for Spring 2020 on top predators (not just fish!). I’m excited to cultivate new relationships within SAFS and the broader UW and Seattle communities as well as to bring fresh perspectives to my research and the way we think about and understand the ocean. I will also be building up a (mostly field-research) lab and recruiting some postdocs and students.

Cam in the Azores, tagging whale sharks as part of a National Geographic funded
project. Tane Sinclair-Taylor

AP: What would we not know about you from your CV?

CB: I grew up in Fish Haven (seriously), a rural town in the Idaho mountains where I learned to love fish without an ocean. Later, I managed to craft my passion into a career. This path took me from watching cutthroat trout in mountain lakes to living on the Saudi Arabian Red Sea coast, studying the world’s largest fish (whale shark). Somewhere during that transition, I joined a team of scientists studying ecology of marine megafauna, which has taken me to fishing villages in Sudan and the remote reaches of the world’s largest marine protected area. In my spare time, I enjoy diving and offshore fishing. I even have a German shorthaired pointer named Mako.

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