This abridged version of our School’s history highlights important events in SAFS leadership, curriculum, and evolution. The timeline begins with former Director Robert R. Stickney’s account of SAFS—from its inception in 1919 to 1985—in his 1989 book, “Flagship: A History of Fisheries at the University of Washington” (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company). The historic timeline continues with significant SAFS activities and events from 1985 to today.

The Beginning

1919 Thirteen students enroll in the first US College of Fisheries (COF)—established on UW campus under direction of John N. Cobb.


1921 First five students graduate from the College of Fisheries.
Cobb evaluates effectiveness of Yakima River fishways and recommends changes.
1929 Enrollment exceeds 100 students.


1930 Dean Cobb dies; the College of Fisheries temporarily ceases to exist.
William F. Thompson becomes director of UW Department of Fisheries.
International Fisheries Commission (now International Pacific Halibut Commission) housed in UW Department of Fisheries.
1932 Lauren Donaldson begins trout mass selection program.
1935 UW Board of Regents approves name change to the School of Fisheries in the College of Science, under Acting Director William F. Thompson.
1937 International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission founded and housed in the School.
William F. Thompson appointed part-time research director.
1938 First research vessel, the cabin cruiser Kokanee, constructed.


1943 Only six enrollees because of WWII.
Lauren Donaldson asked by US Government to study effects of radiation on Columbia River salmon; leads to creation of Applied Fisheries Laboratory within the School.
1945 Canners in Bristol Bay, Alaska, ask to have research needs evaluated; precursor to Fisheries Research Institute.
Lab established at Hanford near plutonium plants.
1946 Hells Gate fishway completed on Fraser River by Milo Bell.
Applied Fisheries Laboratory personnel witness detonations of atomic bombs at Bikini Atoll and conduct research into the effects of radiation.
Southeast Alaska canners request evaluation of research needs.
1947 Establishment of Fisheries Research Institute directed by William F. Thompson. Bristol Bay research begins.
Wilbert Chapman becomes director of the School of Fisheries.
R/V Oncorhynchus, a Navy surplus personnel carrier, replaces Kokanee as the School’s research vessel.
1948 Richard Van Cleve appointed director of the School of Fisheries.
Salmon research begins in Kodiak, Alaska.
1949 Douglas Chapman teaches first statistics course, the start of a storied history of quantitative excellence at the School of Fisheries.


1950 Enrollment skyrockets to 150 students, mostly veterans.
Twenty-three thousand Chinook fingerlings released into Portage Bay—first UW salmon run.
Fisheries Center building completed, located along Montlake Cut.
1952 Applied Fisheries Laboratory personnel witness detonation of hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok, Marshall Islands.
1953 Twenty-three adult chinook return to Fisheries raceway.
1955 High Seas Salmon project begins.
The R/V Commando, a halibut boat, replaces Oncorhynchus.
1957 Fern Lake research project initiated to study mineral cycling in a watershed; lasts until 1971.
Creation of the first six fisheries graduate courses.
1958 School of Fisheries becomes College of Fisheries again under Dean Van Cleve.
William Royce becomes director of the Fisheries Research Institute.
1959 Fisheries portion of Project Plowshare (exploration of use of nuclear explosives for peaceful construction) evaluates baseline levels of radionuclides in organisms in the Arctic.
First edition of Research in Fisheries published—the School’s annual report, including research summaries, publication listings, student awards, and degrees granted.
Fisheries Research Institute develops forecasts for the 1960 sockeye salmon run to Bristol Bay, Alaska, the start of long-running predictions that continue to this day.


1960 Laboratory of Radiation Biology (formerly Applied Fisheries Laboratory) examines effects of gamma radiation on successive generations of salmon.
1961 Salmon return pond is constructed.
1961-1962 Fisheries hires first female faculty members: Rita Colwell (Director of National Science Foundation 1998–2004; now Professor, University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins) and Frieda Taub (appointed Assistant Research Professor; now Professor Emerita).
Computer application in fisheries science begins.
1963 Construction of the R/V Malka.
1965 UW purchases 270 acres bordering Big Beef Creek and harbor of Hood Canal to support research of salmon spawning behavior.
1967 US Fish & Wildlife Service Cooperative Fishery Research Unit (Coop) established with Richard Whitney as Unit Leader.
1968 Center for Quantitative Science (CQS) and Biomathematics graduate program founded under Douglas Chapman.
Robert Burgner becomes director of the Fisheries Research Institute.
New wing of the Fisheries Center constructed.
Research barge Kumtuks is acquired.
1969 Institute for Food Science and Technology is founded under John Liston.


1970 Record enrollment: 168 undergraduates and 130 graduate students.
Fisheries segment of Western Coniferous Biome Studies funded.
1971 Douglas Chapman appointed dean of the College of Fisheries.
1972 Food Engineering Laboratory completed.
1975 Fisheries Research Institute administers National Marine Fisheries Service observer programs for foreign fishing vessels.
Coop’s strategic advisory role contributes to Boldt Decision, reaffirming Washington tribal rights to harvest and co-manage state fisheries.
1977 Fisheries investigates Satsop Nuclear Power Plant blowdown effect on salmonid reproduction.
1978 Lease agreement signed with the City of Seattle for Seward Park Hatchery to produce and stock rainbow trout in Lake Washington.
1979 First “Gutshop” workshop—organized by Charles “Si” Simenstad and colleagues—promotes standardization of methods for fish stomach content analysis.


1980 Don Bevan becomes dean of the College of Fisheries.
R/V Alaska acquired from NMFS.
Effect of Mount St. Helen’s ash on salmon migration patterns studied.
1981 College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences (COFS) formed. The College of Fisheries becomes a School within COFS.
Don Bevan appointed director of the School of Fisheries.
1983 Cooperative high-seas salmon tagging program initiated with Soviet Union.
Marine Studies building completed.
1985 Robert Stickney appointed director of the School of Fisheries.
David Ford appointed director of CQS.
1986 Robert Francis appointed FRI director.
Observer program initiated with Alaska fishing industry.
Center for Streamside Studies created under direction of Ernest Salo.
1987 Western Regional Aquaculture Consortium (WRAC) established at the School of Fisheries under the direction of Ken Chew.
1988 Triploid (all season) “sexless” oyster developed for commercial use by School personnel at Manchester.
The Coop expands to include wildlife research component.
Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team established—led by Julia Parrish.
1989 Biomathematics program becomes Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) graduate program.
Effects of Exxon Valdez oil spill evaluated by SOF personnel.
Chris Grue appointed Unit Leader of the Coop.


1990 Fisheries Teaching and Research building opens.
1991 Marsha Landolt appointed director of the School of Fisheries.
1992 Ellen Pikitch takes over as director of the Fisheries Research Institute.
1993 Fish Collection curated by Ted Pietsch rated fourth in North America among regional collections.
1993 Molecular Biology Lab initiated with Oceanography.
John Skalski becomes director of CQS.
The Coop becomes part of National Biological Survey.
1994 The School celebrates 75 years of colorful history.
Faculty provide expertise and testimony in Rafeedie Decision, affirming Tribes’ rights to half of the Washington shellfish harvest.
Paul Bentzen sets up Marine Molecular Biotechnology Laboratory, run jointly by the School of Fisheries and School of Oceanography.
1996 Columbia Basin Research program formed under the direction of James Anderson and John Skalski.
1997 Ken Chew assumes role as interim director of the School of Fisheries.
Wetland Ecosystem Team established under the leadership of Charles “Si” Simenstad and Ron Thom.
1998 David Armstrong appointed director of the School of Fisheries.
1999 New Fishery Sciences building opens.


2000 School changes name to Aquatic and Fishery Sciences (SAFS) to better reflect expanding breadth and scope of programs.
Bevan Series for Sustainable Fisheries initiated by Julia Parrish. Made possible through the Donald E. Bevan Endowed Fund in Fisheries, established in his memory and funded by his wife Tanya and niece Susan.
2001 Undergraduate curriculum broadened to include conservation habitat protection and restoration, biodiversity, and user conflicts.
Freshwater Initiative formed, offering students linked courses across three colleges, exploring freshwater ecosystems.
2004 Graham Young appointed executive director of WRAC.
2005 Vince Gallucci appointed director of CQS.
2007 SAFS ranked first in “fisheries science & management” for faculty scholarly productivity by the National Research Council (reported in Chronicle of Higher Education).
Jim and Lisa Seeb establish the International Program for the Study of Salmon Ecological Genetics.


2010 SAFS joins the newly formed College of the Environment.
NOAA provides funding for two Quantitative Ecology and Socioeconomics Training positions at SAFS.
2011 “Fishes of the Salish Sea,” a mural by artist Ray Troll, installed in SAFS lobby.
Revised undergraduate curriculum focused on exposing students to breadth of subjects in aquatic sciences and improving skill sets.
2012 André Punt appointed director of SAFS.
2016 Luke Tornabene appointed Curator of Fisheries.
2017 Sarah Converse appointed Coop Unit Leader.
Tim Essington appointed director of CQS.
QERM program transferred to College of the Environment and merged with CQS.
2018 Marine Biology Major program established, with Kerry Naish as inaugural director.
SAFS faculty obtain their 6th UW Distinguished Teaching Award, more than any other department or school on campus.
2019 SAFS celebrates its centennial year.



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