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Centennial Story 68: Ivonne Ortiz (MS, 2002; PhD, 2007)

Ivonne reading while on a tagging research cruise to the Aluetians in 2003

My 20-year relationship with SAFS started back when it was still SOF (School of Fisheries), and I was still in Mexico City. One of the co-advisors for my BS in Biology, and later supervisor at the National Fisheries Institute, was Pablo Arenas. A SAFS PhD graduate himself (1988), he was, at the time, organizing a hands-on workshop to be taught by Carl Walters and Ray Hilborn in Mérida, in English. Plans changed a couple of hours into the workshop when the need arose for an impromptu translator, and thus, I translated for, and mingled with, Carl and Ray for the next five days… Encouraged by Pablo, and advised by Ray, I arrived in Seattle for the first time, having been rejected by QERM (as predicted by Ray), accepted by SOF, funded by the Mexican government, and neglected to look up what the typical weather was like.

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Centennial Story 67: Christopher Kenaley (PhD, 2011)

Chris out on the water

As I reflect on my time at SAFS, I consider it the most rewarding and influential time in my career. Ted, my committee members, SAFS faculty, and the other students were a singular group of mentors who supported my iterations through one new project after another. As a professor and mentor to students in my own lab now, I encourage students to take a similarly unconstrained approach and seek the mentorship of a diverse group of folks with different areas of expertise.

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Helping bird science while walking along the beach: lessons from 17 years of the COASST project

Citizen science, where the nonexpert public joins in freely to produce useful science, has grown to more than 2100 projects on the SciStarter website alone. These projects range from online identification of astronomical objects, to gaming-like projects predicting how proteins will fold (Foldit), to seasonal bird counts. One long-running project is COASST (Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team) where members of the public conduct monthly surveys of beach areas from California to Alaska looking for bird carcasses. 

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Centennial Story 66: Craig Kastelle (BS, 1982; MS, 1991)

Craig preparing an otolith for radiocarbon analysis

The trajectory of my career was set by a class field trip on a small trawler where we went fishing on Puget Sound. We extracted otoliths from some of the catch and tried to determine the age of the fish. It was impossibly difficult, and I vowed that, “I would never work with otoliths again.” About one year later, after working as a hydroacoustic technician on the Columbia River and an observer on a small Japanese stern trawler, I got a job reading otoliths at the then Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Center in the Age and Growth Program. My supervisor at the time, George Hirschhorn, cautioned me to “never say never.” Now, after more than three decades, I am still working with otoliths.

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Centennial Story 64: Charles R. (Bob) Hitz 1957 – 1960 (BS Zoology, 1958)

Bob aboard the ship John N. Cobb

I arrived at the UW College of Fisheries in 1957 after an inadvertent break in my education, courtesy of Uncle Sam. The Korean draft had finally caught up with me after three years of study at Washington State College (WSC) in Pullman.  Following my tour of duty, I returned to WSC, finished my 4th year, but was still a few credits shy of my BS in Zoology.  That summer, I married my fiancée and moved to Seattle, enrolling in the UW in order to finish my degree, and hopefully attend dental school.

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Variability in body growth is an important part of variability in fish populations

It has long been established, indeed it is almost axiomatic, that annual variability in births of new fish (“recruitment”) is the most important reason why the total mass of fish populations varies from year to year. The rate of which individual fish grow (“body growth”) is also known to vary from year to year, but is generally considered to be fairly unimportant in explaining population variability. 

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A new guide on how to figure out which parts of DNA are actually expressed

Scientists trained in ecology and physiology are increasingly able to complement their work with the burgeoning field of “functional genomics”, i.e. the study of which parts of DNA (the “genome”) are actually expressed and used to make proteins under different conditions. A new guide is now provided for those from non-genetic fields to harness the power of fast computers and rapid technology in sequencing the letters in DNA, so that they can infer how animals respond to the environment. 

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The blue-backed basslet, a new species from the Honduras

Reef fish species from waters deeper than 130 m are difficult to collect manually, because they are too deep for SCUBA divers. But now manned submersibles equipped with underwater vacuums are able to suck up new specimens with surprising alacrity. Among the specimens slurped up by one such submersible is brand new blue and gold species of basslet: the blue-backed basslet (Lipogramma adabeli), with distinct blue coloration, genetics, and habitat use distinguishing it from other similar species. 

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Designing salmon-friendly dam turbines

The Columbia River used to host returns of nearly 9 million salmon every year, led by the largest returns in the world of Chinook salmon (4.4 million fish). But construction of multiple large dams on various tributaries and the Columbia River itself, eliminated salmon from vast tracts of rivers above impassable dams, and also had a serious effect on salmon survival in the remaining areas. 

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