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Your Endowments at Work: Student Profiles

Our school has always attracted top students to its undergraduate and advanced degree programs. This is in large part due to our renowned faculty and the teaching and research experiences they provide to students. Another reason our program is so successful is the substantial financial assistance our students receive through our endowments.

Our endowments vary as much as the individuals who have generously established them. For example, the Vincent Liguori Fellowship supports students pursuing toxicology and aquaculture studies; the Dorothy T. Gilbert Ichthyology Research Fund supports students conducting ichthyology research; and the Victor and Tamara Loosanoff Fellowship supports graduate marine invertebrate studies.

Other endowments—including the Kiyoshi G. Fukano Scholarship, SAFS Alumni Students First Scholarship, and the Edward Allen Power Scholarship—give our students the freedom to choose the focus that inspires them the most.

The following stories feature a student from each of our degree programs, students who have been able to follow their dreams thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends. We hope their stories will inspire you to continue supporting our students for years to come.

For more information, please see our Giving page.


Allison Linnel, Undergraduate Student

Allison hails from Colts Neck, New Jersey. As a child, she spent most of summers at the "shore" playing in the surf or swimming, eventually adding surfing and scuba diving to her recreational activities. She also worked as a lifeguard. To top off her marine portfolio, she attended high school at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology. She said, “In our senior year we had to do a research project. I looked at the optimal conditions for horseshoe crab mating.” Her high school experiences led her to search for a school with a strong fisheries program, and ultimately she choose SAFS.

Allison Linnel with President Obama

Allison Linnel (at right) with President Obama
at Husky Stadium (photo courtesy of Allison Linnel)

Allison is also majoring in economics. She chose this double-major because she is interested in the role that economics plays in fisheries management. Besides her aquatic and economic studies, Allison is an avid athlete, having competed in dozens of cross-country and track competitions in high school and college, and she hopes to try out for the 2016 Olympics. Consequently, she also chose the UW so she could follow her passion for running.

At SAFS, Allison has been pursuing ichthyology studies in the context of conservation and management. She worked with faculty member Ted Pietsch in the UW Fish Collection, where she cultivated an interest in skates. In fall 2011, she will start working on her senior Capstone project—with Ted and Gerald Hoff at NOAA Fisheries as her mentors—examining skate eggs to determine whether a single species might in fact be four individual species.

Allison said Ted’s support of her studies was critical: “He has been a great mentor and has taken me to meetings and conferences to expose me to different kinds of research in the fisheries field.” She also reflected on highlights at SAFS: “The most rewarding class was Fish 311, where we learned all about the phylogeny of fishes. It was challenging but all of the hard work paid off. And, working in the Fish Collection, I had the chance to identify fish as well as examine some marine oddities such as a two-headed dogfish and many incredible deep-sea fishes.”

Allison plans to take a fifth year at the UW to continue participating in her running events and also to pursue a mathematics minor to “make my application as competitive as possible for the top PhD programs in economics.”

The financial support Allison has received from numerous SAFS endowments has been key to her success at the UW. She explained, “These awards have been incredibly helpful in paying for my tuition expenses, especially given rising tuition costs and my limited time schedule owing to classes and running, leaving me little time for work.”

After Allison graduates, she plans to attend graduate school to work toward a PhD in economics while she trains for the Olympics. Beyond that? She said, “I would like to start my own consulting firm for natural resource economics or travel and work in another country.”


Mackenzie Gavery, MS Student

Mackenzie hails from Nebraska. She came out west to attend Seattle University. As an undergrad, she whetted her appetite for fisheries science by learning to scuba dive and taking classes in the San Juan Islands, as well as investigating the feasibility of nori aquaculture (seaweed farming) in the Puget Sound for her senior project.

After earning her BS, Mackenzie worked in the biotech industry for several years, where she used molecular and cellular techniques to evaluate biologic drug candidates. While she enjoyed her work and learned a lot, she eventually started looking at graduate programs that would enable her to merge her biotech skills with her passion for marine biology. When she looked at SAFS, she found people were using similar molecular tools, but in the context of asking diverse questions about marine, estuarine, and freshwater organisms and ecosystems.

Mackenzie Gavery

Mackenzie Gavery (photo by B. Gavery)

Mackenzie has never once regretted her decision to go to SAFS: “I’m at the cutting edge of science and I get to study the biology of organisms that fascinate me; I’m helping to foster stewardship of aquatic habitats and a greater understanding of our impacts on the environment.”

For her MS research, Mackenzie is working with faculty member Steven Roberts, studying how marine invertebrates respond physiologically to natural and human-driven environmental change. She elaborated: “Currently, I am examining the role of epigenetic modifications of DNA in regulating interactions between genes and the environment. Through this work I hope to better understand how exposure to environmental contaminants, such as endocrine disruptors (compounds that interfere with animal hormone systems), may induce physiological changes that can be passed on for several generations.”

Besides conducting research, Mackenzie values her opportunites to be a mentor and teacher. As a teaching assistant for Roberts' Integrative Environmental Physiology lab, she helped undergrads learn molecular and cellular lab skills, which they used to conduct independent projects examining the response of aquatic organisms to various stressors. She observed, “They made a huge transformation during the quarter and were able to talk about their results and challenges with such confidence and intelligence. It was fun to be a part of this.”

Mackenzie also talked about attending and presenting at the annual SAFS Graduate Student Symposium, where students learn about each other’s research. She said, “It is inspiring; I always end up having amazing conversations and sharing ideas about research directions.”

Perhaps most valuable to Mackenzie has been the diversity of her training at SAFS: She explained, “I’ve been a part of innovative molecular research, worked with shellfish aquaculture, written manuscripts and grant proposals, presented at national conferences, and taught in classroom and informal settings." She believes the training and the confidence she gained from the experiences and opportunities that her SAFS education has provided will be invaluable throughout her career.

Her ability to gain such diverse experience was in part made possible by multiple awards from SAFS endowments. She said, “These awards paid for my tuition and provided me a stipend, enabling me to focus on my classes and research without having to work to pay for tuition and living expenses.”

In the near-term, Mackenzie hopes to continue her research as a PhD student—“There are so many unanswered questions that I would like to pursue,” she noted. Further down the road, she hopes to continue studying environmental physiology, combining this with outreach and education so that she can communicate and work with people in science education and environmental stewardship.


Jonny Armstrong, PhD Student

Jonny Armstrong was born and raised in Ashland, Oregon, a small town surrounded by natural features, like the Rogue River, Klamath Basin, and Cascade–Siskiyou National Monument. From as early as he can remember, he and his twin brother were passionate about nature, and his parents were very supportive of this. He said, “We went through a butterfly phase and our house was filled with the chrysalises of different species and eventually their adults, too.” Then came amphibians: “My Dad dug a pond in our backyard and we stocked it with frogs, turtles, and salamanders.”

Jonny Armstrong

Jonny Armstrong (photo by Kale Bentley)

At age 10, Jonny saw a massive Chinook salmon leap out of the Rogue River, and he’s been hooked ever since. He observed, “I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about and observing salmon, and I still find them fascinating.”

For his undergraduate degree, Jonny majored in biology at Lewis and Clark College, but it was a geology course that really sparked his creative juices. He noted, “Learning about the geologic processes that produced landscapes such as Mt. St. Helens and the Columbia River Gorge showed me a side of science that I found inherently fascinating and wanted to pursue.”

When Jonny applied to the SAFS program, he interviewed with faculty member Tom Quinn, who described the Alaska Salmon Program (ASP) to him. He noted, “The possibility of studying salmon in pristine ecosystems was thrilling.” And Jonny got his wish, focusing his studies on Alaska salmon. He talked about his Alaska experiences:

“I was very fortunate to have a lot of freedom from the beginning at SAFS. I started field work at ASP’s Lake Aleknagik camp. At the time, there wasn’t much known about the fish communities rearing in the lake’s tributaries, or the physical rearing conditions provided by these streams. Through ASP, I was able to study these pristine streams and formulate my research questions through observation.”

Using a dry suit, Jonny snorkeled the Aleknagik tributaries, swimming in waters as low as 5°C (41°F). He said, “Fifteen degrees C (59°F) felt down-right balmy!” He quickly learned that the Aleknagik streams exhibited tremendous variation in water temperature, which inspired him to study the ecological effects of this thermal heterogeneity.

Jonny started as a Master’s student but then obtained a bypass to the PhD program. In his initial studies, he looked at the effect of water temperature on juvenile coho’s ability to consume sockeye eggs. He elaborated, “In cold streams, juvenile coho salmon were too small to fit the abundant sockeye eggs in their mouths. In warmer streams, the coho grew large enough to consume eggs, gorged themselves, and achieved rapid growth, and this suggested that small changes in temperature can have disproportionate affects on coho salmon production.”

These field studies led Jonny to integrate two research disciplines for his PhD program: landscape ecology and physiology. He explained, “I’m examining how animal physiology interacts with the considerable environ­mental heterogeneity that characterizes most ecosystems. For example, I’ve found that larger coho salmon tend to feed on eggs in cool, spring-fed areas, where sockeye salmon spawn in high densities and then move to warm water to accelerate their metabolism.” His work underscores the complex eco-physiological mechanisms through which fish benefit from a diverse habitat portfolio.

Jonny credits his endowment support not only for enabling him to attend SAFS in the first place, but also for giving him the freedom to follow his passion: “I’ve been able to follow my curiosity and pursue research topics that interest me. If I couldn’t do this, I would have a hard time being creative and producing interesting work.”

Jonny also acknowledged his adviser, Daniel Schindler: “By convincing us that our work is important and could greatly contribute to science, he motivates us to excel at our research.” This motivation recently led to him co-authoring a paper with Schindler to be published in the journal, Nature—Excess digestive capacity in predators reflects a life of feast and famine (DOI: 10.1038/nature10240). Jonny added that Daniel's support has been tremendously valuable in building his confidence in his ability as a scientist, which he believes will help him in the future more than any cutting edge statistical tool.