SAFS Newsletter Masthead

Alumni Updates

Martin Hall

PhD, 1983, University of Washington School of Fisheries
A spatial approach to the population dynamics of the Manila clam (Tapes philippinarum

Martin Hall grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and holds the distinction of being the first in a long line of Argentineans who have attended SAFS. Before coming to the USA, he studied biology at the University of Buenos Aires, focusing on quantitative ecology, estimation of abundance, and resource assessment for organisms such as seaweed (giant kelp) and penguins.

Martin Hall

Martin Hall (photo courtesy of Martin Hall)

Martin said he became interested in resource management “when I became aware that I could not provide solid answers to questions on how to best use resources in a sustainable way.” When he received a Fulbright Scholarship, he chose the UW because “they had the right combination of programs, including the Center for Quantitative Sciences in Fisheries, Forestry, and Wildlife (CQS), which emphasized statistics and population dynamics.” Also, Martin’s wife was interested in oceanography and chose UW Oceanography to pursue a PhD.

Martin planned to continue working on giant kelp on returning to Argentina, which presented a challenge. He explained, “Population dynamics of plants had not developed yet, so I picked clams because models for sedentary species were the most similar to models for plants.”

A very limited research budget necessitated finding a nearby site for Martin’s study. He found a beach near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, where he camped for about 5 months, sampling every day while the tide was down.

He related how he became a feature: “People gave directions—‘It is the second house past the guy on the beach’—and were very friendly with me. I met local families, visiting relatives, and many others.

Martin talked about his advisor, Doug Chapman (past director of CQS and the then College of Fisheries): “He brought to my career a thorough and objective view of data and facts. Also, he was a close friend.” He added, Gordon Orians taught me critical thinking skills I lacked, and that I still use to question unfounded beliefs. He separated ecological folklore from science, and put evolutionary ecology within our reach.”

Regarding the UW Fisheries program, he noted “Perhaps the students here do not realize that, when you are traveling anywhere in the world, and you encounter fisheries issues, saying that you are from the UW opens doors and gives you instant credibility.”

Martin acknowledged numerous faculty who helped him, including SAFS professors Ken Chew and Ole Mathisen, and Warren Wooster at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. He added, “Loveday Conquest was just beginning her career, but everyone went to her for advice, and she was a favorite teacher, always lucid, patient, and clear. Her sense of humor was always just under the skin.”

After earning his PhD, Martin accepted a position at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, La Jolla, in 1984, where he remains to the present. He was hired to address the thorny issue of dolphin bycatches in the tuna purse seine fisheries. In the course of his research, Martin and his colleagues frequently communicated with the fishing community and included them in their research. The upshot is that dolphin bycatch has been at very low levels for over 15 years. Martin observed, “Winning a battle that was not supposed to be ‘winnable’ simply reinforced the optimism I have always had. Yes, humans can mess up things badly, but we can also learn and adapt and improve!”

Martin spoke to the value of his experience at SAFS: “The fact that I got my PhD degree here, under Doug Chapman, was an instant credential in most places. The quantitative training was very solid, and I could handle the challenges with confidence. I have recommended the UW over many other programs to many colleagues or students, as the right place to get the right skills for fisheries management, marine conservation, and so forth.

“I started the flow of students from Argentina that still continues, and which has produced graduates like Lobo Orensanz, Ana Parma, Miguel Pascual, and Oscar Iribarne, and I am very proud of that. They and the SAFS program have all benefited from each other. The confluence of schools including SAFS, Marine and Environmental Affairs, and Oceanography, the quantitative programs, and now the huge College of the Environment provide one of the richest grounds for training the more complex professionals needed to manage and conserve in increasingly complicated situations.”

During spring quarter 2011, Martin was a guest instructor at SAFS, where he taught Fish 513a: Topics in Management, Conservation and Restoration, focusing on bycatch issues. When asked what motivated him to do this, he responded:

“With over 25 years of work on bycatch issues, I had experiences I wanted to share.” He felt that many researchers seem to find only problems and produce gloomy descriptions of the future. He continued, “Those attitudes demoralize young graduate students, the very people we need to help change things. I wanted to share with the students the feeling that we can change things—we are not impotent.” Martin concluded, “I along with various guest speakers discussed approaches that have succeeded in many fisheries, from the technological characteristics of the gear, to the technical details of the analyses, to the human and social components.”

While Martin’s primary funding came from his Fulbright Scholarship, he acknowledged the generous support from the Claire L. and Evelyn S. Egtvedt Fellowship.


Mariah Meek

BS, UW 2000

Meek Website

Mariah was born in Rota, Spain, but grew up primarily in eastern Washington. Instilled with the love of nature by her parents, she decided early on to seek a biology career. She enrolled in the University of Washington, initially pursuing a double major in Zoology and Biology.

Mariah described her progression to a SAFS major: “My SAFS classes started as electives, but when I realized how much I enjoyed them, I decided to add Fisheries as a minor. The SAFS classes were by far my favorite classes: They were smaller and more interactive than the large lecture classes I was taking elsewhere.” She appreciated the faculty’s enthusiasm and accessibility, adding: “They encouraged my interest in aquatic ecology and showed how I could make a career out of its study.

Besides the required courses, Mariah particularly focused on fish ecology and management classes. A highlight was the popular field immersion class, Aquatic Ecological Research in Alaska (AERA). She talked about her Alaska experience:

Mariah Meek

Mariah Meek (photo courtesy of Mariah Meek)

“This class solidified my desire to be an aquatic ecologist. We went to remote parts of Alaska and got our hands dirty in the field studying salmon. Professors Ray Hilborn, Daniel Schindler, and Tom Quinn took so much time and care to help us learn about the systems, how science is conducted, and what it is like to be an ecologist.” This experience was pivotal in Mariah’s decision to go to graduate school and become a research ecologist.

With help from a Howard Hughes Research Internship, Mariah also spent a summer conducting undergraduate research at the UW field station on Hood Canal, Big Beef Creek. She lived in one of the cabins at the field station and studied bird movement and behavior in the estuary. Tom Quinn was her mentor for this project.

After graduating from SAFS, Mariah worked as an environmental scientist with the consulting firm Windward Environmental in Seattle. She worked on aquatic risk assessments, primarily at Superfund sites in Washington and Oregon, and also worked on salmon habitat restoration in the Puget Sound area. After three years at Windward, she decided to pursue a PhD degree, enrolling at the University of California–Davis in the Graduate Group in Ecology.

Working in Dr. Bernie May’s lab, Mariah conducted research on the invasion biology of several species of hydrozoan jellyfish in the San Francisco Estuary. She elaborated: “I developed molecular markers for two species to investigate the genetic diversity and reproductive mode of the invasive populations. Also, in collaboration with another graduate student, we looked at the trophic ecology of these species to evaluate how they might be competing with important fishes in the system.”

In 2010, Mariah completed her PhD and is now working as a post-doctoral researcher in the same lab. She said, “I am doing research related to the reintroduction of Chinook salmon to the San Joaquin River in California. As a result of a legal settlement, a 60-mile stretch of the San Joaquin River—dry for many decades owing to water diversions—is now being restored.” She is attempting to answer questions about the population structure and genetic diversity of Central Valley Chinook salmon to better inform the reintroduction effort. Additionally, Mariah is developing genetic management plans for the reintroduction.

Mariah reflected on her undergraduate education: “I am immensely grateful for what I gained at SAFS. I developed a strong love of fish and aquatic systems and a desire to learn more. Also, it was just plain fun: Nothing else can get you fired up about aquatic ecology quite like being able to go out on a UW research boat and handle some fish, learn from the experts, and get all covered in fish slime!”

Mariah also credits the school and the UW’s reputation as having helped her: “Everywhere I’ve been, my undergraduate education has always been highly regarded, and I’m certain the experiences I gained while at SAFS helped me get into a top level graduate program.”