Former Students

Ezra Beaver

Ezra is an environmental scientist who has a decade of experience focusing on marine data collection, management, and analysis. In addition to leading field efforts he also specializes in database management and GIS, spatially planning and analyzing sampling events. Ezra received his master’s degree from the University of Washington where he collaborated with scientists across many disciplines including, fisheries, applied physics, oceanography, and engineering to study marine renewable technologies. Previously Ezra worked for the National Park Service and as a commercial fisherman.
Beaver, Ezra. Graduated: 2017. Thesis: A Comparative Case Study of Instream Tidal Energy Siting Locations. University of Washington. Accomplishments: President, The Coastal Society at University of Washington.

Hilary Polis

Hilary Polis conducts applied social science research to support decision-making on environmental and energy issues in utility, government, and academic contexts. Hilary currently works as a Senior Consultant at Opinion Dynamics, a firm dedicated to providing research and advisory services to address emerging issues in the energy industry. She is also a fellow with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute in San Francisco. During her time with the Jenkins Research Team, Hilary conducted research on public perceptions of the development of tidal energy in Puget Sound. Her thesis research, “Public Willingness to Pay and Policy Preferences for Tidal Energy Research and Development: A Study of Households in Washington State,” was published in Ecological Economics.
Polis, Hilary J. Graduated: 2016. Thesis: Public Willingness to Pay and Policy Preferences for Tidal Energy Research and Development: A Study of Households in Washington State. University of Washington. Accomplishments: Leading Paper Postgraduate Prize, Coastal and Marine Research Group, Royal Geographical Society 2015; Donald L. McKernan Prize for Most Outstanding Thesis, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

Neal McMillin

Neal received a BA in Southern Studies and Economics from the University of Mississippi. Inspired from a semester in Scotland, he spent his 2013 summer backpacking through remote Scottish islands courtesy of a Barksdale A ward fellowship from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College researching the socio-economic impacts of wave and tidal energy. While in the U.K., Neal interviewed experts on the emerging marine renewable industry with a particular focus on wave and tidal energy. As a master’s candidate at the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, he plans to seek the linkages between the emerging renewables industry, the ocean environment, and the larger public.
As a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate, I handle a wide range of issues on the Commerce Committee and Environment & Public Works Committee.  I focus on policies that provide opportunities for my member’s state, particularly those related to the environment and ocean. Currently, I staff the Senator on issues related to transportation, infrastructure, science, NOAA, DOT, NASA, NSF, Army Corps, FAA, and the Coast Guard.  
McMillin, T. Neal. Graduated: 2016. Thesis: Learning from Early Commercial Tidal Energy Projects in the Puget Sound, Washington and the Pentland Firth, Scotland. Accomplishments: Presentation at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference 2015, London. Future Position: 2017 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow.

Chris Oliver

Chris is an analyst with the Alaska Seafood Cooperative. He works in conjunction with the Science Director on various projects to collect fishery data and improve their fishing practices, both as a field manager and a data analyst.  He also represents his member companies’ interests in federal management processes, including at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council
Graduated: 2015. Thesis: Bycatch, Community Protection, and Catch Shares in a Regional Multispecies Fishery – Addressing the Gulf of Alaska. University of Washington.

Katie Thompson

Katie Thompson is Program Manager at CubaMar, a project of The Ocean Foundation, where she runs projects related to fisheries management, marine protected areas, and sustainable tourism in Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico region. Katie is also a Research Assistant with the Center for Ocean Solutions where she focuses on projects related to reducing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. Katie received a B.A. from Oberlin College and earned her Master’s in Marine Affairs from University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs. During graduate school, Katie focused on community-based marine conservation strategies and non-profit management. She conducted her thesis on fisheries learning exchanges, which bring fisheries stakeholders together to share resource management best practices.  Prior to earning her Master’s, Katie was granted a Fulbright Fellowship in Costa Rica. She has years of experience working in Latin America on marine science and policy projects, with a particular focus on Central America, Mexico, and Cuba.
Thompson, Kathleen. Graduated: 2015. Thesis: Key characteristics of successful fisher learning exchanges. University of Washington. Accomplishments: Donald L. McKernan Prize for Most Outstanding Thesis, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

Michael Chang

Mike is currently the Climate Adaptation Specialist for the Makah Tribe, where he leads the climate adaptation and resiliency planning processes for the Tribe, participates in various state and regional marine planning groups, and is working on a tribal land policy for natural resource managers. He is also an author for the Northwest chapter of the recent U.S. 4th National Climate Assessment, where he focused on highlighting climate impacts to Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, cultural heritage, and frontline communities. He received a B.S. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale University and an M.M.A. from the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA). While at SMEA, he worked with Dr. Jenkins on alternative forms of science communication through art and to study methods of connecting the traditionally distant groups of scientists, policymakers, and the public and utilizing these methods to inform environmental policy.
Chang, Michael. Graduated: 2015. Thesis: Communicating Environmental Science through Art: Scope, Applications, and Research Agenda. University of Washington. Accomplishments: thesis submitted and in review for publication. Current Position: Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow, Makah Tribe/The Nature Conservancy.

Laura Deighan

Laura is a graduate of the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA) and holds a B.S. in Marine Biology from Florida Institute of Technology. She is especially interested in marine species conservation and
U.S. and international marine policy and how these interplay within the fishing sector, with a strong interest in bycatch reduction and sustainable seafood policy. Her research focuses on Fishery Improvement Projects in the
U.S. Part of Laura’s thesis work is funded by
Laura joined the Foundation as Capitol Hill Ocean Week Coordinator in 2016. Prior to coming to NMSF, Laura assisted in the coordination of national fisheries programs as a Knauss Fellow with with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She has also worked in animal husbandry with the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center and in sustainable fisheries research, both as a graduate student at the University of Washington and an intern with FishWise. She continues to pursue her interest in sustainable fisheries as a volunteer with Ecologists Without Borders, an organization promoting environmental sustainability around the world through volunteer service. She holds an M.M.A. in marine affairs from the University of Washington and a B.S. in marine biology from Florida Institute of Technology.
Deighan, Laura K. Graduated: 2014. Thesis: Fishing for recognition: Understanding the use of NGO guidelines in fishery improvement projects. University of Washington. Accomplishments: thesis published; Sea Grant Knauss Fellow. Current Position: Coordinator, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Adam Kowalski

Before graduating from the School and Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA), Adam earned a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Although his previous research experience focused on coastal and underwater archaeology with an emphasis on anthropogenic impacts to marine ecosystems, Adam is currently interested in the use of learning networks and social relations research to better understand and solve environmental and socioeconomic problems facing coastal communities and our oceans. His Master’s thesis uses social network analysis to examine how structural network characteristics influence the functionality of bridging organizations within a marine/coastal governance framework. This research draws on a variety of theoretical areas, including boundary organization theory, stakeholder theory, and social influence theory.
Adam interned for the Center for Ocean Solution’s Fisheries Leadership and Sustainability Forum in Monterey, California. In addition to conducting research on resource optimization strategies for U.S. coastal fisheries, he plans to use the Center for Ocean Solutions as a case study for evaluating the functionality of a prominent bridging organization.
Adam currently supports OneEnergy’s development of projects across regions, including site selection, landowner outreach, and permitting. He also focuses on GIS analysis and data management for OneEnergy more broadly.
Prior to OneEnergy, Adam worked at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on marine hydrokinetic technology development and deployment. During his PhD, Adam’s research examined the resilience of electric power systems to natural hazards using geospatial applications and methods.
He also holds a M.A in Marine and Environmental Affairs from the University of Washington and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Adam balances work with skiing, fishing, and exploring the Pacific Northwest. He volunteers for the Cascade Backcountry Ski Patrol and King County Search and Rescue in Washington State.
Kowalski, Adam. Graduated: 2013. Thesis: Contribution of bridging organizations to marine/coastal governance – a social network analysis of working groups. University of Washington. Accomplishments: thesis published; NSF IGERT Fellow.

Rachel Aronson

Rachel is a graduate of the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA), University of Washington, with a B.A. in Biology and Spanish from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on place-based cultures and climate change in Alaska. Rachel’s field research has been supported by science crowdfunding at and by the School of Marine Affairs Graduate Student Fellowship Award. She maintains a research blog at
Rachel Aronson now leads the natural resources multi-stakeholder facilitation for Triangle’s public involvement and facilitation team. Rachel brings public sector experience in connecting with communities to inform decisions and policy development by public agencies. Rachel has worked with federal, state, and local agencies and facilitated a broad range of groups, from large, contentious public meetings to small decision-making circles to intimate team-building retreats. Rachel has helped a salmon recovery organization update their habitat plan with input from 50 different jurisdictions and stakeholders, navigated nine parties successfully through a mediation on timber practices, and developed a policy handbook for a national agency that protects natural resources and supports healthy relationships with the public. Her expertise includes Endangered Species Act recovery planning, forestry, and water quality and wetland issues.
Rachel holds an M.M.A. from the University of Washington’s School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, as well as a B.A. in Biology and Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. Rachel is certified in mediation by the Dispute Resolution Center of King County, facilitation by the Institute for Cultural Affairs, and citizen engagement by the Institute for Participatory Management & Planning. Rachel is fluent in Spanish and volunteers in the Honduran community of Seattle. In her free time, she uses her meeting management skills to host trivia nights and fundraisers for nonprofits.
Aronson, Rachel S. Graduated: 2013. Thesis: Adapting to Climate Change in Unalakleet, Alaska. University of Washington. Accomplishments: Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow.